India Inc is finally realising that workplace culture matters

Cleaning up their office act.
Cleaning up their office act.
Image: Reuters/Vivek Prakash
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Corporate India has a big problem with workplace culture.

Some of India’s largest firms fare abysmally when it comes to CEO approval ratings among staff, the ratio of women on boards, and the number of accounting infractions and scandals. Moreover, work-life balance is basically a myth and vacations are rare. As a result, an excessive workload and office politics are taking a toll on the country’s young workforce.

But things are slowly starting to change as companies become less hierarchical and more aware of their workplace culture. Four out of five boards at Indian corporates now “have culture as a standing item on their board agenda,” compared to 50% of companies globally, according to a recent Grant Thornton global survey (pdf) of 2,500 business leaders in 36 economies.

The survey also found that more than 85% of boards in India are establishing internal controls that address culture and employee behaviour, above the 71% global average. This includes investing in town hall meetings, developing codes of conduct, and offering periodic training to employees to institutionalise the right culture.

And while India’s risk-averse, family-run businesses have for long preferred to follow top-down mandates, leaving little room for creative, problem-solving processes among less senior employees, companies are now trying to foster a more communicative relationship with senior management, too.

All this matters all the more because India is the only major economy among those surveyed where the treatment of and relationship with employees, and the conduct of the senior management team, are cited as the key determinants of a brand’s reputation, more important than even the quality of goods and services they’re providing.