"For us at Ericsson, employee experience and our people are at the heart of everything we do. In the wake of COVID-19, our focus has been on striking the right balance between empathy and remaining productive and customer focused," says Priyanka Anand, Vice President & Head of Human Resources, SEA, Oceania, and India, Ericsson.

At the Employee Experience Awards 2021, Singapore, Ericsson received the bronze award for Best Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

In this interview, Priyanka Anand, Vice President & Head of Human Resources, SEA, Oceania, and India, Ericsson shares the secrets behind this win - how the firm looks at diversity and inclusion (D&I) and ensures that not only an inclusive and sensitised culture is fostered, but that it also has the back of every employee whether it is life in or outside the organisation.

Q Congratulations on bagging this award! What is your award-winning employee experience strategy that led to this win?

This award is certainly special for us. In our region we are blessed to have cultural and demographic diversity and it’s always been our endeavour to celebrate this diversity and create an inclusive work environment to create greater business value.

Having an inclusive environment to us, is about giving respect to everyone’s unique perspectives and by respecting our teams for who they are and what they bring to the table. The core values of 'respect', 'professionalism', and 'perseverance' create the foundation of Ericsson culture. It is this culture that allows our teams to perform and deliver.

D&I for us has been a journey that we have been on for quite some time now and we continue to move forward with our initiatives, big and small, knowing that we are making a difference. This journey requires purposeful intent, sponsorship by leadership, and commitment across levels to make it a part of our company culture.

We have carried out specific initiatives like inclusion sensitisation workshops for our colleagues and focused on other dimensions of D&I beyond gender like LGBTQI+, differently abled and generational diversity that helps us create a place where everyone belongs. And even as we have continued to take specific measures, we have and continue to challenge stereotypes.

Q How did you and your team conceptualise and adapt this strategy to suit evolving workforce needs in the past year?

The current COVID-19 pandemic has led us at Ericsson to embark on forward-looking conversations revolving around the Future of Work. Yet, certain ways of working were not new, such as remote working. Even before the pandemic, our employees had the opportunity to work from any location in the country of their employment. Our objective is to provide a flexible work environment for our teams, for them to collaborate better, and perform more effectively.

In the past year, to cope with the pandemic, we have focused on supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our employees, while at the same time providing them the IT support and tools to work from home. We have proudly supported our employees to deal with uncertainties and focused on creating an environment where we were dealing with each other with more empathy and humanness. We equipped our leaders to become coaches and as People Function offered a 24-hour go-to HR platform for our employees, equipped with resources to support.

Q What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them?

Operating across multiple markets, we are often faced with a variety of different political, legal, economic, as well as socio-economic structures and environments. This proved to be especially challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic as we had to manage national situations that were constantly changing, directly impacting our teams’ professional activities, as well as their personal lives.

To react quickly, we created a network of local, regional and global crisis management teams, that allowed us to rely on an aggregated pool of professional expertise when it came to the building of crisis management plans, policies and structures. This saved us considerable time and effort, enabling us to be fast, responsive, and reliable for our teams.

Q How did the strategy add to the overall employee experience in your organisation, in terms of ROI? Any achievements you’d like to show off?

For us at Ericsson, employee experience and our people are at the heart of everything we do.

In the wake of COVID 19, our focus has been on striking the right balance between empathy and remaining productive and customer focused. We have encouraged our people to embrace virtual collaboration tools and practices. We have a greater focus on digitalisation of our processes and adapting new technology platforms which have allowed us to meet and deliver on customer needs and remain productive.

Q What is the most exciting and valuable thing about being part of (and winning at!) the debut Employee Experience Awards?

We are delighted to be recognised and benchmarked with some of the best in Asia. At the same time, we are cognisant that there is more to be done in the diversity and inclusion space. We are honoured to be recognised for our efforts by the Employee Experience Awards and this gives us reassurance we are moving in the right direction.

Q Looking ahead, what else do you have planned as you continue to enhance the overall employee experience?

Even as we continue to drive initiatives that focus on enhancing our employee experience, we have updated our 2025 D&I framework. These changes give us a wider inclusion lens across people processes, employee engagement, learning & development opportunities, and career progression.

Our goal is to continue to implement our employee processes transparently even as we focus on digitalising our ways of working. We continue to champion behaviours of empathy and humanness, collaborative ways of working, courageous and fact-based decision making, executing speedily, and a speak up environment across our team.

We continue to re-evaluate how we can become more inclusive in our employee policies and benefits. This year, we will continue our sensitisation efforts around diversity and inclusion through regular trainings, awareness, and in our hiring practices.

Q Do share some tips to inspire your peers who are working on their EX strategies and would love to participate in the awards next year.

My key advice would be to reach out to leading companies, including those awarded in this category and learn more about their D&I journeys, and listen. By understanding and learning about the best practices, you will come across some great ideas (big and small) about what you can adopt and adapt within your own organisation.

When it comes to creating a strong employee experience, I think it’s important to keep an open mind, listen to employees, and keep communicating. Your leaders need to act as coaches for their teams, and respect the unique perspectives shared by your team.

If you can foster an inclusive culture within your organisation where people are respected and feel empowered to contribute, you have already made a good start.

Q Lastly, to end on a fun note – if you could describe the employee experience at your organisation in one sentence, what would that be?

Imagining what is possible and making it happen!

Image / Provided

Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section!

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