Sonica Aron is the Founder and Managing Partner of Marching Sheep, an HR advisory firm specializing in Strategic HR advisory, Diversity and inclusion interventions and capability building.
An XLRI postgraduate, Sonica has worked with companies like Pepsico, Vodafone, Roche Diagnostics and ICI paints. She started her career with a sound understanding of business where she went route-riding with Pepsico and was part of the team that launched Pepsi 200 ml at Rs 5. She was the first lady HR Manager stationed at a factory in Upcountry UP and there the seeds to her diversity practice were born.
Sonica is passionate about HR, empowering people, and all things in between. A mother of two, she decided to set up Marching Sheep in 2013 with a vision of delivering interventions that truly move the needle.
Q1. Marching Sheep, is an HR consulting firm which is a thought leader when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and progressive HR policies and practices. What corporate services Marching Sheep is providing to Corporates and how they are benefiting?
Ans- The 4 main services are:
1. Diversity & Inclusion Strategies and interventions
We truly believe that inclusive organisations are more productive and we enable our client organisations to arrive at their diversity charter and strategy, executable plans and also partner with the execution.
2. Human Resource Consulting
Organisations need their HR strategy, process and policies to enable employees to deliver of the business strategy and goals. We work closely with client organisations to streamline the HR strategy, policies and practices, drive communication and socialisation, internal capability to enable the same.
3. Bespoke learning interventions
As the socio-economic fabric is evolving, the competencies need to succeed at work are evolving. We work with clients to enable individual contributors, managers and leaders to succeed by building the right competencies.
4. Health & Wellness Portfolio
Wellness today, includes emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. While policies and insurances can take care of the physical aspect, there still needs to awareness and life skill building around dealing with issues like anxiety, stress, burnout. With programs curated after research and with the help of clinical psychologists, we enable individuals to become emotionally resilient and hence more productive, personally and professionally.
Our biggest USP is the fact that we have industry experience. We are not just trainers, but HR professionals who have recognized their passion for contributing to client organization in tangible ways, and are realizing this passion through our work at Marching Sheep.
Our second USP is solution orientation. We help clients find solutions.
Our third USP is that we do not just consult, we also help in the implementation and all our assignments are KPI linked. We truly help clients move the needle.
Q2. Since your organization is providing end-to-end solutions that help organizations comply with the POSH Act, creation of a robust policy, constitution and training of Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). Can you pls brief about New Policy on POSH Act (as now it is mandatory for even small organizations too)?
Ans- Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the workplace came into existence in December 2013; this legislation was enacted to provide for prevention, protection, prohibition and redressal of sexual harassment of women at the workplace. The act requires all organizations in the country to carry out certain steps which include creating and implementing a sexual harassment policy, creation of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to address complaints, increase awareness amongst employees on what is sexual harassment as per the act and other details, to report annually to the district magistrate the efforts they have made to make the workplace inclusive, welcoming and safe.
The implementation in the last seven years has been along a continuum, while some organizations have embraced the act in both letter and spirit there is still some distance to go for it to be implemented in totality in several organizations. The recent #Metoo movement has created that sense of urgency that has propelled several organizations to take meaningful action in this area. Additionally, the current covid pandemic has added the dimension of virtual working and harassment as a complexity in both the implementation, sensitization and awareness of the act.
Q3. Being a Women entrepreneur, pls share your success story?
Ans- An XLRI post graduate specializing in Human resources, Sonica has worked with companies like Pepsico, Vodafone, Roche Diagnostics and ICI paints. She started her career with a sound understanding of business where She went route-riding with Pepsico and was part of the team that launched Pepsi 200 ml at Rs 5. She was the first lady HR Manager stationed at a factory in Upcountry UP and there the seeds to She diversity practice were born.
A mother of two, She set up Marching Sheep in 2013 with a vision of delivering interventions that truly move the needle. Prior to starting Marching Sheep, Sonica was Head of HR for the consumer lifestyle business at Philips. As a Human Resource and D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) specialist with an experience of nearly 2 decades, both in the industry and consulting, she has designed one of the most evolved and holistic ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ frameworks in India. Marching Sheep works with clients across industries on gender, generational and sexual orientation diversity.
In the past 7 years or so, Marching Sheep has gone from strength to strength under the leadership of Sonica. It boasts of a healthy roster of clients across industries and geographies. Seen as a thought leader, Sonica’s opinions on anxiety and burnout, motherhood penalty, unpaid work, generational diversity, inclusion of the LGBT community have been published by leading publications including Hindu, TOI, HT, Business World, The Statesman, DNA and the Tribune. She is a frequent speaker and panelist at forums like FICCI and Transformance.
Q4. COVID 19 has disrupted every sector. How has Marching Sheep adapted to it?
Marching Sheep has evolved rapidly in the last few months and are delivering all their interventions and consulting virtually, without any dilution of deliverables and their impact.
This required extensive client engagement and research to arrive at areas where clients needed most support during these times and evolving interventions to address those needs.
During this time, the team has worked relentlessly to develop new content and offerings, and have focused on developmental activities.
We have also focused on keeping our clients and other audiences updated with emerging trends, focus areas, areas to watch out for with our articles on various publications.
During Covid pandemic, we have conducted extensive industry outreach, panel discussions with CHROs of leading companies, on relevant topics like-
1. Relevance of diversity and inclusion in the path to business recovery
2. The criticality of emotional wellbeing of employees in ensuring business continuity
3. Planning in advance in pre-covid era
We have conducted pulse surveys to understand what is that clients need to be able to meet the evolving needs of their people and curated content and interventions, accordingly, thereby adding value.
Lastly, we have spoken at various colleges, addressing insecurities of students in these turbulent times.
We firmly believe in healing and growing as a community and will continue to contribute holistically.
Q5. What are the best practices to improve Diversity and Inclusion at workplace?
1. Systemic approach to inclusion and diversity- Build policies and practices that enable diverse talent to get attracted to the organization, be nurtured and grown.
2. Inclusive Leadership behaviors
3. Enable managers to build psychological safety and inclusion in teams- Empathy and sense of belongingness
4. Ongoing sensitization across levels- It cannot be a one-time activity, but ongoing reinforcement
5. D&I needs to embedded in the DNA of the organization