Unlimited paid leave and flexible notice periods: Swapnika Nag of Tata CLiQ on next-gen employee experiences

In conversation with YourStory Founder Shradha Sharma at TechSparks 2021, Swapnika Nag, Head, People Function, Tata CLiQ, reveals how the company is driving next-gen employee experiences with disruptive solutions.
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Swapnika Nag, who heads the People Function at Tata Cliq, isn’t the quintessential candidate one would associate with an HR function. She is a particle physicist with a master’s in high-energy physics. 

And while the work pace may differ from her earlier roles, which also included a consulting stint, she sees several parallels between them, which she breaks down as finding the fastest way to solving a problem.

“The needs of today’s workforce have changed quite a bit. They're looking for experiences and engagement. That's very different from what was true a decade ago,” she said at a session on Day 4 of TechSparks 2021, India’s most influential startup-tech conference.

“Workforce needs are now evolving. Today, you're no longer looking at solving the ‘what’ for an employee; you're looking at solving the ‘why’ for an employee,” says Swapnika who also recommends asking the question, ‘Why is an employee looking for this?’ when solving for the why.

Swapnika also spoke about the generational nuances of employee experiences.

“Today’s workforce is looking for autonomy; employees are looking for purpose in whatever they do. And that's honestly how we have thought about a lot of policies,” she added.

“Gen-Z employees are likely to be activists, they believe in something they have very, very strong opinions of how things should happen. Companies should reflect the opinions of employees.”

Interestingly, Swapnika said she applied the Delta-four theory lens, which was coined by Kunal Shah, the Founder of CRED, to evaluate some of her employee experience strategies.

“One of our ‘Delta-four’ initiatives was what we call the unlimited paid time off. Most people thought we were insane when we launched it, even though there were two or three companies globally that were doing this,” she said, talking about industry reaction to the bold move.

“Everyone was like, ‘if you're going to give people the opportunity to take unlimited time off, people are going to take unlimited time off’,” she said.

Swapnika said that was absolutely not the case at Tata CliQ. 

“What's very surprising for us is, once we launched, people actually started taking less leaves. This was because they realised they had the autonomy to take leaves when they wanted to take leaves,” she said.

Boosting productivity

Talking about the importance in allowing employee autonomy, Swapnika added that when people come on board Tata CliQ, they can choose if they want their notice period to be 15, 30, or even 45 days.

“What we've initiated in addition to the unlimited time off is a mandatory two days off every month. So that translates to two four-day work weeks and two five-day work weeks for our employees. This again, has worked very, very well for us, and our productivity levels shot up,” she said.

Workforce diversity is yet another key area for driving next-gen employee experiences, and Swapnika was extremely keen that the organisation should not be tokenistic about diversity and inclusion. She decided that inclusion could even include the smallest and often overlooked aspects of HR like job descriptions. After an analysis revealed that a fair percentage of their job qualifications tended to align with masculine qualities, they decided to work on being more gender-neutral in their descriptions.

The art of people management

Even with her background in science, Swapnika truly believes that driving next-gen employee experiences is also an art. 

“I don't think we've done behavioural science in people very well in India, and that's what we're currently spending a lot of time on by designing small experiments,” she said, adding that she’s drawing from her scientific background.

“Going forward, our decisions will be very, very data-backed. We will run experiments, we will look at data, and roll things out only when we will see actual satisfaction scores.”

However, Swapnika is cognisant about the limitations of science with employee experiences. “You can't say that if these five things are correct, my employee is going to be happy. That's never the case; there will be a lot of nuances that you just can't solve by science,” she said.

“We truly want to bring the science of behaviour to the art of people management,” Swapnika said.


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Edited by Teja Lele Desai