In late August last year, Animesh Kumar* started feeling a little fatigued at work. His doctor advised some routine blood tests to rule out typhoid. He sent the report also to his doctor father, as the hemoglobin count was very low. Many tests later, it turned out that he was suffering from leukemia. "When I revealed this to my boss and colleagues, everyone was shocked but they were also extremely supportive," he says.
Kumar was also taken aback when his super-boss, Zarin Daruwala, President at ICICI Bank, started checking on him regularly after learning about his condition. "Not just that, she took the initiative and presented my case to the organisation, which has stepped up the financial aid well over the specified cap of Rs 4 lakh," he says.
This wasn't all. Daruwala apparently also got a bank director to speak with Kumar as someone in the board member's family had faced a similar situation.
FULL COVERAGE:Best Companies To Work For Survey 2013
"I was constantly contacted with helpful news, references and moral support from all my colleagues," says Kumar, who has recovered from the illness and is now preparing to resume work after almost a year during which the bank continued to pay his salary.
Kumar's is not a one-off incident at ICICI Bank. In fact, the private-sector lender has transformed its staff-related policies in recent years as it feels a caring attitude always generates goodwill among employees and boosts their morale. And that has helped the bank to make it to Business Today's Best Companies to Work For list at the 22nd rank in the 2013 edition of the survey. The bank was ranked 12th in 2012 and 9th the year before.
"We continue to be a meritocracy-led organisation, but there has been some rethinking after Chanda [Kochhar, Managing Director and CEO] took charge [in 2009]," says K. Ramkumar, Executive Director and Head of Human Resources at ICICI Bank. "We have ushered in a raft of changes. Obviously, a lot more needs to be done."
Essentially, this means that the bank has taken cognizance of its tough image and has been working consistently to put in place more caring employee policies - especially as it has brought in a rule to not hire former employees again, in particular those who have gone to competing banks.
For instance, the bank rarely lays off employees instantly and has not sacked anyone even at the peak of the two recent downturns. In fact, it first notifies underperforming employees and gives them two years to get their act together.
Even after two years, the company does not sack the underperforming employees but only tells them that they will not be eligible for any increments, new job roles or bonuses, etc. Also, it never displaces pregnant women and people whose children are taking board exams.
"If a person 45 years of age or above is asked to go, the person and the spouse continue to get medical support till they are 60," says Ramkumar.
That is the reason why even former employees such as B. Shubhendu, who has worked in several multinational as well as Indian banks, still credits his stint at ICICI Bank as one of the most rewarding experience: "If it was not for the low pay slab, I would not have quit. They are caring, but are alert about non-performers," he says.
Any exit is watched with an eagle-eye and people are not allowed to use any harsh language or bad-language.
"Aggression here is not misplaced. Of course, there is focus on performance, as it should be. But coming from outside, I found a very defined code of ethics and behavioural mandate," says Kusal Roy, General Manager, ICICI Bank. Roy was among the few managers who were hired laterally four years ago. "You simply cannot intrude on someone's personal space or mess with someone's dignity in the guise of giving them feedback on performance," he says.
The caring attitude is also visible in some of the measures the bank has adopted in aiding its women employees, especially when it comes to hand-holding required when they're expecting or when their babies require care.
"I had a pre-mature baby in July 2011 and had to take care, given that I did not have stable support then," says Pooja Basu, Manager, ICICI Bank. The bank not only allowed her to take leave as-and-when-needed post her six-month break, it also kept mentoring her when she opted for a one-year sabbatical.
"My seniors constantly called me up and when I rejoined I did not feel like I had lost out on my career," she says. "A friend who had taken a similar break in another organisation could not join work as she lost her confidence."
(*Name changed to protect identity)
Banking on Care: The facilities ICICI Bank offers its employees
1. Maternity Leave - Six months of paid maternity leave is available. This can be extended by taking leave without pay if required.
2. The bank also gives 36 days of paid child-care leave for mothers and single fathers till the child attains the age of two years.
3. Fertility leave - 180 days of leave is available for employees seeking to undergo treatment for fertility.
4. Adoption leave - To support parents who adopt a child, 36 days of paid leave each year is available for women employees and single fathers.
5. The bank offers part-time employment / flexible working-hour option for women employees on need-basis.
6. ICICI Bank offers a sabbatical to employees based on life stage needs of an employee.
7. It accommodates transfer requests on account of marriage, medical reasons or any other personal emergencies.
8. It has launched a pilot roll out of a one-touch number in Delhi and Mumbai to employees to call where a van with a guard and medical aid is dispatched within five minutes of call received.
9. It has started a call centre to counsel any employee who can call and talk about stress or depression.