In Conversation with Shipra Kamra, Head of People Operations, Responsive

An effective HR strategy is one that aligns with the organization's objectives, demonstrates agility in responding to evolving business needs, and follows industry best practices, says Kamra in an exclusive conversation with Krishnendra Joshi, Editorial Lead, BW People.


With your extensive HR experience at renowned companies, what strategies have you found most effective in revamping organizational and human resource strategies to adapt to changing business landscapes?

  • An effective HR strategy is one that aligns with the organization's objectives, demonstrates agility in responding to evolving business needs and follows industry best practices. At Responsive, we utilize HR analytics and data to make well-informed decisions. This entails analyzing workforce data to identify trends, anticipate future requirements, and assess the impact of HR initiatives, a practice that, while evident, is sometimes overlooked.
  • Another essential strategy is the integration of HR technology and automation to streamline various processes, including recruitment, performance management, and employee self-service. This transformation allows HR to transition into a genuine partner rather than being perceived as purely an administrative function.
  • Given that change is constant, it becomes paramount to establish a proficient change management process when introducing new HR initiatives. This process facilitates smoother employee adaptation to changes. The timing of change management is critical, as implementing changes too swiftly or too slowly each carries its own set of implications.
  • Last but certainly not least, maintaining a strong connection with employees' feedback is integral. Actively listening to employee input and taking action based on their insights ensures a collaborative and responsive HR function.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) have become crucial in today's workplace. Can you share your commitment and policies to ensure an inclusive workspace, and how do you drive DEI initiatives within the organization?

  • At Responsive, our commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) goes far beyond mere statements or presentations shared with our employees; it's deeply ingrained in our organizational DNA. We consistently invest our efforts in the ongoing journey toward building a truly inclusive workplace. The success of any DEI initiative within our organization hinges on the wholehearted endorsement of our leadership, and we're grateful that our leaders are unwaveringly dedicated to fostering diverse perspectives and a rich tapestry of employees. They have cultivated an open culture that empowers every individual to perform at their best.
  • To promote awareness and encourage open dialogue, we provide training programs to sensitize our employees, fostering a space where everyone's voice can be heard. Our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) play a pivotal role in this process. ERGs are driven by employees themselves, not solely led by HR, making them initiatives of the people and for the people. We actively collect feedback following each of our All Hands meetings and through various channels. This feedback allows us to closely examine the data and discern the trends in how our employees are feeling – especially those who identify with underrepresented groups – ensuring that their voices are acknowledged and addressed.
  • Our HR team is steadfast in its commitment to diversity hiring, making every effort to present a slate of candidates who are highly skilled and come from diverse backgrounds. Our compensation structure is founded on skills and competence, carefully designed to eliminate any wage gaps and to maintain impartiality throughout the process. As with any program, we gauge its success by annually reporting our progress to our employees, ensuring transparency and accountability in our journey toward a more diverse and inclusive organization.

You mentioned a focus on talent and hiring in Tier 2 cities and towns. Could you elaborate on the advantages and challenges of this approach and the strategies your organization employs to attract and retain talent in these locations?

  • Expanding our workforce into Tier 2 cities has proven to be a resounding success for Responsive. Our primary hub is situated in Coimbatore, a city teeming with exceptional talent in terms of skills and a positive work attitude. The key advantage of targeting cities like Coimbatore lies in the fact that we can tap into the potential of individuals who possess remarkable skills but are unable to or prefer not to relocate to Tier 1 cities, typically as a result of personal commitments or desire to stick to their roots. 
  • By establishing our presence in these cities, we unlock the potential of these ambitious and committed talents, fostering a sense of loyalty that leads to the retention of invaluable domain knowledge. 
  • Coimbatore boasts numerous colleges that consistently produce highly skilled engineering professionals. These educational institutions have become reliable sources of emerging talent for us, creating a fresh pool of capable individuals year after year. Our partnerships with these educational establishments have been instrumental in helping us identify and secure the best local talent to support our ongoing growth and success.
  • We also integrate a hybrid hiring model that allows us to fulfill our skill requirements from Tier 1 cities while simultaneously establishing a robust foundation in Tier 2 cities.

Upskilling is increasingly important in today's fast-paced business environment. How does your organization build industry-academia partnerships, and what approaches do you take to provide upskilling opportunities for your employees?

  • Indeed, there have been significant and rapid changes in the technology landscape. Just ten months ago, technologies like ChatGPT were not a part of our everyday lives, and now they are commonplace. Hence, it is of utmost importance to create avenues for upskilling talent and supporting their growth. As an organization, we have established a valuable partnership with LinkedIn Learning, which offers a wide range of courses covering various skills. This partnership allows our employees to harness these resources to their advantage.
  • We diligently identify skill gaps within our teams and take measures to ensure that our employees obtain relevant certifications to consistently enhance expertise in their respective fields. Furthermore, we actively encourage our employees to explore diverse roles within the organization, which provides them with opportunities to acquire and develop new skills. It's particularly exciting to witness the growing interest of our employees in internal mobility, a clear indication of a positive organizational culture.
  • We also place a strong emphasis on employee participation in industry seminars, where experts and professionals from the same industry domain come together to facilitate knowledge exchange and cross-pollination of ideas and best practices. This commitment to continuous learning and development remains a central focus for our organization as we adapt to the evolving technology landscape.

As the Head of People Operations, what role do you see leadership development playing in shaping the future of your organization, and what programs or initiatives have you implemented to foster leadership growth within the organization?

  • Effective leaders play a pivotal role in driving an organization's success. Investing in the development of our leaders is synonymous with investing in the growth of our company; a direct correlation exists between the two. Our emerging leaders, including directors and those at higher levels, partake in a comprehensive year-long leadership program, known as the Advanced Management Program. During this program, they engage in various activities, such as assessments, learning from industry experts, and undertaking customized assignments that cater to their specific needs.
  • Furthermore, we facilitate their attendance in specialized leadership courses, focusing on enhancing their competencies in communication, decision-making, and conflict resolution. Based on the outcomes of their leadership assessments, we provide tailored support, which may include access to a mentor or recommendations for external programs to aid in their professional development. Women leaders in our organization receive support, including opportunities to learn and gain insights from other women leaders, through their Responsive-supported memberships in the CHIEF organization.
  • In our commitment to nurturing leadership growth, we also encourage our leaders to participate in leadership conferences and industry seminars, offering opportunities to expand their knowledge base and establish valuable networks with other leaders in their respective fields.

Can you share an example of a particularly challenging HR situation you've encountered in your career and how you successfully navigated it? What lessons did you learn from that experience?

  • I once worked in an organization facing financial difficulties that necessitated significant digital transformation and change management efforts. One of the outcomes of this strategy was the realization that some current staff members were not fit from a skill standpoint with the organization's future direction. This situation presented a considerable challenge for both the affected employees and the HR team. Unfortunately, there is no ideal way to handle such circumstances, but our approach in HR was to prioritize compassion and empathy.
  • Our primary role was to guide the leadership in conducting these sensitive conversations, offering support to the affected employees, and continuing to engage with those not directly impacted. This involved close collaboration with the legal department, business leaders, the affected employees, and even those unaffected employees whose morale had been significantly impacted by the situation. Transparent communication from leadership, along with a compassionate approach toward those affected, and providing post-termination support, proved to be crucial in successfully navigating this challenging period.

What to your mind is going to be the one trend in the corporate landscape that HR leaders should keep an eye on, in 2024?

  • The COVID-19 pandemic expedited the rapid adoption of remote work and the shift to hybrid work models. I believe the ongoing focus for HR will be on refining HR policies and strategies to effectively support remote and hybrid workforces. This also involves ensuring that engagement strategies encompass all types of work arrangements, addressing aspects like employee well-being and performance management.

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