Chetan Garga, VP and MD (left) and Monarch Limaye, chief HR officerImage: Nishant Ratnakar for Forbes India A
llstate India has been voted as Best Employer for the second year in a row, and Chetan Garga, vice president and managing director, is thrilled about it. “We have realised and changed a few things at our end to get to this position,” he says. “We have become more employee-centric, and take an employee-first approach in all that we do. And the Covid-19 pandemic has driven home this point, in no small measure. If we think more about our employees’ situation, we will be a much more effective organisation. And the wholeecosystem also benefits from this.”
When the pandemic hit, Allstate India employees—about 6,000 people worked out of two centres, in Pune and Bengaluru—were working on desktops, in two shifts. When everyone shifted to work from home, the company realised that some of the employees did not even have internet connections at home, and were staying as paying guests, in shared accommodations. The company initially started shipping desktops to its employees, and then shipped laptops, UPSes, and internet dongles. More than 50 percent of the workforce, which is now spread across the country, continues to work from remote locations
Monarch Limaye, CHRO at Allstate India—it is a subsidiary of and business services arm for insurance firm Allstate Corporation in the US—adds that although the past two years have been challenging in many ways, “the most challenging aspect has been to show employees that we care”, when everything has moved to a virtual world. Engaging with new employees who have joined within this period was another significant challenge. “We have been fast to learn. Where assimilation of new employees is concerned, two or three things have come to the fore. One is digitalisation
: How to use and take the support of platforms and structures to communicate more, and bring out our core values, along with mentoring and buddy networks.”
The last two years have also seen a shift in the nature and requirement of HR functions, whether it be new ways of continuing with existing process, or innovating new ones. “A lot of business-as-usual HR functions have been transformed rapidly, with digitalisation
as the focus,” says Limaye. “We have created more bandwidth for employees and managers by taking away some rudimentary tasks and HR processes into the realm of AI-powered tools. We have taken a whole lot of initiatives in the past two years, which have brought in more efficiency and visualisation into our processes, so that we can virtually work in an efficient way.”
A new HR function
that has come to the fore is wellness and wellbeing, adds Limaye. “In a rewards kind of framework, conversations have usually been around compensation and salary increases. But in the past two years, that has gone down, and the whole host of wellness and wellbeing initiatives that organisations are experimenting with have come to fore. In Allstate, we have taken that to another level. Along with Covid-testing, ambulances and oxygen concentration testers, we have also made sure that if any family is affected by Covid, we have even delivered food to their homes.”
The employee-centric approach is not something that is limited to the Covid-19 crisis
and its fallout, but rather a state of being for the company. “They have a very strong focus on learning and development, and not just skills and technology perspective,” says KS Viswanathan, vice president, industry initiatives, Nasscom. “One of the things they also strongly focus on is coaching and training for middle-level managers so that they can take on higher-level responsibilities, going forward with strategic intent. They develop individuals as people for roles that may not exist now, but could come into existence two or three years from now. They have that strategic vision.” He adds that Allstate does not restrict these development ideas to their own company, and shares it with the ecosystem as well. Like-minded companies can then take these inputs for themselves. “They are very collaborative, internally and externally,” he says.
Having an employee-centric approach does not make for good optics alone, but also makes sound business sense.
“Having a workforce that is calm and motivated has a huge bearing on the performance of the company; it really strengthens our organisation and makes it more cohesive,” says Garga. “People have had lots of challenges, whether it is financial, health, unprecedented expenses. If they are comfortable that their job is not at stake, it is a huge thing off their stress levels. They can focus on work.” He adds that when a company has veterans, they create a stabilising environment and a strong word of mouth, which helps attract talent
“We want to empower our people, so that they can do things on their own, feel satisfied, and advance in their careers
as well,” he says.
(This story appears in the 11 March, 2022 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)