Suvarna Mishra

Suvarna Mishra heads Human Resources at Sodexo Benefits and Rewards Services. Over the last 3 years of her role at Sodexo, she has galvanized the teams during the rapid digital transformation of business while keeping up with Sodexo values and culture throughout the restructuring and talent evolution at Sodexo India. In her career spanning 17 years, Suvarna has previously led and managed multiple roles in organizations like DHL Express, Aditya Birla Group, and Qualcomm and remains grateful to have been mentored by some of the most reputed senior business executives in her career so far.

Suvarna’s professional strength and interests lie in defining HR strategy, creation of a compelling employer brand aligning all aspects of the organization to drive engagement, adoption of meaningful technology in HR processes, driving a high-performance culture, pre and post HR strategy in MnA’s and enabling diversity in the workforce. Under her leadership, Sodexo BRS India has been acclaimed Great Place To Work in 2020 twice in a row; accredited with GEEIS certification Level 3 and also awarded with various internal and external awards/credits.

Our Exclusive Interview:

What the HR needs to do in order to drive more value in the VUCA world?

Covid-19 has been exceptional and unprecedented and has only added to the complexity of the VUCA world. As HR, we could do take a lot of steps to add value to our organizations and for our employees during these testing times.

  • Focus on leadership communication: Uncertainty due to the pandemic leads to anxiety about the future. HR can coach and guide leadership teams to ensure clear and transparent communication at frequent intervals is done regarding the future course/plan of action that shall help employees stay informed and instil a feeling of belongingness.
  • Review existing policies: With the entire workforce working from home and the pandemic changing the way we work in entirety, it is almost important for HR to review existing policies and consider ease of operations in a remote flexible working environment, ensure enough sick leaves are available, support to employees and dependents by the way of insurance and other new-age benefits, all of which would go a long way in ensuring the remote workforce is safe and motivated to perform at their highest potential.
  • Focus on collaboration and managerial effectiveness: Training managers to collaborate and managing remote teams, shall go a long way in ensuring business continuity and ensuring the focus on employee wellbeing.

As an HR Leader, what are the key deliverables that can be instrumental for a firm to be successful?

  • BCP: Having a strong Business continuity planning (BCP) to prevent disruption and ensure recovery from potential threats such as natural disasters or cyber-attacks.
  • Agile way of working: Agile working will be an important aspect to ensure business success as we move permanently to a work from anywhere culture, which empowers the team and the organization to work with full freedom. That is, they are free to work when, where, and how they want to.
  • Risk Assessment & Diversification: A company spreads its risks by selling a varied product range, operating in different markets, or selling in many countries and thus can mitigate risks through diversification. This would be instrumental for firms to be successful in the Volatile VUCA world.

We have heard a lot about D&I, what does it mean to you and what are you doing about it?

  • Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion promotes business growth as it drives our ability to identify and develop the best talent, create an engaged workforce and enhance Quality of Life for our clients, customers and our people. The gender balance ratio at Sodexo BRS India is a result of a series of initiatives and programs focused on best practices: for example, So Together: the cornerstone of our gender diversity, with an advisory board dedicated to promoting women’s advancement with clear objectives namely, 1) 40% women in Sodexo leadership, 2) Increased gender representation in talent pipeline,  3) Create a culture of inclusion. We have several other programs such as a women mentoring program called DISHA, career advancements for women, and policies that support flexibility and enable choice for our women employees to manage their work-life priorities. Our efforts have led to Sodexo BRS India being awarded the GEEIS accreditation by the Aborus Fund in collaboration with Bureau Veritas. GEEIS stands for Gender Equality and Diversity for European and International Standard in Oct 2020.

What are some of the key drivers that you see as an HR that is actually driving the business growth and success?

Business growth and success has 4 key drivers in my opinion:

  • Meritocratic Culture: The success of any business depends on its most important asset – its people! Building a sustaining a meritocratic culture that focusses on employee strengths and is a platform for growth is a key driver.
  • Digitization: With the VUCA world and the entire workforce operating remotely, digitization of processes, client offerings and customized features have become even more important that before.
  • Customer Focus: Post sales service and focus on customer needs and requirements at all given points through the sales cycle is a competitive advantage and a USP for many leading companies across sectors that drives business success & growth.
  • Innovation: Creativity and innovation create product value, process improvements, marketing success, and accelerated growth.  When a diverse, cross-functional team looks to innovate through the implementation of creative ideas, they’ll work more effectively, flexibly, and with a greater sense of unity.  However, it is also important for organizations to ensure successful execution of their Innovation strategy.

The role of HR leaders has changed over the years. How do you see the role of HR leaders evolve by 2025?

HR leaders will continue to focus on building a strong employee value proposition but as the same time, think, act, and execute like a CEO. Shifting gears from being custodians of policies and processes to being pioneers and leading critical innovations such as digitization. The presence of a hybrid workforce will result in HR leaders transforming into life coaches and counselling employees and managers to operate with compassion and create an ‘entrepreneur’ in every employee.
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