Taking to blogs to shape organisational culture

Rica Bhattcharyya, Economic Times, 17 July 2015

MUMBAI: Vivek Gambhir, managing director, Godrej Consumer Products, tries to take time out every Monday to write his blog, a platform that enables him to engage with employees.

Gambhir's blog, 'monday8am', started out as a series of Monday morning emails to the team at Godrej Consumer Products, on what could be done differently to become better leaders, better team players, better family members, better friends and better citizens.

"Through this blog, I now hope to include many more of our colleagues, partners and friends, in these conversations," says Gambhir, who has been writing regularly since October.

Why the name? "Monday, since it is the start of the working week and 8 am, so that we can think about these things before the day catches up with us," he says.

Like Gambhir, Vishal Sikka, CEO of Infosys, Pramit Jhaveri, chief executive officer of Citi India, are among a growing league of India Inc CEOs for whom social media has changed the way they communicate. Blogs help them translate leadership vision and a strategic roadmap for employees or customers.

Gambhir typically writes about leadership and personal effectiveness. Some of his blogs are practical tips that employees can use to become more effective as leaders, while some are thought pieces.

Some of his recent blogs that were popular among employees were on leadership as a brand, an analysis of the bell curve, LGBT and inclusiveness, among others. Sometimes he calls upon someone from the senior leadership to collaborate with him on his blog. Once Gambhir collaborated with his wife to write a piece on parenting.

"The idea is to create a forum that engages people in a conversation about what we need to do differently as a company... it allows more discussions to happen so people think more about these issues," says Gambhir.

At Infosys, the Leaders Blog platform hosted on the company's intranet is a popular forum for leadership connect, where blogs by leaders across the organisation are published.

The topics covered are varied - from recounting experiences at leadership events/summits and communicating important changes, to charting the strategy for business units - and leaders use this platform to gain real-time feedback, as well as build two-way dialogue with readers through comments on the post.

"This platform is utilised by the CEO (Vishal Sikka) as well, to share his thoughts on organisational strategy, his experiences at global summits and his learnings," said Richard Lobo, head of employee relations at Infosys.

The blogs form a mode of communication and engagement in the organisation. They help build feedback loops, create an environment of trust through open communication, and give wide publicity to changes that resulted from feedback. In this way, the culture is built from the top. In certain cases where the feedback or comments from employees contains space for deeper engagement, it is also picked up by relevant teams for action.

To encourage deeper engagement, Gambhir sometimes invites people to co-author posts with him. Karan Sood, deputy general manager, business development, Africa, GCPL, says it was Gambhir's backing which prompted him to opt out of a linear FMCG sales career and move to a business development role in the Africa business.

So, when Gambhir started his Monday-8am blog and invited people to write with him, Sood lapped up the opportunity to share his learning and a number of other employees reached out to him to share their career decisions.

"I enjoy reading Vivek's blog because he uses it as a forum to discuss issues pertinent to both work and life, rather than as a platform from where a senior leader doles out advice," says Apurva Joshi, manager, innovation, GCPL.

Joshi recalls an instance when she was invited to coauthor a post with him called 'Thriving as a woman in sales'. The aim was to spark a debate within the company about women entering fields considered to be a male domain and how Godrej can support and groom them. "Having my voice backed by Vivek reaffirmed my faith in the Godrej philosophy of 'Bedhadak Bolo'," says Joshi.

Jhaveri of Citi India, who enjoys writing, started writing a blog to reach out to the various stakeholders who are active on social media in large numbers. The blog is posted bi-monthly on Citibank's website.

"I believe this is a powerful way for us to not only reach a large and diverse group of people, but also to get thoughts and feedback from them on each of these topics," says Jhaveri.

The blog not only serves as a channel to engage with employees, but it also enables the leadership to reach out to customers and business partners.

"We have used these blogs not only to communicate specific messages about our business and our industry, but also to build awareness of our brand, our culture and contribution to society," he says, adding "We now think we can use this communication channel to test ideas and practices." Jhaveri looks forward to writing more on various subjects that showcase the strength and diversity of their franchise and their focus on talent and innovation.