In Conversation With Meredith Graham, Chief People Officer, Ensono

Meredith leads the people and culture agenda at Ensono. In this exclusive interview with Krishnendra Joshi, Editorial Lead, BW People, she talks about HR tech. D&I, upskilling and much more.


How do you view the impact of HR technology, AI, and automation in streamlining HR processes within the IT industry? What benefits can these technologies bring in the HR domain? 

We in the HR world, like many other functions, need to be pro-active in adopting these technologies as they will help us become more efficient and save time by automating manual tasks such as data entry, applicant screening etc. We can also use it to answer basic questions on policies and processes rather than taking the time of someone on the team to answer the question. It can also help us with insights into our associate base, help us in screening and analyzing what skills are necessary for the future, associate engagement and how we can improve it. We need to balance the adoption of these technologies though with the risk that these tools may enhance our natural biases. As such, while we should be pro-active in adopting these technologies, we need to be cognizant of the challenges that may come with their adoption. 

Creating a diverse and equitable workplace is a priority for many organizations. Could you share some strategies and initiatives that you believe are effective in promoting diversity and equity in the workplace? What outcomes do you think these approaches can achieve? 

A few strategies have worked for us at creating a culture of inclusion at Ensono. These include setting the tone at the top. Our C-suite are champions of this, and this includes our CEO signing a public pledge to be a diverse and inclusive workplace. In addition, DEI is the foundation of our corporate strategy to be a great place to work. Our leadership development programs focus on developing leaders to be more inclusive and empathetic leaders and we spotlight the benefits of these programs throughout our internal and external communications. Also, we do have Interview process guidelines which all Managers need to follow and ensure we avoid any biases and discrimination while conducting the interview. Ensono, is an ‘Equal Opportunity’ employer. This means that we will hire any individual if the candidate fits the profile. Some proven benefits of diversity include more innovation- having individuals from diverse backgrounds with different views challenge group think and more ideas and solutions will come from those differing views. In addition, studies have shown that associates who feel they are in an inclusive workplace are less likely to leave an organization. 

Upskilling and skills development are crucial in the fast-paced world of technology. What are some key approaches that organizations, especially in the IT sector, can adopt to enhance the skills of their workforce? Are there specific programs or partnerships you find particularly valuable? 

The first step is to ensure associates have tools to be assessed on their skills so you can determine any skill gaps and then you can provide the necessary training and development to continue to upskill your workforce. The second step is to foster a learning environment and encourage and give your associates the time to develop. The IT industry is fast-paced and most people usually don’t slowdown and step away from their work to focus on their own development. 

At Ensono, we try to avoid this by giving everyone in the company 40 hours of study leave each year to focus on their own development. Every Thursday all associates calendars are blocked for learning and self-development. As a mandate we do not schedule any meeting during the mentioned timeframe. We also spotlight promotions and encourage internal mobility.

Employee well-being and mental health have become important aspects of HR management. What are some strategies you recommend for prioritizing employee well-being and addressing mental health concerns in the workplace? 

Well-being and mental health are of upmost importance to me since the pandemic. First and foremost, we promote work-life balance and flexibility. Associates should be given autonomy to balance work and their personal life as long as deadlines and expectations are being met. This is done by building a trusted relationship with their leaders by having open and honest conversations about how associates are feeling and sharing their expectations. In addition, we also provide wellness and mental health services beyond your typical EAP including stress reduction programs. 

Can you share examples of wellness programs or policies that have been successful in improving employee well-being and job satisfaction in organizations you've worked with? 

Employee Wellbeing holds utmost priority and plays a pivotal role in employee retention. Over the years medical costs have grown substantially and this can create an edge for organisations. Many individuals are strongly influenced by the presence of health offerings when they choose an employer. Medical benefits which go above and beyond standard coverage to cover extended families; addition of separate accidental policies; and flexible health insurance plans are some of the best practices which have been appreciated and recognized by the global associates I have worked with. 

In addition, employee wellbeing programs apart from EAP programs can be utilized to not only improve an employee’s health, but also to increase employee engagement. We’ve partnered with Virgin Pulse, an online wellness platform, globally to not only provide mental health programs and tips to eating healthy and reducing stress, but to provide global team walking challenges and daily nudges to keep our employees highly engaged. Over 39% of our associates participate in the program and in the last year, our associates have walked over a combined 924,177.74 kilometers, which is equivalent to 72 ½ times around the world. 

HR professionals often face unique challenges and opportunities in different regions or markets. What are some general insights you can offer on preparing for HR challenges and opportunities, especially in an international context? 

Beyond the obvious challenges with differing laws and regulations in various regions, working with individuals from different cultures with diverse backgrounds and values can pose communication and collaboration issues. Before going into any new market, you need to be aware of the cultural norms and expectations of individuals in these markets and adapt your policies and practices to accommodate the culture. This doesn’t mean changing your culture but adapt it to suit the local context. In addition, clear communication is key to being successful in any new region. You need to use the appropriate tone and style to avoid misunderstandings.

As an attorney and HR executive, can you discuss how legal considerations intersect with HR initiatives and practices? Are there key legal aspects that HR professionals in various industries should be aware of?

Legal considerations underpin every aspect of HR from hiring new associates to the employer/employee relationship throughout an individual’s employment including compensation, benefits, safety, confidentiality, and wellness. In addition, legislation protecting employees has been on the rise in recent years and I expect it will only continue making it even more important to stay up to date on legislative changes in the regions where you have employees. Failure to stay up to date and ensure you are compliant with all laws may result in severe legal consequences including lawsuits and significant fines and penalties. There are several key areas that all HR professionals should be aware of, and I named a few above. The biggest risk and where I see most of the challenges are in data privacy. HR professionals have access to a lot of data and data privacy laws vary significantly depending on the region you are located. Knowledge of the various nuances to this in all of regions where your employees are located is key to ensuring you are complying with the law. 

Based on your extensive experience, what advice would you give to HR professionals aiming to create inclusive, tech-savvy, and employee-centric workplaces, regardless of the industry they are in? Embrace the creation of a diverse and inclusive workplace. 

As I mentioned, diverse teams are more creative and innovative, and building trust through an inclusive workplace leads to retention. Create and optimize a flexible work policy, as this helps for better work life balance. This also boosts both employee morale and productivity. Create programs to focus on developing leaders to be more inclusive and empathetic leaders. Create a learning culture. Create programs which allow associates to upskill and develop to their full potential.

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