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The only way to survive this pandemic is to find new solutions to bring in business, manage teams and hence stabilise the company : Aradhana Lal 

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Aradhana Lal, VP – brand, communications & sustainability initiatives, Lemon Tree Hotels, in interaction with Akshay Nayak says only one way to break the glass ceiling and it is agnostic of gender – to lead from the front and to build strong teams

How has the hospitality industry changed over the years in terms of inclusivity of women at leadership roles?

Over the last decade and now in the new one, the inclusion of women has become a part of the fabric of organisations. And this holds true right from the entry-level through to middle management and up to leadership roles as well. At Lemon Tree Hotels we have Senior Vice Presidents and Vice Presidents in 5 key roles, including my own.

I think the definition of inclusion has now been expanded and extended to include previously marginalised segments like disability, economically/socially marginalised, ethnicity, age profiles, etc. I lead and drive our Diversity and Inclusion piece along with my colleague R Hari, GM -HR and we have built this initiative over 13 years. Today, Lemon Tree hires Employees With Disability including Speech and Hearing Impaired; Orthopaedic Handicap; Low Vision; Acid Survivors; Down Syndrome; Slow Learner; Mild MR and Autism. We also focus on the Economically/Socially Marginalised segment including orphans/abandoned girls; widows, divorcees, abandoned/battered women; transgenders; BPL youth and those from economically weak families. The inclusion of Opportunity Deprived Indians (ODIs) is now a part of our business model and HR strategy. And what makes this work well is the scale to which we have now taken it i.e. 16-17 per cent of our employee base is from the ODI segment.

As VP – Sustainability initiatives, what challenges and opportunities do you face in your day-to-day operations?

Challenges come with the territory whether it is the D&I piece or the Brand and Communications role. The travel and hospitality sector is large and growing and also dynamic. It follows the state of the economy, by way of the pattern of peaks and troughs. This puts a demand on me to evolve and adapt with the market. If we look at what we are experiencing globally right now, with this pandemic, the only way to survive this wave is to find new solutions to bring in business, manage teams and hence stabilise the company.

Specifically, the key challenge of running the diversity programme is to ensure effective daily operations at our hotels with these integrated teams. This requires me to do an appropriate job mapping process, institutionalise a robust training process with our Learning and Development team, and then monitor the job performance of these differently-abled youth.

How do you manage work-life balance?

This is an interesting challenge and takes a little effort to balance. Having said that, if the work you do energizes you then those few extra hours only build your energy.

What steps have you considered to break the glass ceiling?

There is only one way to break the glass ceiling and this is agnostic of gender – to lead from the front and to build strong teams. This requires a deep understanding of the business model and what drives it. As well as the ability to take a risk and then support it with data and performance.

Your mantra to keep yourself motivated and empower women to join the hospitality force?

To borrow from Nike, “Just do it” – whether it is unexplored territory or a new way of looking at the problem at hand or driving and motivating teams. Don’t hesitate, just go for it. Of course, do it with a clear goal in mind and base your actions on data.

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