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Star Interview
Star Interview
Workforce

Naleena Gururani,
Chief People Officer, Hyperoptic


For Naleena Gururani, Chief People Officer at Hyperoptic, company purpose "unites the HR function in many ways". She shares with myGrapevine magazine how employee experience...

Words by Kieran Howells

Purple Circle

Naleena Gururani’s impact on Hyperoptic in her three years at the helm of its HR team has been significant. She’s led the company through the challenges of the pandemic, through transformation and through growth, and despite these challenges, her commitment to providing a positive employee experience, with an emphasis on culture and purpose, has remained strong.

In fact, so committed is Gururani to ensuring that workers feel a sense of purpose and connection, that the company was this year named as a Great Place to Work. To find out how she helps to provide purpose at Hyperoptic, how the pandemic changed the role of HR in delivering purpose to workers, and what role she thinks environmental and social governance has in delivering purpose, read on below...

What does purpose mean to HR? Why is it important?

I think purpose really unites the HR function in many ways. I don’t think the data side of the function and the more people-focused side of the business are drastically different; they’re two sides of the same coin. They unite under the concept of purpose. What are we doing right now that drives us, and where do we want to be? As a collective, how are we engaging our people to get there? These are the big questions that I think HR must answer to be successful. But fundamentally, that cannot be done without providing an extremely amazing employee experience for those who are helping build the business – that should really be every single employee.
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CV of Naleena Gururani

Experience

Hyperoptic
Chief People Officer
Feb 2019 - Present
Lebara
Global HR Director
Jan 2016 - Dec 2019
Reach 4 Academy Trust
Trustee & HR Committee Chair
Oct 2016 – Jan 2018
Lebara Group B.V.
Head – Digital HR & Talent Acquisition
Sep 2014 – Jan 2016
Lebara Ltd
Head – International HR & Recruitment
May 2012 – Sep 2014
Education

Delhi University
Economics Honours
Jesus & Mary College, Delhi
Naleena Gururani
Has the pandemic changed the role of HR in delivering purpose to workers?

It indeed has, but I think mainly to the fundamental concept of delivering it for HR. We’ve always talked about the concept of bringing your whole self to work. That’s something that for decades HR has promoted. However, it’s really brought that concept to life. Covid-19 has given us many challenges, but it’s also given us the opportunity to ensure that employees are united under a common purpose. Workers want a sense of purpose in their work more than at any other point in history; they understand their contribution in a totally new way now. That’s never happened, at least in my lifetime.
Do you think what employees want from their businesses, to emphasise that sense of purpose, has changed?

Absolutely. A thread that really sews everything up here is that values have become extremely important. Environmental and social governance, the idea that your company is making a positive difference in terms of sustainable impact, taking moral stances. These things are extremely important. Values define what purpose you have as a company, and impact the behaviours inside of a company on a day-to-day basis. It is absolutely important that workers feel that they’re contributing to a positive cause – that they are supporting a worthy corporate mission.
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"I started out my career as an economist, and it’s really a very happy accident that I ended up in HR"

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Can you give us an example of providing purpose within Hyperoptic?

Yes absolutely. We’re a comparative newbie – ten plus years in the business. What you could say is that, objectively, we put fibre in the ground and connect customers to quicker broadband. But is that our mission? Why do our people get up in the morning and go to work happily? We want to connect Britain. We want to ensure that the UK has the best broadband humanly possible, at the best prices possible. That’s not about laying cables in the ground – that’s connecting communities. That’s bringing families together. That’s businesses being able to operate faster and more efficiently.

In the pandemic, we had vulnerable customers stuck in remote parts of the country. In lockdowns, they had very little connection with the outside world. So, our engineers were going out in very extreme circumstances, with Covid-19 at large, to help those customers. They believed that, even putting themselves in danger, was worth it to help people who needed it. We couldn’t ask people to do that; it was their sense of purpose, their moral responsibility, that got them out on the front lines there.

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Getting to know Naleena

How long have you been in your current role?
Around three years and three months.
What does looking ahead into 2022 mean for you?
For me, this year is about taking a breath and being grateful and mindful of what we've gone through and not forgetting its lessons. For me that's on a professional, and a very much personal level.
Are there any moments from your career that you look back on as some of your proudest?
There are many! One of the things I'm proudest about is that we have been certified this year as a Great Place to Work. That's a phenomenal achievement and I'm so proud that our people came together to accomplish this. I'm also very proud of the fact that at Hyperoptic, we're the internet service provider with the best Glassdoor rating. Given the disruption of the past few years, I'm so happy that our people feel confident that we care about them, and that we're here to support them.
What attracted you to HR?
I started out my career as an economist, and it's really a very happy accident that I ended up in HR. I moved to Singapore to take a recruitment opportunity that was offered to me, and that path eventually naturally led to HR roles, culminating in where I am now.
What story do you think your career journey tells?
I think it says that I have a positive outlook on life, that I'm no stranger to a good challenge, and that I'm always open to an adventure. I've lived in some amazing places, and achieved some big goals in my career. It's been an amazing journey.
Hyperoptic Office
Hyperoptic Office
Blue Circle
How does that sense of purpose translate into the way that HR communicates with workers?

Great question. That’s what creates a potential gap. Purpose is not created by a group of leaders sitting around a table in a conference room. There are two aspects here. The first is to ensure that your engagement channel and your communication channel are running at the same time. You have to get the feedback on what’s happening in the business directly from the employees who are living it. They are the ones telling us why they come to work every day. So, you take that feedback, and you put a narrative around it, which comes directly from the business. You define what your vision, purpose, values are. That becomes your culture. These communication and engagement channels need to be present at each and every level of the business. You’re threading in feedback, based on the narrative you’ve created, back to the people who told you what it should be.

Secondly, you need to measure it. We ask our employees little and often how they’re feeling about their sense of purpose, about their happiness and contentment. That data is looked at regularly by the leadership team to ensure that what you define as your purpose is being lived. That people feel it every day and care about their role.

"One of the things I’m proudest about is that we have been certified this year as a Great Place to Work"

 
What role do you think environmental and social governance has in delivering purpose?

I have a very strong view on this. We're seeing more generations enter the workforce – creating very much a multi-generational company. For younger generations, Generation Z and Millennials, being able to feel morally invested in their company means understanding acutely its environmental footprint. Many simply will not work for a company they cannot morally invest their time and effort in. That forms the crux of everything we do with sustainability.

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