Pragmatic Wisdom – Redefining Women Leadership

Pragmatic Wisdom – Redefining Women Leadership

This article is a part of the All Things Talent Magazine (July 2018 Edition) – An Initiative By |

In an exclusive interview with All Things Talent, Shilpa Vaid, Chief Human Resources Officer, Arvind Lifestyle Brands Limited, spoke about redefining women leadership and rising above challenges, by taking charge of our career, aiming high and staying authentic.

Shilpa Vaid is an HR Leader with international experience in Consulting, Insurance & Retail, she has been a leader of choice in several organizations for leading large business and organizational transformations.

With an academic background from Hindu College New Delhi and International Management Institute, Shilpa specialises in Talent & Performance Management, Leadership & Management Development, HR Operations & Technology, Rewards Management, Organization Design & Structuring, and Talent Acquisition.

Q. You have a breadth of experience across sectors in various positions. What has been this journey like?

A. Being a firm believer in the quote ‘career is a marathon and not a sprint’, it has been a fulfilling journey, despite the highs and lows.

My learnings have been:

  • Evaluate roles by their potential to impact, not just scale/ size.
  • Be open, especially in today’s context where we need to continuously reinvent ourselves.
  • Embrace discomfort; some of it is necessary, to reach our full potential.

Q. What strategies do you adopt for continuous innovation for Human Resource Management in the retail realm?

A. The retail industry worldwide is reshaping with a focus on personalizing customer experience across store & digital platforms, building online brands, leveraging emerging technologies such as virtual & augmented reality. There will be a significant impact of automation too, especially on the more manual & predictable jobs.

At Arvind, ‘reskilling’ our people is, therefore, a significant priority for us. Integrating data-based decision making into functions that hitherto were managed by gut; thinking about redesigning jobs & roles that will get reshaped with automation; providing employees opportunities to upskill themselves in new age technologies and skills is our approach to this.

What will matter most will be our ‘learning ability’ – our capacity to learn, unlearn and relearn new skills and adapt quickly.

Q. What are the critical differences observed in the cultural amalgamation between hires made at leadership and entry level and how do you facilitate a smoother integration?

A. I believe that there are certain significant ‘moments of truth’ in an employee’s journey with an organization that has the potential to please or disengage. The joining/assimilation process is one such moment of truth. At Arvind, we endeavour to make this a distinctive process through our on-boarding program named NEO (New Employee Orientation).

As part of NEO, we are also institutionalizing 30– 60 – 90-day check-ins with the Managers and regular interactions with HR leadership. All of this is done with the objective of ensuring that new hires assimilate well into the company and hit the ground running.

Over the years, I have also learned that leadership hires, besides being equipped with resources & information to deliver in their roles also need additional support in creating a 90-day plan; setting performance goals for self & team; understanding the team dynamics; mapping key stakeholders to be set up for success. 

Q. Women still remain underrepresented in leadership positions. What can the corporate industry and women themselves do to overcome barriers and grow women leaders in the workforce?

A. There is a strong business case for women in leadership roles and many organizations are taking steps in the right direction. I believe that leadership commitment for the agenda is a must – companies need to sensitise the workforce on unconscious bias, change mindsets and actively sponsor careers of women leaders by helping them have long-term career aspirations; providing flexibility in critical life stages and also by providing targeted development & mentoring opportunities.

For the women themselves, sadly many of us fall off the corporate ladder due to our own self-limiting beliefs and societal pressures. Here is my advice:

  • Aim high and take chances. Don’t fear failure, it’s far more valuable than success.
  • Take charge of your career; Ask for what you want; don’t be shy and wait to be asked.
  • Stay authentic; never ever stop being your- self to fit in.
  • Find support in like-minded people at your workplace and in your personal life.

Q. How do you think technology will improve the Human Resource Management process of the future?

A. At Arvind, we are embracing digital for our workforce quite effectively for communication, information sharing, engagement, and training and also for managing employee lifecycle processes. To give context, we have over 9000 employees in Retail; 6000 of them are on our rolls; many of them are based in key accounts where they don’t have access to desktops or even the POS system typically found in our own stores.

We launched an app for our Retail Workforce called SMILEs in December last year. It gives employees access to their salary details; eligibility for career progression; ADC schedules; R&R programs for their business unit/ channel etc. We are able to use it to share key updates/ messages and looking ahead, employee life-cycle processes for this workforce will also be managed on this app. We also use Wooqer to deliver our season training/ product training and our iLearn app for on – the – go learning.


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