The Complete Human Resource Publication


'Empowered Employees are Engaged Employees'

Mr. Abhinav Chopra, Chief Human Resource Officer, Viacom18 speaks to People & Management. Excerpts...

From hospitality industry to media and entertainment, how different is it to manage the workforce of two different growing sectors?

I consider myself lucky to have been a part of two wonderful organisations - Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces as well as Viacom18. From my perspective, all comes down to knowing the pulse of your people and optimising their strengths to maximise the success for them as professionals.

In the hospitality industry, the employee has to interact with clients directly 24X7. Customer satisfaction is key, which is directly in employees’ hands. Therefore, grooming and etiquette is even more critical in the hospitality industry. In the media and entertainment industry, creativity is of utmost importance. Many a times employee works autonomously to bring creative ideas to fruition. There are also relaxed rules for attire and more casual behaviour that is encouraged. Both have a 24X7 dynamic culture, and it is important to keep employees engaged at all levels.

In all areas, relevant engagement with employees will make for a more healthy and happy workforce. We always say that the difference to hearing and listening is engagement. Internal communication must be encouraged to widely communicate a culture where employee’s welfare is put first. Employees need to feel free to express and feel heard whether through face to face conversations or internal surveys. It is important that your internal communication makes your employees feel emotionally invested in the organisation. This, in turn, will help them be more productive and want to do the best at their jobs and build a career with your company.

What are the steps that are imperative to meet the challenge of attrition?

The mantra of new age loyalty is employability. Organisations need to focus on making their people employable, through on-job-trainings, experiential opportunities and responsibility tracked career growth plans. Empower them with the skill sets they want, for that is the primary reason they have come to work with you. Empowered employees are engaged employees. And engaged employees are invested in your organisational well-being.

At Viacom18, we enhance this very virtue of our talent pool through learning and development initiatives - whether for entry level or veteran employees. That said novel opportunities are not the exclusive domain of places outside the company. We appreciate the wish of our talent to seek change. An exciting world of new learning on the job awaits within the organisation as well. As a growing organisation, we constantly offer new and challenging opportunities to our talent which wish to pursue something new.

What are your opinions about Management education in India?

Management is a much sought after field for Indians. However, the Indian education system largely focuses on academic curriculum without practical business exposure. While every country has challenges with raw talent, practical knowledge is the cornerstone of any career.

Skill India, an initiative from the government, also addresses this concern. Industries are realising the importance of having skilled workforce and hence there have been conscious efforts to add value to the skills of their resources. I am also of the opinion that academic institutions and industry need to communicate and work together to help solve this skills problem and help employees perform on the global stage.

Please tell us about your recent initiative WAVE - Women at Viacom 18?

WAVE - Women at Viacom18 is a women-friendly work-linked benefits program including the increase in paid maternity leave to 36 weeks or 9 months, as well as providing additional benefits for new and expectant mothers in Viacom18 along with various initiatives focusing on the overall safety, wellness and career development of female employees of the company. WAVE has been introduced with the aim of cultivating a culture of encouraging women to grow as professionals and taking on more leadership roles.

WAVE - Women at Viacom18 is ready to set new benchmarks in the industry. It is a way of acknowledging that women in the workplace have to face a whole different set of concerns compared to their male colleagues. The idea is to free women from having to choose between one or the other – they now have the freedom to be who they are and focus on their work without having to worry about things such as safety, or who’s going to look after the baby, or even taking time off for a medical check-up. Some of the highlights include:

For expectant and new mothers/fathers
• 36 weeks of maternity leave (also applicable in case of adoption)
• 30 days of paternity leave (also applicable in case of adoption)
• Leaves for medical check-ups during pregnancy
• Flexible working option for 12 weeks post-maternity leave
• Day care facility/allowances

For all women
• Night travel between 10 pm to 6 am
• Health camps for women in office on periodic basis

As a part of WAVE, Viacom18 is also working towards creating a culture of safety by providing them transportation in case they’re working late. Under the pillar of Wellness, the company will be providing healthcare camps for women in the workplace in addition to existing initiatives that include doctor visits at the office, therapists to help with their emotional wellbeing and annual health check-ups. Thus, with this holistic programme for women we are looking at being the Best Employer for Women along with already being the Best Employer Brand.

What was the aim behind this initiative? Is there any other practice in this regard?

We have always strived to be an equal opportunity provider. We feel that the best HR practices not only promote but celebrate workplace diversity. At Viacom18, we embrace diversity in all its forms and we are committed to maintaining a diverse workplace free from any discrimination. At Viacom18, we believe in the concept of ’equity over equality’. Women have always been forced to make tough choices, motherhood being one of them. However, as valued stakeholders in the organisation we feel that this question need not arise.

Open, effective communication as well as clear channels for feedback is one of the cornerstones for engagement for us. We believe that an engaged workforce will be more productive. Our internal ECHO’s survey highlighted the need to provide for individuals at different life stages. We sat down with our employees, both men and women and through feedback and research launched this programme. Similarly, we are constantly on the pulse of employees and try to build a culture of inclusiveness that includes:

1. Recognising and acknowledging special days and events such as International Day of Persons with Disabilities (Dec 3), International Day to End Racism, Gay Pride celebrations, etc

2. Permit flexible schedules so that employees who observe religious practices can arrange their schedules around their beliefs

3. Acknowledge all faiths present in our workplace

Please tell us about your other key engagements besides heading Viacom18?

Flying recreationally is my favourite stress buster and I indulge in it whenever I have time on my hands. Flying has taught me to be prepared for everything; before a flight, a pilot must go through a flight checklist. Similarly, preparation is necessary when building your goals and completing your tasks in order to achieve them. It also helps you to overcome challenges as dangerous conditions can arise and you are trained to be prepared and meet them.

I believe everyone should try and take some time out from their busy lives and engage their hobbies or passions. We encourage this at Viacom18 as well and create all our HR policies keeping our employees needs in mind.


Mr. Abhinav Chopra, Chief Human Resource Officer, Viacom18

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