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Designing HR with a Business Lens with Meera D'Souza

, | Apr 25, 2023 2:15:00 AM | By

On the latest episode of High Growth Matters, we spoke with Meera D’Souza, VP of People at Fleetio. After relocating from India, Meera spent 17 years at McKesson, where she was promoted across many different departments, ranging from software implementation and product training to customer education and leadership development. Meera then managed an offshore team at a call center before joining a fast-growing SaaS startup in the Midwest as a member of the HR leadership team, which was acquired in 2021.

  • This blog has been adapted from that conversation and covers:
  • The importance of neutralizing culture gaps
  • Building a more equitable and diverse workplace
  • Designing HR with a business lens
  • HR leadership tips

Don’t miss the full episode: Designing HR with a Business Lens

The importance of neutralizing culture gaps

Most people face a career transition at some point. Whether it’s switching employers, receiving a promotion, changing job titles or working with the next incoming generation, there are many moving parts to deal with throughout the experience.

“Each transition comes with cultural nuance,” Meera says. “Any migration, any movement can create that same cultural dissonance. You have to learn the norms and values.”

Meera experienced one of the most difficult cultural transitions possible by relocating internationally. After moving halfway around the world, Meera experienced dissonance between what she expected of the country, her experience and reality.

While familiar with the US, she was unsure of the rules of engagement that came with navigating life and career within the country. Which is why, initially, she accepted a role that may have been several levels under her expertise and skill level.

“It’s what I needed,” Meera says. “It was a good starting place to figure out how the US compared to India.”

Oftentimes navigating new cultures requires a level of curiosity and analysis, says Meera. Seeing and analyzing what exists on the surface is typically table stakes. But assessing what’s beneath the waterline, finding out what the expectations are comprised of and why — that’s what truly bridges cultural gaps and expands HR leadership.


Building a more equitable and diverse workplace

Cultural assimilation is hard — especially when you feel like your employer is misinformed or, worse, not on your side. Building cultural knowledge into the structure of your HR practices and throughout the entire organization helps to create a diverse workforce in which each employee feels supported and enabled to assimilate and succeed.

Upon reflecting on the challenges she faced while relocating to a new country, Meera began applying the same concepts to other groups of people, and asking “Which other groups might not have access to the right information or resources? Who else faces barriers to entering the workforce?” 

For example, first-time college graduates may not have the resources to know how to navigate the workplace. With no prior experience and no mentors in close familial proximity, they are left to uncover the intricacies of professional culture alone.

According to Meera, workplaces need to determine which groups are being marginalized and for what reasons. Then, they must construct support mechanisms to guide those groups through their journey of assimilation into the workplace. HR leadership can and should support this process.

In our discussion, Meera offers specific, actionable ways that employers can build support for marginalized groups such as immigrants, women and first-time students. Tune in here to learn more.


Designing HR with a business lens

Meera says one of the best things you can do to design an effective HR with a business lens is to ensure you don’t slip into tunnel vision. For example, at Fleetio, Meera and her team have built out a practice in which HR serves as a business partner (HRBP). 

“We really embedded ourselves in the business,” Meera says. “Understanding the overall business context, participating in business meetings, supporting leaders in the discussions they needed to have with employees, being available to our employees during interactions — that's what we are striving for.”

Building HR through a business lens requires practical implementation in which the team serves as a partner, not an emergency safeguard or prerequisite.

One simple way Meera and her team have been filling this role is by conducting a People Leader meeting each week immediately following the Executive Team meeting. This allows the people team to identify any event occurring in the first meeting that may result in people-related repercussions. By pointing out potential problems before they happen, the HRBP can help push the business forward.

“The other important thing is aligning programs to be practical and match the business planning,” Meera says. That's HR leadership.

To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The High Growth Matters Podcast on our website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or just search for The High Growth Matters Podcast in your favorite podcast player.