Employee-focused policies take centrestage at startups

May 8, 2022

We’ve all heard of right to education — but right to nap? Earlier this week, Chaitanya Ramalingegowda, co-founder of home and sleep solutions brands Wakefit, announced just that: a first-of-its-kind right to nap initiative to promote and normalise afternoon naps at work. As people took to LinkedIn to laud the move, the startup’s social media handle quipped: ‘Miles to go, but before that, we sleep’.

In a post-Covid-19 world, where employees are demanding more work-life balance, more flexibility and a better, more inclusive workplace culture, startups such as Wakefit, Dream11, The Good Glamm Group, BeatO and Zepto are stepping up with initiatives to keep employees happy at a time when attrition is high and competition intense to attract the right talent.

From nap times to birthday leaves and vacation reimbursements, chatbots that connect with employees to gauge how they are feeling to employee-driven benefits programmes, startups are going the extra mile to change how staid old corporate culture works.

“Initiatives like this have a compounding effect. Anyone alone won’t be a retention tool; but they all add up,” Ramalingegowda told ET.

“It’s about constantly pushing the envelope. If it resonates, great; otherwise, we phase it out,” he says.

The emergence of multiple new opportunities for talented employees coupled with a weakened emotional bond between employees and the organisation due to long duration of WFH, has resulted in high attrition,

“To manage this situation, organisations are taking a multiprong approach. They have become very innovative in customising their benefits to position themselves uniquely in front of employees to ensure a stronger connect,” says Rajul Mathur, Head of talent & Rewards, Willis Towers Watson.

Fantasy sports platform Dream11 had earlier introduced the Proximity to Stadium benefits programme to encourage employees to move closer to The Stadium (the office) by contributing up to Rs 1 lakh every month towards HRA. More recently, it offered an instant relocation policy, when it anticipated the end of pandemic-related restrictions. Under this, new and current Dreamsters could move back to Mumbai with their families, and their end-to-end relocation including accommodation in five-star hotels for up to three weeks was paid for.

“This policy is among the top reasons why more than 2/3rds of Dreamsters who were already availing the Proximity to Stadium benefit, resumed work with us full time in February. We believe that our culture and the way we work are huge motivators for our talent to be with us in the long run,” said CHRO Kevin Freitas.

Other startups are trying different things. Like The Good Glamm Group has done away with the attendance system. About a month ago, it introduced the Amber chatbot to put in place a continuous listening mechanism where it connects with employees on how they’re feeling, whether they’re burnt out etc. “Amber has been working very well for us as a retention tool because it helps us identify which employees are disengaged. In a sense we’re able to do ‘stay interviews’ rather than ‘exit interviews’,”  says chief people officer Kartik Rao.

No longer one-size-fits-all
Grocery startup Zepto recently carried out a survey asking employees what they want in terms of benefits, and then rolled out a benefits programme including multiple options to allow employees to curate what works for them. “The intent was to ensure that the benefits eventually matter and help each of our employees,” said CHRO Roma Bindroo. This week, they are rolling out a vacation reimbursement, under which all employees will be encouraged to take a few days off and be reimbursed for it.
Health startup BeatO has recently rolled out individual 1:1 employee meetings with the founders, to provide employees a platform to voice/communicate their issues, and have them resolved, said HR head Sugandha Jain.