Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

In the pandemic, make sure your people don't have to worry about jobs, salary: Kulpreet Kaur, RELX India

The leadership team at Elsevier, part of the Netherlands-based RELX Group, looks after employees by taking care of their needs with respect to finances, health care, communication and job security

Divya J Shekhar
Published: Mar 3, 2022 12:37:00 PM IST
Updated: Mar 3, 2022 12:52:19 PM IST

In the pandemic, make sure your people don't have to worry about jobs, salary: Kulpreet Kaur, RELX India(From left) Ganesh Venkatesan, vice president, orders, renewals & fulfilment, and managing director, Elsevier India operations; Kulpreet Kaur, head of HR, RELX India; and Shanker Kaul, managing director, Elsevier Health Solutions-South Asia
Image: Amit Verma

Ganesh Venkatesan remembers how, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Elsevier went the extra mile to ensure their employees—who initially struggled with working from home—adapt to the new realities of the workplace. This was done by supporting them with IT infrastructure, connectivity and bandwidth, allowances for buying home-based accessories and furniture, and enabling overall effective remote connect.

Today, as the global information analytics company contemplates reopening offices in the country, “there is a flip”, observes Venkatesan, who is vice president, orders, renewals & fulfilment, and managing director, Elsevier India operations. The company has made it possible for employees to work from home now that we have a hybrid work arrangement, he says. “Operationally, the pandemic has changed the mindset quite a bit,” according to Venkatesan.

Elsevier, part of the RELX Group, is a Netherlands-based publishing company specialising in scientific, technical, and medical content, and saw an attrition rate of just five percent over the last year, says Kulpreet Kaur, Head of HR, RELX India.

“There have been no job losses since the pandemic and no pay cuts. Merit increases [to salary] are being done on time and on top of that, there has been additional investment like extra insurance covers, home care and hospital beds kept aside for our people,” she says. “As our people grapple with the pandemic, at least they know that they do not have to worry about office, that their jobs are secure, and that their organisation is behind them.”

From a commercial standpoint, says Shanker Kaul, managing director, Elsevier Health Solutions-South Asia, what helped was the company’s ability to adapt and launch initiatives for their customers—including faculty and students in medical colleges, physicians in hospitals, researchers in large institutions—that could bring business back on rails.

In the pandemic, make sure your people don't have to worry about jobs, salary: Kulpreet Kaur, RELX India These initiatives included building digital assets for the sales force, removing paywalls so that physicians and frontline workers could access information on the developing pandemic situation, setting up a Covid-19 resource centre, and working with government bodies like Niti Aayog and state governments to “upskill frontline workers, and customise our proprietary AI-based pathway solutions to aid screening and diagnosis of high-risk situations,” he says.

According to the Kincentric Best Employers Study 2021, Elsevier, which has 1,128 employees in India, has an employee engagement index of 87 percent in 2021, up four percentage points compared to the 2020 study. The agility index of the company stands at 85 percent, compared to an industry average of 70 percent. Leadership engagement at Elsevier is at 82 percent, as opposed to an industry average of 69 percent.

Kulpreet says the company launched several initiatives in tune with the evolving pandemic situation, particularly during the second Covid-19 wave, to assist employees. This ranged from constant communication and engagement about how they could avail help, to various sessions and resources to support mental health and well-being. “We even had more than 100 employees as part of our volunteer group and they were constantly on the go, during weekends and nights, responding to requests for help, be it medicines or oxygen cylinders or hospital beds,” she says. “So there was medical support, financial support, leadership support and mental wellness support. As a company, we covered the whole nine yards.”

About 48 percent of Elsevier’s workforce is female. At the top leadership level, this number is about 25 percent, says Kulpreet, while at the senior leadership level, the diversity rate is about 56 percent. Last year, she adds, about 24 percent of all their roles were also filled by internal candidates, “a lot of them at senior level”.

Integrating company-wide policies to encourage and allow diversity and inclusion comes from a higher-level strategic vision, says Bhavna Dalal, founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners, a leadership development company, over email. “It then becomes a priority leading to various initiatives such as leadership development programmes, hiring drives, networking events, sponsorship, and mentoring programmes to be successful,” says Dalal, whose comments are not just specific to Elsevier.

Kulpreet says Elsevier places a strong focus on diversity, and is working to cultivate strong people managers who can drive down the company culture to their respective teams.

Venkatesan adds that the company is aiming for a bigger diversity ratio as far as top leadership goes, and would also like to promote more inclusion in the workforce. “Opportunities are plenty, and improvement and change are embedded in our culture,” he says. 

(This story appears in the 11 March, 2022 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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