Woman Leader Of The Year: Smiti Deorah "Need For Stringent Digitisation”

Smiti Deorah, Co-Founder & COO, Advantage Club talks about the areas where HR needs to change, and her own organisation’s initiatives


Could you elucidate on certain initiatives that have been evolved by you or your team and have made a big difference to your organisation?

When we talk about an end-to-end benefits management system for HR tech, there are various modules that come in place inside that entire process itself. So one of the initiatives which we have created is around employee recognition, which became very important post the pandemic. With everyone doing hybrid work and people working from anywhere, it just became harder and harder for organisations to engage with their employees further. So, our technician programme picked up really fast wherein you can actually digitise your organisation’s entire recognition flow.

This made it easy for an organisation or an HR team to drive global recognition within their companies and also be able to go higher engagement, reduce attrition, and more.

We have also created programmes around community building, wherein you can drive different sorts of groups of like-minded people to create hobby clubs or mentor-mentee clubs where leaders can better connect with their team members as well. We also created like social groups like ‘humans of business worldwide’ stories.

We have launched an ‘advantage card’ in partnership with Visa, wherein you can actually drive different tax-saving initiatives for employees. We also launched salary advances as a feature where you can give employees early access to the salary as well. Such initiatives made a big difference during and post-Covid.

What are the areas of corporate HR practices that need to change now with evolving times?

The first thing which I strongly believe is that digitisation is the need of HR today. We no longer have a setup in which we can work on Excel files and e-mails and spreadsheets. There has to be stringent digitisation in terms of HR practices.

The second point I want to make is that today, a new set of employees is emerging. We have a gig economy and people are working from anywhere for anywhere. And if you look at most corporate HR practices, they’re focused on full-timers. I feel that this is something which needs

to change going forward in the future. The HR practices also need to involve the people who are not full-time.

What has been your organisation’s effort in training the HR function for meeting the changing needs?

The advantage we have as an HR benefits service provider is that it’s our core product. So, every product, every benefit programme we create for our customers, for our clients, all of those are first deployed in our organisation itself. It not only helps in doing testing or trials of the programmes, it also helps us understand how employees actually utilise that programme, how they treat that programme, and whether it’s been helpful to them or not. It gives us very significant feedback around how that programme will do in the market. On top of it, it also makes us one of the most benefit-oriented startups in the industry in spite of being midsize startups.

How can HR practices ingrain genuine empathy and concern for employee wellbeing?

For the well-being of employees, the organisation has to ensure that whatever initiatives we are creating, they’re promoting employee confidence, employee creativity, autonomy in terms of ownership of the work, and also a feeling that you are part of this higher purpose, and we need to also promote initiatives, ideas or innovation in the organisation. If we don’t do that, it will be really hard to ingrain genuine empathy for employees.

Do you think remote work acts as a dampener or an enabler in this regard?

I feel that remote work, while of course being a dampener, is only a dampener. Technology can be a very good enabler there. Today, we are in a setup in which people are very comfortable working from home, they save so much time they would have spent on commuting, and they’re able to do multiple meetings or talk to multiple people in a day, which was really hard to do in pre-Covid world. So remote work definitely works as an enabler as long as we have the right technologies to support it. But if we don’t have the right digitisation in place, remote work will actually work as a dampener.

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