Neeru Mehta, CHRO of Yellow.ai discusses Employer Branding and People Culture
Neeru Mehta, Chief Human Resources Officer, Yellow.ai
As more businesses digitize their operations and commerce, competition for the best IT professionals intensifies. This means that in order to attract and retain top talent, you must build a strong employer brand.
Employer branding is mostly incredibly tricky for B2B startups, where potential applicants may have heard of a consumer startup and/or used its product. However, candidates are unlikely to be familiar with the most recent enterprise software. We cannot ignore the fact that this dynamic generation is looking for a B2B employer who not only shares their values, but also provides a competitive and aspirational work-life value proposition.
We had a conversation with Neeru Mehta, CHRO of Yellow.ai to discuss her journey, how she built a company culture and her takes on employer branding to attract and retain talents.
Q: Tell us about your journey so far in HR and how did you get where you are now?
Neeru: As Steve Jobs says, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards, all you have to do is have trust and enjoy the journey ! My Career Journey and Growth has been an outcome of some very interesting criss-crosses that I traversed playing different roles in the last 20+ years.
I studied Sciences at high school and later pursued Accounting and Management in Undergrad. In my first Job at Siemens in the finance team, I understood the overall functioning of an Org and the impact People & Culture interventions can have on a company’s growth trajectory. That’s when I started engaging with the human resources team and took a call to pursue Masters in HR. Partnering with Business Leaders and creating transformational people-centric cultures that stretch beyond traditional HR boundaries into distinctive capabilities embedded throughout the organisation has been my pursuit.
I started off post my PG as an HCM functional consultant , a role that helped me understand business and HR nuances at a global level. Post that I worked on mergers and acquisitions, leading Change Management interventions, Learning & Talent Development COEs before moving into HR Business Partnering and leading Regional and global HR teams. In my last role at GlobalLogic as an SVP, I headed the Organisation Effectiveness function for GlobalLogic and was tasked with creating a robust Learning , Talent and Change Management capability at a global level.
Joining Yellow.ai as its first ever CHRO has been a very exciting decision both at a personal level and professional level, this has been an opportunity to create the right cultural blueprint and exceptional Employee Experience enabled by technology and human spirit. What attracted me was the company's growth, founder’s belief & passion and the immense potential it represents. Being part of the sunrise economy and working with entrepreneurs who look to plug into every opportunity and disrupt the conventional and traditional ways of doing business was also a motivating factor.
Q: How do you build a company culture for a start-up; is it easier, or harder?
Neeru: There is no "right" culture, just as there is no "right" way to live a life. There is no blueprint for what a company culture for a start-up should be. In an era where there is much benchmarking and many thought leaders exchanging views, we must establish the right culture which is different for every company, be it a startup or large enterprise.
Cultures in startups is a true reflection of the soul of a startup and is nurtured in the foundational years by the Founders, Early Employee as well as the clients. As they grow and work towards the growth journey, that’s where it is most critical to take the best aspects of what is there and strengthen the culture code of a scaling up organisation.
In my view , it's most critical to preserve the core and keep enhancing it with the right practices and rituals . As time goes by, the culture won’t be the same when it grows due to internal and external influences, therefore we must account for those elements and regularly examine company culture to identify what needs to change.
Organisations also need to understand how technology can be leveraged to create a great workplace. For instance, today we are seeing companies adopt sophisticated Conversational AI solutions to create and deliver an enhanced employee experience strategy. They are realising that such solutions are helping them engage remote workers and providing them holistic experiences to reduce burnout and attrition.
Given the new normal, I feel it is crucial to provide a choice to the employees regarding the kind of environment they want to work in and exercise that option. At Yellow.ai we are striving to create a culture that champions the right balance between flexibility and productivity. Our virtual first hybrid approach is a concrete step towards achieving that goal. It’s about leveraging the best of both worlds - online and physical, which is necessary to build and preserve the social fabric across the organisation.
Q: Tech companies lay off people just as quickly as they hire, how can HR keep morale up?
Neeru: The great resignation has been going on for over two years, and it has affected every organisation. The foundation must be laid by developing the right culture and providing the ideal employee experience. How do employees see the company, how it cares for them, how it grows them, how it invests in them, and how do you ensure that individuals will stay in the firm because of who they are and what experience they get within the company.
We are currently working on generating those moments of delight for our employees at Yellow.ai, as the firm will focus on our clients while also equally focusing on our employees, and a lot of investment in the whole onboarding, growth and learning experience are our key objectives as we develop.
There are phases of Growth and Plateaus that companies have and I firmly believe that no matter what decision an organisation takes to sustain growth, as an HR Leader, I have always strived to ensure that we focus on the right experience always. Whether it is promotions and growth or scenarios of layoffs, ultimately what matters is the kind of experience and enablement that’s done for the teams and individuals.
Q: How does employer branding help in attracting talent and talent retention?
Neeru: Great employer branding begins with a clear goal, vision, and core values and is reinforced by each employee's voice, regardless of level or job in the company. It finally aids in attracting top talent by providing them with an inside peek at what your company is all about. Great employer branding allows candidates to "self-assess" their fit inside your company, which may lead to higher employee retention and engagement rates over time. It often attracts higher-quality candidates, resulting in a committed talent community that will subsequently serve as champions for your businesses and its goal.
At Yellow.ai, we are building a 360 degree experience for employees that focuses on their wellness, Learning, Development, rewards & recognition, DEI as well as employee wealth creation options.
Essentially, we are building the right foundation for great people experiences. Another area of priority is expanding our entire global leadership team throughout the business and ensuring that we are growing our leaders for the kind of development that we desire. What is also required is the ability to drive growth, which is another significant emphasis area, and there is definitely a lot that will happen around this.
Q: What have been your specific/best strengths in your career as a HR personnel?
Neeru: As an HR professional with two decades of experience, having played a gamut of HR and Business roles, I can always work through Business Focus areas and apply the right people levers to achieve the Growth and Culture goals.
I have been fortunate enough to work with leaders and create an ecosystem where Empathy and People growth has been a parallel focus along with the Org Growth. I believe in building a people-first culture and it has been deeply satisfying to work through different facets of what makes any organisation “A great place to work“. I have been instrumental in several transformation journeys as a key leader and I do consider it my strength to drive growth with a strong sense of Purpose and Empathy.