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Uber and Swiggy, storied start-ups on two sides of the world, both beset by a common problem.
In July this year, former employees of the food delivery aggregator, Swiggy wrote an anonymous blog alleging discrepancies in the sales figures and of being unfair to restaurant partners. This blog was widely read on the very day Swiggy was anointed ‘Startup of the Year’, by Economic Times.
Swiggy denied the allegations in the blog via an elaborate, some say too complicated, defense.
Uber’s troubles with its’ internal culture that ultimately led to Travis Kalanick’s removal as CEO are well known.
Nivedita Mohanan, VP, corporate communications, with mobile app maker, Applop shares that, “Especially in a start-up, PR has a fundamental role that can surpass every other effort you make to build a good reputation with the public. Measuring employee satisfaction is the main pawn in a company reputation management chess board. If employees aren’t happy, chances are their service is going to reflect that attitude. This is precisely the kind of learning we derive from the recent “Swiggy” crisis, which saw an executive tarnishing the company’s reputation. Here, the importance of using an insider view on the company’s experience is essential.”
India’s company culture challenges
Start-ups’ high pressure environment and employees taking advantage of social media to vent are usually deemed the villains when it comes to company culture. However, in India, these very developments are forcing companies to re-look at their own cultural values, often the root cause of employee discontent.
Atipriya Sarawat, director, branding and communications with Fiserv, a financial technology solutions company advises looking at employee engagement as a strategic function and not just an HR and PR one.
Says Sarawat, “Culture is driven hugely by walking the talk. Currently in India cultural communication is largely linked with new programs, initiatives and not so much as an overall change or transformation need. The good part is that no one is contesting the need of cultural communication. It is a force to reckon with.”
Kavita Rao, chief talent engagement officer, Genesis Burson-Marsteller , points out that, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” said Peter Drucker, and that’s very apt. Integrity, ethics and values form the bedrock of corporate culture. And that is something you have to maintain with all your stakeholders. It needs attention from the CEO/MD and has to be owned by every level of leadership in the company, only then will it lead to good employee ties. It’s not a single person’s job, it is everyone’s responsibility.
Megha Jamb, communications consultant, puts the onus on the employers saying that, “If the company nurture their employees then it shows in their performance as well. Collaboration rather than competition is the order of the day.”
Vipin Pathak, Founder & CEO – Care 24, feels, “The Indian corporate culture I think is still an evolving one. A lot of Indian start-ups today are great examples of lessons well learnt in driving a positive work culture in an organisation while keeping the motivation and productivity levels high. With a plethora of MNCs in the Indian corporate landscape, we have seen the corporate culture slowly evolve from being disconnected to one of being completely invested in an employee’s well-being. The shift is happening even as we speak, and in a few years, the hope is that Indian companies too will move towards a culture that is conducive for employee’s personal and professional growth while running successful businesses simultaneously.”
Vibha Singh, director, Twine HR believes that things are changing, pointing out that, “There is a paradigm shift in the Indian corporate culture, it has shifted from being a “Leadership” centric to “Culture” centric. Therefore, what binds employees to the organization is not the manager/ leader but the environment and culture of the organization. This has led to more productive and happier teams in various organizations.
The Social media challenge
Social media has meant new employee behaviour that must be properly engaged. Ruby Thapar, director, corporate affairs, Dow Chemical International Pvt Ltd. says, “We encourage our employees to follow certain protocols aimed at preventing any misrepresentation of the company.”
Sakshi Choubey, COO, Blue Vector (http://www.bluevector.co/) says, “You honestly have to start with the knowledge that your employees’ social media reach is going to be at least 10 times as your company’s in its entirety so you can absolutely NOT undermine these new, often-overlooked methods like screening social media when hiring in the first place.”
Adds Choubey, “If your own internal culture amplification system is in place, like a social media handle just for employees then make sure it’s used justly even if your employees want to let off some steam, let them do it through this, in a curated, controlled manner.”
Using a rather harsh metaphor, Vikas Sharma AVP – marketing & communications – Eupheus Learning agrees that social media has literally become an alternate reality, adding that, “ Like it is difficult to manage an elephant without a goad; there are certain guidelines, which should be set and communicated to employees to manage their reputation and in turn the company’s brand that they represent invariably.”
Offering an alternate perspective, Asif Upadhye, director at Never Grow Up®– a work culture, employee engagement and employer branding services agency that has devised a ‘Happyness Quotient’ to measure employee satisfaction says, “Employees have every freedom to voice their opinions on their personal social media sites. But who is to decide when their personal lives get mingled with what they professionally represent? The simple formula we strongly advocate is ‘People First, Always’ – align your employee’s personal goals with their professional growth, and establish a sense of pride. PR will take care of itself.”