Business FunctionsLeadership & Management

“Employee culture is the key to drive a healthy, resilient and sustainable business”

In conversation with Arundhati Bhattacharya, CEO and Chairperson, Salesforce India

Its been close to a year now that you joined Salesforce, could you give us an overview of your journey ?

It has been a challenging and rewarding year, we just closed our FY21 Fiscal Year at Salesforce, and it had me reflecting on what an incredible year it has been. Not only for our customers, but also for our employees.

When I joined the business in April, I never would have thought I wouldn’t be meeting people on my leadership team in person within a few months. My biggest concern was wondering where I was going to sit! Almost a year into my role and I haven’t had the chance to meet employees or visit offices in India, but I’ve learnt, now, more than ever, that people are resilient, that they can adapt and that these become easy when there is an atmosphere of genuine care.

How can leaders drive a strong work culture during times of change?

I believe employee culture is the most important thing to help drive not only a healthy business but also a resilient, sustainable business. A leader need not wait for an opportune moment to build a supportive work culture for their employees. Building a great workplace, where employees can excel and bring their best and authentic selves to work, calls for an intentional approach.

At Salesforce, we build a culture of trust by being incredibly intentional about our people, our values, our behaviours, and the experiences we deliver.

During the ongoing COVID-19 situation, Salesforce has been working diligently to support employees as they navigate through this pandemic. From supporting work-from-home with an allowance to set up home offices, to initiating special well-being programs, our response to the pandemic is constantly evolving. Our back-up childcare program and family care leave options are initiatives to help our employees, especially working parents, manage the economic and logistical challenges of the pandemic. We also have an India COVID Care Program in place, which connects employees to reliable and affordable 24/7 healthcare services should an emergency ever arise. B-Well Together, our weekly webinars with luminary speakers and wellness experts globally, recently completed over 100 episodes and has been received very well. Lastly, technology plays a big role in these programs throughout the business. New wellbeing surveys, including a daily pulse survey are shared, to gain insight into how our employees are feeling during this unique time.

Will a hybrid workforce be the new normal? Will the new Work From Home norm enable corporates to tap into unexplored avenues of talent?

Corporates across the world are transitioning into the new normal, by deliberating on how to pivot and adapt their business strategies, while also thinking about how they will get employees back into the workplaces safely. And while this crisis will subside, the pace of technological change will not, sustaining the need for adaptive leadership, entrepreneurial grit, and an unwavering growth mindset. It is clear that even when the pandemic is in the rear view mirror, we are not going back to the way we worked earlier.

Our talent strategy will no longer be bound by barriers like location, allowing us to broaden our search beyond traditional city centres and welcome untapped talent from new communities and geographies, driving greater equality. We will be reimagining our workspaces over time as community hubs, creating more collaboration and breakout spaces to facilitate the human connection that can’t be replicated remotely.

At Salesforce, our workspaces will continue to be a big part of how we connect. We’ve heard from our employees that flexibility is important to them and we’re using their inputs and feedback to reimagine the way we work going forward. Together, we aim to change how we work. We are considering giving a majority of our employees flexibility in how, when and where they work.

Globally, we’ve also created a task-force to work through the global vaccine management plan, and will continue to prioritize employee health, safety and wellbeing with the use of our products, like Vaccine Cloud. This isn’t just the future of work, this is the next evolution of our culture. We’re combining the strength of our values, our platform and our people to reimagine the way we work better — whether in-person or in the cloud.

How does culture play a role in collaboration while working remote?

The past year has brought about rapid and remarkable transformation that has changed us forever. If there are two things that I believe is the foundation for success in this new normal, it is communication and trust in virtual teams. Trust is essential for remote accountability. In order to avoid overwork and micromanagement, you need a culture of mutual trust.

The second pillar is good communication. But clearly, remote communication is different to being physically present at work. Clear and transparent communication is a must in addition to – fostering empowerment, providing honest feedback, show empathy, focusing on output, not time in seat. Establishing a routine and workflows using the right tools is also important – schedule daily/weekly calls, use reliable tools to save your team time by simplifying communication, automating tedious tasks and offer transparency into team progress. Promote shared leadership to split responsibility built on trust, this helps distribute workload and encourage collaboration.

At Salesforce, we’ve had to transform our approach to everything from our products to our events, in order to meet the needs of our customers, partners, employees and communities. Now, we are thinking about ways to further cultivate and enhance this culture as we enter a new year. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to create an even better workplace — one that allows us to be more connected to each other, find more balance between work and home, and advance equality — ultimately leading to increased innovation and better business outcomes.

How and why should every organisation have an equal opportunity mind-set?

Creating a culture of Equality isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s also the smart thing. When a business addresses equality issues within its walls, it’s more than a win for its employees, community, and other stakeholders. It may also boost a company’s bottom line. But where does that start?

  • See where you are: CEOs and equality teams need to put their assumptions aside and demand a true accounting through a company-wide audit. An audit can illuminate a variety of different aspects that need to be updated, addressing equal representation in a company’s workforce.
  • It starts at the top: As with almost all major cultural shifts within any company, the change must start at the top with the CEO and management team. The CEO must ensure that equality is prioritized and practiced through every level of the company.
  • Review Your Hiring Practices: Nowhere is an equality mindset more important than within the human resources department. While it is important for companies to hire the most qualified individual for a given position, there are many different ways to identify and assess great candidates. Unconscious bias can play a big role in homogenous hiring teams choosing a candidate that looks and sounds like them.

No company can change their culture in a day, but by showing progress, a business can go a long way toward building goodwill among employees, customers, and the community. At Salesforce, equality has always been a core value and we’re committed to building a more diverse and inclusive workforce. We have always been dedicated to promoting inclusivity at the workplace in all its forms — gender, LGBTQ or racial, by empowering, supporting, and investing in our global community. Salesforce is also committed to Equal Pay for Equal Work. We evaluate pay on an annual basis to address any gaps among gender globally totaling more than $16 million spent to date to ensure our global workforce is paid fairly.

I’m proud to be at a company that has demonstrated that building a healthy work culture demands carefully thought-out policies; policies that promote employee happiness across critical dimensions – excelling at the workplace, contributing to the larger society, and finding a reliable support system at work. However, building a strong employee culture, is a pursuit that is always on.

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