In a joint conversation with People Matters Elizabeth Rafferty, Global Chief People Officer and Kirt Morris, Global Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer of Merkle talked about the practices companies should adopt to address the changing expectations of the employees.
The pandemic has changed employees' expectations of work flexibility. How are you managing and what are your future plans for the people function in India?
Elizabeth: Hybrid is here to stay. People are now expecting work flexibility. The key to addressing this is by building connections. At Merkle, we encourage our employees to introduce and share personal stories. Furthermore, our leaders and managers are advised to build personal connections with their respective teams and across the organisation. We use it as a tool that managers can employ to have those dialogues and talk openly. And for us, understanding and having those conversations is critical to deliver a great employee experience.
Kirt: We put a lot of focus on flexibility and collaboration at Merkle. These are critical as we grow and attempt to connect the various markets across our organisation. Maintaining flexible space is paramount for our people. We are creating opportunities for people to continue that great collaboration we've experienced in the past, which helps us focus on building our business and growing our teams here in India.
You have a presence across the world, how has your experience with the Indian talent market been as compared to the global ones?
Elizabeth: India is a tremendous marketplace for tech talent. We are super excited to see our teams' growth, development, and engagements here in India. We are looking forward to learning and growing the depth of our competencies and skills in some critical digital tech areas. There are so many opportunities here that we can bring to our clients and our people. There is engagement and investment in learning and growing next-gen digital skills which is critical for us and there's so much focus and momentum here in India around that.
We also have a new evolved hiring strategy to be able to scale our team in India.
1) TA (Talent Acquisition) Team Structure: - built for scale.
● Changing the TA team structure from an end-to-end centralised model to a decentralised model (sourcing and recruiters). This helps the TA team deliver against a scale and speed perspective.
● Specialised sourcing teams in a place like a COE (vendor management team structure, direct/low-cost sourcing and referral teams) will focus on driving those channels for 100% utilisation with high efficiencies.
● The sourcing team will work on a shared services model which is built for scale. They will ensure the supply of profiles.
● Recruiters and Client relation managers (CRM) will drive speed and quality and consult with businesses for the best possible resource solutions.
● Setting up a new hire touch point (NHTP) team will ensure our offer to joining percentage is at its peak and the leakage towards the end is not high.
2) Campus hiring:
Drive campus hiring as much as possible – setting up a brand new three-member campus team dedicated to driving the campus agenda as below:
● Deliver 1200 – 1400 offers
● Drive relationships with colleges along with the marketing team to become the employer of choice
● Candidate and college management and engagements.
● MoUs and tie-ups with specific colleges will feed us directly
3) Technology in TA:
● Roll out of ATS (smart recruiter). This helps the recruiter function in a much more efficient and fluent manner.
● Will help in talent rotation and provide status updates quickly to the sourcing channels so that plans can be customized to needs.
● Tests are to be run on the platform (Talview) integrated into the ATS. This allows the teams to evaluate candidates at the initial stages at scale and speed.
4) RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing):
● We are evaluating potential partnerships that can be banked on.
With the changes/solutions being put in place, it is estimated that the TA team would be able to double the workforce in the coming years. Currently, we are at 4600 employees and this number is projected to increase 3 folds, i.e, 20000 by 2024.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are considered three pillars of modern businesses. How is your way forward for India in terms of DEI?
Kirt: Merkle’s DEI plan in India is really centred around our people. There are three words we use to define our DEI platform - equity, our people, and their perspective. We always make sure that we have equity in policies and practices. We want to ensure we create a platform where people feel valued, welcomed, heard, and respected.
We have driven various DEI initiatives to help our employees feel safe and confident to grow their careers. In India, we have channelised our focus towards inclusion with regard to age, gender, industry, and educational background. For women, in particular, enabling an ecosystem to work, grow and sustain their careers when they return after a break has boosted loyalty amongst the female segment. We help fuel female ambition by challenging stereotypes and creating role models. These steps help generate a conducive and nurturing workplace for all employees irrespective of their gender, age, or background.
We have a Crawl, Walk, Run strategy as part of the DEI initiatives. At the Crawling stage, we focus on understanding who is involved in DEI in the region. In the Walk stage, in 2022 we want to work on employee experience because that plays a significant part in DEI, and in the Run stage, in 2023 we shall build a platform that will embed DEI in our business. We have several women enablement programs in place such as Women in AI where our female employees have been recognised for stellar work in the field of Analytics (for example Sonia Thakurani was awarded the Women AI Leadership Award by Analytics India Magazine in April 2022).
We also have Body & Mind well-being programs. We conduct weekly programs on Mindfulness - Motivational Mondays - and on Wellness - Wellness Wednesday. This supports our people to thrive, and provides opportunities to start each week in a positive, focused, and calm state and learn more about the benefits of yoga, right nutrition, and meditation.
The attrition rate in India surged to 20.3% in 2022 from 6% in 2020. What according to you are the driving factors? What is the attrition rate in your organisation?
Elizabeth: Our belief about the great resignation is that it is about people making choices. During Covid, no one could go out for dinner, or movies, or do other regular things. With the pandemic behind us, people are making choices, whether it’s their job, career, or life. The driving factors for employees include continued growth and learning, and these opportunities are plentiful and provided in the work environment. Another factor is being able to understand their purpose through their work. This includes the purpose of the work that they're doing & the way that we serve clients, and the purpose in how we are supporting them. We understand these expectations and aim to address these.
How can companies address the attrition rate?
Kirt: We have been focused on controlling the increasing attrition rate and retaining our employees as a leadership team within Merkle. It is not one person’s responsibility as an HR and DEI professional. One of the major priorities that we have within Merkle is to bring to life and amplify our employee promise. This has helped Merkle become the best place to grow careers. It means having an environment that creates collaboration, and inclusivity and respects local values, geographic constraints, and teams around the world. This is how we can address the challenges of attrition rate.
Furthermore, in order to retain our talent, we focus on:
● Career graph for everyone (short-term (3 months) and long-term (12 to 18 months)
● Job rotations (2 years in the same role/team)
● Change of shift(s)
● Flexibility to WFH
Some other focus areas for retaining talent include collaboration, cool work, connection, careers, compensation & recognition, and community.
What are your approaches and challenges in hybrid work culture?
Elizabeth: We have employees that are working from different locations. Earlier, we had an office-centric culture but that has changed now. Our approach to work is being purposeful and flexible. We ensure that coming to the office and experiencing things, such as training, social activities, or collaborative activities, is meaningful. Meanwhile, still having the flexibility to work from home or work in different environments is what we're striving for, for our teams.
One challenge that has developed as a part of hybrid work culture is the blending between work and personal time. The blending of both has created, in some cases, additional workloads for people. Our focus is around making sure that we recognize that, and that we're creating a space for people to have better balance and focus on themselves and their well-being. And, also giving them the flexibility to do the work in a way that works for them while also serving our clients.
Kirt: We have an initiative where groups and teams can choose flexible working schedules, like flex Fridays. We also have some business resource groups (BRGs) to ensure that our people pay attention to their mental health in the hybrid work environment.