Inclusive Excellence: Working Towards an Equitable Future of Work
Interviews, Magazine

Inclusive Excellence: Working Towards an Equitable Future of Work

In a conversation with All Things Talent, Viekas K Khokha, Head HR at Dhanuka Agritech Ltd., talks about his journey so far, addressing D&I challenges in a virtual workplace, and the role of technology in supporting a culture of inclusion.


Q: Let us begin by talking about your journey into HR. How has the journey been so far? What were some of the challenges and important decisions that helped you evolve into a leader and get where you are today?

A: My journey into the HR field has been quite challenging and exciting. Post my cross-functional movement from Sales to HR, I have been able to move through multiple strategic assignments starting with re-organization of Airtel Centre, development of Global Centre of Excellence for Bharti Group, leading and transforming Zimmer India (world’s leader in arthroscopy) business units in terms of setting up of talent management processes and now leading key strategic HR transformation projects at Dhanuka Agritech Limited. I don’t think that any career moves could have been better planned for me in terms of my professional and personal development.

I have been challenging myself out of my comfort zone by moving out of sales operations at a later stage and migrating within HR and then choosing the assignments within HR which could truly be called “Jobs Never Done Before”. Each assignment that I chose turned out to be a fresh transformation in the lifecycle of the organization and was ahead of its time in the industry as well. The projects handled during my assignments turned out to be an advantage in terms of my own learning curve in the industry.

There were a series of challenges with respect to the people, especially when there were people who would constantly drop me as a leader considering me an outsider in my domain whom I had to put aside respectfully by building my own resilience by partnering very effectively with my business leaders and producing a turnaround for the organization in the future.

I did demarcate my strength as well as the developmental competencies which helped me to make decisions and focus on my differentiated approach due to my out-of-the-box thinking coming from a different domain. For the development, I did take help from my organizations and also intervened by sponsoring myself for development programs from premier institutes like XLRI, IIM Ahmedabad, and The Wharton School and planned these interventions at fixed intervals.

To enhance my learning, I carried the mentors from each phase of my professional life and education who would continue to provide me with relevant anecdotes at different phases of my learning journey. Mentoring has also developed my ability to handle adverse situations at ease by prioritization.

I should not miss this critical point of being in constant contact with the Young Leaders, either through the knowledge sharing sessions or involving them in live projects, who were graduating from some of the premier HR institutes by providing them dotes on HR Leadership challenges. As a reverse mentoring, it helped me to understand and kept me updated on the new school of thought these young leaders would bring to me which really helped me in fine-tuning my thought process and keeping it up to date.



Work from home or remote working has led to a critical competency which consists of being humane and thinking of the well-being of employees as well as their families. And this critical leadership competency has a direct correlation to employee engagement and productivity.

Q: Working remotely has become the new norm but this change is accompanied by a new set of challenges, especially when it comes to fostering an inclusive workplace. During these uncertain and difficult times, what steps organizations, leaders, and managers can take to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts don’t fall by the wayside?

A: Inclusion has a direct link to work from home. Managers and supervisors have no choice but to adapt to this new normal. There was a perception around work from home being looked through a person’s productivity Le. managers were comfortable visualizing people at an office location even if it’s a remote office location rather than a home location. This mindset needed change primarily when people were forced to operate from their homes for their safety. More than people’s biases, the work needed to be defined which could be handled remotely versus a specific location.

Inclusion and Diversity mindset becomes very handy in helping people to manage estimates while conducting video calls. Initially, some managers insisted on the video being mandatory while the meeting was already on. A preintimation against the same is required. There were many such examples against the timings of calls, technology constraints and the organization’s restraint to manage the same is critical change management.

Work from home or remote working has led to a critical competency which consists of being humane and thinking of the well-being of employees as well as their families. And this critical leadership competency has a direct correlation to employee engagement and productivity.

Inclusive Managers tend to get their workforce up to speed by getting short capsule-based training snippets in the areas they face barriers. This has proved to be one of the effective speedup activities during the last few months. The areas of respective training modules are around making teams effective during virtual communications.

Q: At Dhanuka, how did you address the diversity challenges and what steps Virtual reality training also shows great OATES CR EMRE the experiences of people with different backgrounds, experiences and identities, and/ or how to best respond to specific situations TARE S 4 RNY LOM eR SLE have been taken to make the virtual workplace and meetings more inclusive, more equitable while working remotely during a crisis?

A: While most of the points mentioned above did cover my scope at Dhanuka as well, I highlighted some specific instances which helped me to create diverse points of view, and definitely, the learning journey is still going on.

  1. STRATEGIC – Helping management to develop the diversity and inclusion initiative and its positive impact not only on the culture but the ROI plans was a critical agenda.
  2. CULTURAL – Guidance to managers to be able to accept diverse points of view is very important for the required positive cultural change. Setting up mentoring sessions to handle diverse points of view was a critical attempt in developing change radically.
  3. POLICIES – Guidance on commonly used unisexual language was also developed by creating an employee handbook constituting the desired language.
  4. PROJECT-BASED LEARNING – Projects identified on change management helped the team members to assimilate the process of developing diversity and inclusion as best practices to improve employee productivity and efficiency.
  5. PROCESSES – Lastly, making changes in redundant processes focusing on the end state and future market share of the organization helped in developing out-of-the-box thinking keeping the desired output in mind.


Q: HR is increasingly using advances in technology and the growth of people analytics to promote and embed diversity and inclusion initiatives. How has technology helped you manage through the crisis and support a culture of inclusion and diversity?

A: In order to support managers with the change management considering the work from home situation, productivity software needed to be deployed to bring them up to speed on measuring their work commitments and the change in their mindset.

Enhanced search capabilities to surface prospective candidates by specific attributes, such as gender or background/ethnicity. This was incorporated into the various social media engines.

Managing analytics around organizational diversity, using Organizational Network Analysis {(ONA) to assess whether diverse people are included similarly or differently from majority groups within the organizational network.

Our internal employee app helps us track people on a daily basis regarding their wellbeing and safety. This app helps to track gender-specific requirements as well which are being customized on a need basis.

The translator app enables participants to ask difficult questions anonymously and helps moderators check the pulse of the room for people’s level of emotional comfort, and to then engage with people on the topic after the session. Virtual reality training also shows great potential to help staff better understand the experiences of people with different backgrounds, experiences, and identities, and/ or how to best respond to specific situations like micro-aggressions or sexual harassment. Vendors such as Being VR, Equal Reality, STRIVR, and Vantage Point are all working in this space.



Q: With radically transformed workplaces, work practices, patterns, and philosophies; how has this crisis put the HR function on the radar of importance, visibility, and influence? Why has crisis response become the top priority for HR and how can it help HR leaders assume the role of new-age leaders?

A: HR needs to constantly develop leaders’ humane capabilities transforming their business/ functional competencies towards behavioural competencies by building empathy, care, and flexibility for operations.

HR needs to constantly embark upon the need for digital transformation and keep addressing the value chain on newer ways of working. Constant training around this helps in radical change management and develops the desired ecosystem.

The importance of moving the transactional activities towards automation and GIG management is a constant driver for change at this time. These jobs need to be replaced with quality work analytics which helps people to build skills for managing the future.

HR needs to develop a robust talent management philosophy that would help in getting skill development for identified leaders for the future which includes resilience, managing uncertainty & change, and being more agile to name a few.

About the Guest: Viekas K Khokha, Head of Human Resources at Dhanuka Agritech Ltd.

Viekas is a seasoned HR leader, thinker, coach, and mentor. With over 20 years of experience in various facets of human resources, he has expertise in shaping organisational culture, nurturing progressive employee relations, and leading talent & organisational development. He has worked with leading organizations like Zimmer Biomet, Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Ascom India Pvt. Ltd to name a few. Currently, he is the head of HR at Dhanuka Agritech Ltd. Viekas started his career in Sales and moved on to lead HR. This has helped him engage well with business managers and develop the HR agenda effectively with ROI-based interventions.

A post-graduate in Business Management along with a BE in Mechanical Engineering, he has also completed the Global Fellow Program in Talent Management from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, USA. In his career, the cross-functional moves and diverse industry exposure has helped him in developing himself to lead Talent Management portfolio very aggressively through Diversity and Inclusion craft., which is a very critical component of culture that would help in making organisations future-ready.


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