Sheena Ponnappan, CPO, Everise

Everise took home the gold award for 'HR Leader of the Year' at the HR Excellence Awards 2021, Singapore.

In this interview, award-winner Sheena Ponnappan, Chief People Officer, Everise, talks about being people-first, celebrating diversity, and incubating innovation as the three values that have guided her people decisions and ultimately, the winning HR strategy. 

Q What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?

Everise was founded with a vision to disrupt the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry and an unwavering belief that great companies revolve around great people. That vision is reflected in our three values: being people-first, celebrating diversity, and incubating innovation. These values, including the emphasis on diversity, have cascaded through Everise at every level. The values have underpinned every aspect of our winning HR strategy.

Important milestones in our journey have included building and implementing a comprehensive 'Environmental, Social, and Governance Plan', which most recently led to the creation of our 'Diversity and Inclusion Council'. The Council’s charter focuses on implementing and enhancing mechanisms to create a supportive and inclusive work environment.

How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in helping make this initiative a reality?

Our focus on our values has aligned the entire leadership team, and this shared focus has empowered the HR team to deliver on our priorities.For example, our efforts towards gender equity reflect a leadership-driven initiative that has transformed the leadership team itself.

At present, our company is 65% powered by women, with 45% in leadership positions.

I have watched first-hand as the whole Everise team joined to make this possible. Diversity is one of the founding values of Everise, and we focused on that value to build the entire team culture that has brought us closer to equality.

Unexpected roadblocks are part and parcel of executing any initiative. What were some of the barriers that you and your team experienced while rolling this out, and how did you successfully get past them?

COVID has presented many challenges, but it has been a professional milestone for our team to help Everise stay resilient and adopt the latest technologies to help our clients deliver on the new expectations of their customers.

We were already very mature in our journey towards embracing technology to empower our agents -- this speaks to our values of incubating innovation and being people-first -- and COVID accelerated our pace.

The pandemic sparked greater momentum around our work-from-home initiatives. These initiatives, in turn, have helped us hire more diversely.

By focusing on psychographics, we can better ensure that the right talent goes to the right account regardless of an agent’s physical location.

As evidenced by the win, this initiative clearly delivered some amazing results. What was your gameplan for measuring ROI? What are some proud achievements you can share with us on this front?

Our three values are evident across the 7,000 reviews on the Everise Glassdoor page. For example, on Glassdoor, we have an average 98% approval rating for our CEO Sudhir Agarwal and a 97% 'Recommend to a Friend' score. Our overall Glassdoor rating of 4.7/5: the highest in our industry. Similarly, on Indeed, over 7,500 reviews bring Everise a total average rating of 4.3/5.

We’re now seeing HR manage portfolios that were previously considered far from their job description. In your view, what are the top three skills and attributes of today’s successful CHRO?

To meet the pace and demands of today’s world, HR teams need to respond with agility and move with lightning speed. That calls for CHROs to not just be aligned to the sales, marketing, and IT functions – we must understand their business challenges and opportunities and be ready to support.

Image / 123RF

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