Alumnus of XLRI-Jamshedpur, Ira Gupta has been associated with Microsoft for nearly 10 years, aligning the organization’s people strategy with business goals, implementing HR policies and systems, and working on talent development. Prior to Microsoft, she was associated with GlaxoSmithKline, where she worked for over 15 years, since 1997. Excerpts from an interview:
What motivates you ?
In today’s world, where the lines between work and personal life are so blurred and where we spend a significant part of our lives at work or thinking about work, we have to find meaning in what we do.
Every day, our employees show up to contribute to our ambitious mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more and ultimately make a difference in the world. What could be more inspiring than that?
And finally, the human being is at the heart of what gives meaning to my work. The people I work with, the teams that come together to do something bigger than themselves, the leaders who inspire with their head and their heart, the colleagues who become friends combined with a culture that encourages you to grow bring a lot of joy and inspiration to me every day.
What are the key areas you plan to focus on for your organization?
The pandemic has brought about one of the biggest shifts in the concept of “work”. The distinguishing feature of this new world of work is that there is no standard business model. Each organization will need to create its own unique roadmap. Flexibility will be essential for companies to allow employees to do their best in the way that suits them best, while balancing the needs of the business.
That said, an organization’s success will continue to be a function of its culture and values which are the heart and soul of the business and help lay the foundation for current and future growth. For example, at Microsoft, our culture is based on the concept of a “growth mindset,” which is essentially the belief that potential is not predetermined and that everyone can learn and grow. Part of the mindset needed to adapt to a new normal is accepting what we don’t know enough and being willing to learn and act to drive meaningful change.
How can the HR team solve employee problems while keeping the organization’s goals in mind?
The transition to a more hybrid workplace will require organizations to approach things with a learner mindset, but more importantly with deep empathy. We need to show empathy for each other’s unique context and give thanks where we can. In the past, organizations have been hardwired to develop and implement consistent, large-scale policies. The hybrid workplace is here to challenge this principle, as each individual and each team can operate in a unique context and therefore inclusion will be key. Technology will be a key enabler of inclusion in the hybrid workplace, empowering every employee to do more.
What are the challenges of the new normal?
The last two years have brought significant changes in the way we think about work and our expectations of the workplace. What we are experiencing is perhaps the biggest workforce transition of our lifetime. An earlier such transition in the 90s was made possible by technology and the internet to achieve greater speed, efficiency and collaboration. This, also made possible by technology, is rooted in the idea of empowerment, flexibility and inclusion.
Remote work has created new opportunities, but it has also presented challenges in maintaining deep social connections. In a remote environment, work is not just about productivity and performance; it’s also deeply about social capital, flexibility, well-being, and effective collaboration between remote and physical workers. Technology will continue to play an important role in how we try to enable each of these
How has Microsoft handled the transition to working from home during the pandemic and ensured employee wellbeing?
If I think about it, we’ve gone through three phases during the pandemic – Respond, Recover, and maybe Reimagine for the future.
We were sailing in uncharted waters. We started trying things long before the lockdown was imposed, which prepared us when it did. We came to realize that while we were ready from a technology standpoint, maybe we needed to be more ready from a leadership standpoint and preparing managers to do it over a long period of time.
We have mobilized multiple resources to support our employees. These include 24/7 helplines, enhanced insurance coverage for Covid-19 treatment, hospital quarantine support, access to tests, ambulance assistance, medical supplies, food delivery and more.
I firmly believe that we are building a new and better workplace that will embrace flexibility, foster inclusion, build lasting connections and drive innovation.
(The excerpt appeared in the June issue of the BW People publication)