Viacom18 has set new records in human resource policies with the launch of its women-centric programme titled Wave or Women at Viacom18. This women-friendly work-linked benefits program entitles female employees to 36 weeks or nine months of maternity leaves along with other additional benefits. The company claims to be the first company in India to offer this benefit. With the aim of bringing in gender diversity and promoting inclusion at the workplace, Viacom18’s Wave is looking to help women perform to their full potential during their careers. The program focuses on four pillars: safety, wellness, life events and career development with various interventions. With this move, the media network sets to create a benchmark across industries in human resource department. The policies have already been put to action across all its offices in the country.
Abhinav Chopra, Chief Human Resource Officer, Viacom18 who calls it his dream project tells us more about it:
What’s the objective of Wave?
Our constant endeavor is to create a workplace that provides a sense of belonging and a place that makes our employees feel cared for. We have to start establishing equity rather than equality for women. For the longest time you had this equality conversation where women should have their jobs when they come back from work. That’s not good enough according to me. It can be equality but not equity. You have to give women opportunities and learning experience once they are back to establish equity.
The bigger focus is to try to change the mindset. We are working with managers and supervisors. We have professional counselors on board to interact with supervisors who are expecting mothers and counsel them through the phase they are going through. You need a lot of sensitization in these matters also. Also when the person’s on leave we bring people on temporary basis. We need to be fair to others as well.
In our phase two, we are planning certain initiatives where we are trying to do this at an industry level, in a way that brings the Indian business fraternity together.
How long did it take from ideating to executing?
We have been working on it since a year and a half. We formed a cross functional team for this. We had small team across different functions of HR for Wave. This was one of the dream projects of HR. This particular team worked on Wave for around five months. They interviewed employees, looked at data from our previous surveys, did close group interactions and even looked at external data across different companies, within and outside the sector.
We felt it’s time media entertainment industry took the leap in people’s initiatives.
What are the benefits that you are offering?
Wave is the result of intense research and a number of extensive conversations with employees, to understand their pressing needs. Based on these conversations, we have identified focus areas, which often tend to be the biggest concerns for most working women. Addressing each of these concerns, we have introduced exciting initiatives, from providing night travel to a 36 week maternity leave programme to flexible working option for 12 weeks post maternity leave. Then there are leaves for medical check-ups during pregnancy. 36 week-leave maternity leave is applicable in adoption as well. We have started working on daycare facilities which we will soon announce.
We are also offering cabs for women travelling between 10pm and 6am. There will also be health camps for women on periodic basis.
What’s the target of this program?
It’s not about recruiting female employees but making them stay. The target is to get the initiatives rolling and see what the uptake is. My targets are stratified by levels. We have already made a benchmark with the percentage of female employees. At mid to senior level women employees is 37 per cent at Viacom18. In India, it’s about 11 per cent. I am already way ahead.
I am looking to increase women employees at mid-to-senior level. With this we are raising the bar and making a statement that we will not be the best employer but also the most preferred employer for women.