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We focus on employee learning & development: Rohit Suri, GroupM

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We care about you: that’s the message GroupM sends to its employees. While most others are scrambling to get out of the office on Friday, you will see GroupM employees dancing to Zumba or meditating away their worries through Yoga. What others may term ‘indulgence’ is an ‘investment’ for the media agency that revels in its employees’ holistic well-being.

It is not surprising then that GroupM bagged the silver medal at the HR Excellence Awards 2017, which awards companies for outstanding human capital strategy and execution. Its efforts in nurturing and maintaining a high-calibre talent pool entail keeping the retention rate higher than the industry benchmark.

Over the last few years, GroupM India has created a standard of excellence for several tangible and intangible employee benefits. The mAdvantage programme of 2015 has since rolled out several initiatives designed around employee healthcare and holistic wellness. Flexible timings and work-from-home policies allow employees to manage their career and personal lives.

IndianTelevision caught up with GroupM chief HR and talent officer at South Asia Rohit Suri to understand what makes the network a winner year after year, how do they ensure a healthy work-life balance and much more. Excerpts:

Another year, another Award! How does it feel to get recognised globally for your work done here in India?

This is a validation of how employees feel about us internally within our system in India and the global team and how India is performing and what India is doing for its employees. This is one external validation for us. Our endeavour has been to maintain a positive work-life balance and move towards work-life integration. We make continuous changes to our policies and practices in line with the changing social and business realities. With the help of technology and a stellar team of thorough professionals, we are today one of the most preferred employers in our industry.

What do you do to ensure a happy work place?

We believe in total rewards, where we know compensation alone cannot keep employees happy in the company and we cannot rely on it to retain them as there will always be someone who is willing to pay more in the market. The benefits, engagement programmes, growth and development opportunities that a company provides contributes largely to make any workplace a happy workplace. We have an internal online system called as, Jobfy, where any employee at GroupM can apply for any position internally in India, Asia pacific or globally.  In today’s time, people want to change roles every 2-3 years and since we have so many diverse roles in the organisation, they can move internally. We have seen a lot of our employees move from India to Singapore, Vietnam, China and the US.

We are deeply focussed on our employees’ learning and development. In the first 6 months of 2017, we have trained around 500 people in office hours and 1700 people on varying hours since we started using digital. We also undertake several employee welfare and engagement programmes, where an entire week is dedicated to wellness and there are doctors and dieticians on site. 

We have recently launched an AI-based online platform where employees can chat with each other, giving us an insight as to how they feel at work and if we see a concerning message, we address it immediately.

What are your leave policies and work from home policies?

We have flexible timings and those who want to work from home can do so once every two weeks. If the employees want to come in late and leave early, they can do that too, because we want people to spend time with their families and loved ones. As CVL Srinivas says, ‘everyone should be able to see the sunset with their family.’

Do you have certain special policies rolled out for female employees?

GroupM is a gender-neutral organisation but we do have specific programmes for women employees. Maxus Media organises Work the Talk initiative, where women are trained globally to make sure they break the glass ceiling in the organisation. From a safety perspective, if a woman employee has to stay back in the office until late hours, we have cabs to drop them home. In a city like Delhi, which is not considered safe, we ensure our security personnel drop them at home safely. If she is flying in late in the night, we make sure she is provided with a cab and reaches home safely.

What are the challenges one has to face in the changing dynamics of the industry? 

It is more of being ahead of the curve and being proactive rather than a challenge. GroupM has an open-door culture where anyone can reach out to anyone. We encourage speaking out and having a conversation with each other and counsellors. One might often see CVL Srinivas having lunch with the team in the cafeteria and having a conversation with them. We are very transparent in nature and want people to know our business agendas, our challenges, our focus and everything else.

Is it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance with changing social and business realities?

There are two ways to look at it. One has to be innovative in terms of how they manage it. Digital has caused disruption and the pace of change is quick. Technology can make our life easier now. The social fabric is changing and with millennials coming into force, their thought process is very different. A lot of people are very ambitious in India and they just need the right direction.

What more needs to be done in the Indian media environment to make sure there is a healthy work-life balance?

At the end of the day, polices are just frameworks and you have to continue to look at best practices followed globally and see if they can work in India. An organisation must also come up with newer practices that will work in their company and it is an ongoing process.

The recent allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein have sparked a global conversation about the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. What precautionary measures does GroupM take to ensure women safety?

We have established the Vishakha committee (Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace) across all our offices, which are headed by women. GroupM has Zero tolerance for harassment at any level. If any such act is seen happening, the conversation will happen immediately and we would not want it to be encouraged.  There has to be mutual respect and you need a very healthy environment to work in but some things are unacceptable and we don't shy away from taking immediate actions. That could mean suspension or termination but we will never shy away from taking stringent and strict actions against any kind of sexual harassment.

What more does the industry need to do to help sustain a healthy work environment?

I can only speak for GroupM and as of today, the way we work is very simple. If we think there is need to change this, we will change that. Period! We constantly get feedback from employees on what more could be done and we do that. If in Delhi, a woman needs to be accompanied while going back home it will be implemented and when we felt that people should not stay back till late, that was also implemented.

What makes employees stay back at GroupM?

Everything depends on the culture of the organisation. Culture could be defined by the policies of the organisation, people you hire, how you interact with one another, how quick you deliver, delivery of output and passion.

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