WFH was Harsh on Fintech, But the Sector Adapted and Boomed: Sapna Sukumar, Cashfree Payments 445

In a conversation with All Things Talent, Sapna Sukumar, Vice President – HR, Cashfree Payments talks about Cashfree Payments’ return to work process, the company’s hiring plans for FY22, and how technology will become the only way to manage the entire employee lifecycle in a hybrid or remote working model. She also shares insights on how the fintech industry is set to boom with banking and finance moving to a digital space.

What were Cashfree Payments’ return to work steps and how have they altered in the wake of the third wave?

Sapna Sukumar, VP-HR, Cashfree Payments

Cashfree Payments has recently gotten a new workspace that is operating in line with Covid-19  safety protocols. All of our employees have been requested to wear masks in the office, and we have ensured that masks, gloves, and Rapid Antigen Test kits are available at the Cashfree Payments’ reception for employees to use at the office or even take home.

As part of our ongoing efforts to ensure a safe workplace, hand sanitisers have been made available at major touchpoints in the office, and alternate seating arrangement helps maintain social distance.  The office gets sanitised every day with hospital-grade chemicals.

In the wake of Omicron, we have decided to extend work from home till March 31st, as opposed to  December 31st. Going forward, our teams will operate based on a hybrid work model wherein the employees would have the liberty to choose the days on which they would like to work from the office as per their convenience.

How will the experience of two major waves help Cashfree Payments in framing better work from home policies? What will be the key steps that will be carried forward?

The pandemic has made it amply clear that companies must always be prepared to shift to a hybrid or even entirely remote workplace. At Cashfree Payments, we have a framework and policies in place to ensure the transition from a real to a virtual workplace is smooth.

We have ensured employees have access to collaboration tools that help them feel connected to each other. We have also provided employees with a work-from-home allowance where they could purchase furniture, appliances, etc. to set up their own home office.

We recognise how easy it is for new hires to feel disengaged given that they are being onboarded virtually and have ensured they are assigned a mentor/buddy who can guide them around and make them feel at home in their new role. Also, flexible working hours and access to wellness sessions have become a mandate within our organisation, as the pandemic has highlighted how important it is for employees to be in a healthy mental space.

Cashfree Payments aims to double its employee strength this year. Has the advent of the third wave altered your plans in any way?

We aim to cross a headcount of 950 employees by December 2022. Last year, we crossed the 475 employee mark, out of which over 300 new hires were onboarded digitally.

We believe that going forward it will be necessary to take account of processes that can be executed via digital mediums. Digitalisation of core processes can help us be more efficient in terms of cost, save time, and also help us to adhere to Covid-19 guidelines and curb the spread. At the moment, we believe that we are well equipped to carry out hiring in the digital age and see no hindrance to our hiring plans.

“Digitalisation of core processes can help us be more efficient in terms of cost, save time, and also help us to adhere to Covid-19 guidelines and curb the spread. At the moment, we believe that we are well equipped to carry out hiring in the digital age and see no hindrance to our hiring plans.”

Alongside, we have also initiated programmes that will help us take the necessary steps to function in the wake of the third wave. We are committed to our responsibilities and our vision of providing digital-first services to our clients and recognise that human resources are a crucial part of our business and our intent to deliver value and quality to all the stakeholders.

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What policies do you think should be brought into place in case flexible working becomes a permanent model?

Without a doubt, employees have proven that they are well equipped to do their job regardless of where they are working from. Hence, the option to work from anywhere and flexibility in terms of working hours is definitely on our radar. 

We also intend to make the organisation more sensitive to off-hours and ensure employees are not bothered while on leave or post working hours. Our experience with virtual onboarding has been great, so in case such a model becomes permanent we will stick with the idea of onboarding and inducting new hires virtually.

Team-building can be particularly difficult in the case of a flexible working model, thanks to the complete absence of water-cooler banter. Hence, ensuring teams interact with each other frequently and giving them access to the right kind of tools so they can connect even outside of work requirements would be a top priority.

Organisations might now look to make hybrid work policies and with the Government looking for a legal framework for work from home, where do you think the fintech sector is headed? 

The shift to working from home was harsh on the fintech sector initially, but there’s no doubt about the fact that the sector has adapted and even boomed despite what the pandemic has thrown our way. Payments and banking platforms have taken banking to the digital space, and that’s exactly where banking needs to be in the present world.

Finance is the sector that everyone counts on and we are determined to ensure that we remain up and working no matter what. Fintech providers are the only people who can ensure the money keeps moving and does so safely. Be it enabling small businesses to make payouts via a digital interface, or an instant bank account verification done right from the comfort of the account holder’s home, fintech is set to boom with banking and finance moving to a digital space.

It is every fintech provider’s primary responsibility to ensure transactions are made via a safe and secure connection and no data is ever compromised. So long as this is kept in mind, any kind of workplace model cannot be a hindrance to the growth of fintech organisations.

How will the role of technology in managing the workforce digitally (entire lifecycle) get further augmented?

Source: Cashfree Payments

With the shift to a hybrid or remote working model, technology will become the only way to manage the entire employee lifecycle. Right from resume screening and onboarding up to employee engagement and even offboarding, everything is set to go digital. New-age HR platforms are equipped to handle employee queries and even build internal training schedules as and when needed.

In terms of employee engagement, AI-based HR platforms now come with the ability to send out employee surveys at regular intervals, interact with new hires and older employees to gauge engagement levels, and even alert the leadership and HR when employees start to get disengaged.

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It is evident that soon, technology and automation within the HR space are set to reach new heights and will only help increase productivity and free up HR teams’ bandwidth. In the absence of a physical workplace, automation within HR processes seems like a welcome change.

Work travels have reduced drastically due to Covid-19 and the third wave continues to cast its shadow on the same. Now with everyone connected through technology, do you think such travels will be a passé?

It might be too early to completely write off work travels but there’s no doubt that as of now business/work travels seem to have slowed down to a trickle. If Bill Gates is to be believed, a mere 50% of business travel will make a comeback post the pandemic. However, this could vary from organisation to organisation and we remain open to the scope and need for work travels, albeit safely, in the near future.

As the vaccination rates go up, business travel might open up in the future, even though technology does seem to have the potential to wipe out a portion of it. Then again, “zoom fatigue” is here and there’s no way of knowing whether people would prefer to travel instead of connecting in person once things get better.

However, business travel is surely set to become more responsible in the future. The probability of a super expensive last-minute flight booking or upgrade to business class flying might be met with more resistance than it earlier was, as there’s always an option to shift the whole meeting to a video call instead. Organisations know in-person meetings can easily be replaced with virtual ones and business travel will no longer be an exception to that rule.

“The shift to working from home was harsh on the fintech sector initially, but there’s no doubt about the fact that the sector has adapted and even boomed despite what the pandemic has thrown our way. Payments and banking platforms have taken banking to the digital space, and that’s exactly where banking needs to be in the present world.

A permanent work from home solution needs infrastructure for employees working from small towns and cities. What has been Cashfree Payment’s experience?

In a workspace model, the company builds a strong infrastructure that supports the functioning of its employees. This infrastructure includes everything right from furniture and internet up to a constant supply of electricity.

In the face of all the challenges that the pandemic has thrown our way, we have supported our employees consistently and in a manner that their output does not get affected. We provided a work-from-home allowance for our employees to buy the furniture, appliances, etc. that they would need to have a comfortable home office setup. We understand that the work-from-home environment comes with its own set of challenges and appreciate the evolving nature of the workforce in India and across the globe. We are excited and prepared to provide all kinds of assistance and support that our employees would require from us to function at their best in the ever-changing work environment.

Name of the Company: Cashfree Payments
Year of Incorporation: 2015
Number of Employees: 475
Market presence: In the top three companies in India for payments processing
Employee growth: Employee count has doubled y-o-y for the last two years
Business operation: Cashfree Payments is a leading digital payments and API banking company.

 

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Sapna is a seasoned Human Resources leader driving Human Resource and leadership transformation at India’s digital payments firm, Cashfree Payments. Prior to joining Cashfree Payments, Sapna was one of the founding members of a health-tech startup that became one of India’s largest e-health platforms.

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