Interview with Smita Shetty Kapoor: CEO & Co-founder of KelpHR, PoSH Training for Employees

Smita Shetty Kapoor

An exclusive interview with Smita Shetty Kapoor: CEO & Co-founder of KelpHR, PoSH Training for Employees

In the world of corporate governance and workplace dynamics, few individuals have made as significant an impact as Smita Shetty Kapoor, the CEO and Co-founder of KelpHR, a pioneering organization specializing in PoSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) training for employees.

With a wealth of experience and expertise in the field, Smita has been at the forefront of shaping safer and more inclusive workplaces across industries.

In this exclusive interview, we delve deep into her journey, insights, and vision for fostering respectful and equitable work environments through her innovative PoSH training programs.

She is a post-graduate in HRD from the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies and has 25 plus years of corporate experience in employee relations, training and development, grievance redressal of complex workplace issues; including complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment,
conflict resolution with organizations such as Mphasis – an HP Company, India Life Hewitt
Ltd, Gujarat Ambuja Cements Ltd. among others.

Can you provide some background on KelpHR and its mission in addressing workplace sexual harassment? What inspired you to co-found the company? 

Smita Shetty Kapoor: KelpHR’s transformation into a PoSH company was not part of our initial plan. Originally conceived as an aggregator for HR services connecting clients and service providers, our journey took an unexpected turn when this vision did not materialize as expected.

Interestingly, our inception coincided with the passing of the PoSH Act in the same year. As the legal framework emerged, our founders recognized a unique market opportunity to fill a void and support companies in achieving compliance. This realization marked the beginning of our journey in this domain, and it has been a decade since that pivotal moment.

Over the years, KelpHR has expanded its horizons beyond PoSH compliance. We have diversified our offerings to address critical areas such as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the workplace, as well as providing valuable support for mental health through Employee Assistance Programs.

Our commitment to empowering organizations and employees remains steadfast as we evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of the modern workplace.

Importance of providing sustainable training and development opportunities for employees.

Smita Shetty Kapoor: At KelpHR, we believe that training and development is a core aspect of an employee’s experience at the workplace. Employees of every organization have their daily tasks and deliverables, however, they should not lose out on learning important aspects that will integrate them into the company culture.

The world of work is changing rapidly, with new roles emerging, evolving employee needs and ever-changing business demands. Training solutions have to be comprehensive and serve a vast and diverse pool of employees within this context.

Training and development has to be done consistently, executed alongside other employee duties and must be designed to promote retention and application of the concepts.

We have modules that suit different learning styles (such as theatre and roleplay, game based, discussion based), programs that can be run in real time and asynchronously and can be sustainably run for long term training and development goals of different kinds of organizations.

PoSH compliance can be a complex legal landscape. How has KelpHR simplified these complexities to help organizations ensure a safer work environment?

Smita Shetty Kapoor: At KelpHR, our goal has always been to simplify complex laws and regulations for the layperson. We have qualified lawyers in the ‘centre of excellence’ department of KelpHR who stay abreast of the important developments in the legal landscape.

By working with a host of content creators, artists and communicators we create relevant and relatable material that can be used to convey complex concepts in a simple, effective manner. We are also aware that different organizations have different needs, and we work closely with them to customize the content and ensure that the right message goes out to their employees.

What are the most common challenges organizations face when trying to implement effective PoSH policies and training programs? How does KelpHR address these challenges?

Smita Shetty Kapoor: As an organization, there is an overarching need to communicate consistently and effectively to the employees. But employee buy-in and inclination is an essential piece of the puzzle. If the organization manages to get employees interested in the subject matter, and feel a personal stake in the subject matter, the goals will be easier to achieve.

KelpHR’s focus on real world case studies, using storytelling and other immersive techniques, talking about bystander intervention and so on, help employees understand how to take responsibility and how best to respond in tricky situations.

Employee turnover is also a challenge many organizations face, which means new hires have to be trained and onboarded regularly. We provide long term licenses for our e-learning courses that certifies employees upon completion of the course.

Changing modes of work, such as remote and hybrid structures, flatter hierarchies, new means and manner of communication means that the training content has to dynamically incorporate these aspects. We are always upgrading and updating our material to ensure that we are responding to these changes in the world of work.

What role does technology play in KelpHR’s solutions for PoSH? How does it enhance the effectiveness of PoSH programs?

Smita Shetty Kapoor: KelpHR aims to simplify organisational compliance with the law on Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) along the axes of training, awareness, accessibility and complaint redressal.

Our clients often ask us to develop unique and new training modes for their employees to be engaged during the learning process. Towards this end, we have created e-learning programs, delivered classroom trainings virtually and run gamified programs which run live and asynchronously.

We are also looking to get on the AI bandwagon by developing AI based learning and development modules which create immersive environments and simulate real world situations.

KelpHR works with clients to create unique collaterals to be disseminated amongs their employee base. To this end, we use digital tools to develop posters, emailers, newsletters, interactive games and even virtual events for creating awareness.

To ensure that employees can always get in touch with the members of the PoSH committee and reach out with their concerns, we advise digital accessibility of IC members (online forms, e-mail addresses).

To get a sense of employee engagement with these initiatives we use online forms for pulse checks for surveys. We are also looking into having chatbots which organisations can deploy amongst employees to gauge the employee experience.

When it comes to tools for case management, we are also looking to develop or work with providers who can streamline the complaint handling process in the sexual harassment investigations we conduct.

KelpHR is looking at AI and data analytics to gain deeper insights into workplace dynamics. By analyzing employee feedback, and organizational metrics, we should be able to identify trends, patterns, and potential areas of improvement for workplaces.

With the rise of remote work and being a staunch supporter of this practice, KelpHR recognizes the need for innovative solutions that can support and connect a distributed workforce. We aim to leverage technology to provide virtual collaboration tools, online training to ensure that remote employees feel connected, engaged, and supported.

We’re constantly in the process of equipping our trainers and thought leaders with the latest knowledge and expertise by providing online courses and certifications that upskill and keep them abreast of the needs of new-age work requirements.

Can you elaborate on the importance of ongoing PoSH training and awareness programs for employees and management? How does KelpHR support organizations in this regard?

Smita Shetty Kapoor: Organizations have to signal their seriousness about important issues that affects every workplace, and the workplace dynamics. Creating awareness and inculcating sensitivity in employee and managerial behaviour is key for the workplace of the future.

These training programs also have to be held regularly to encourage retention of core concepts, and we offer various permutations of our services to ensure that these do not exceed reasonable training budgets.

Training is not just about awareness, but also about behavioural change, and we design our programs to ensure that changing workplace behaviours continue to be suitable for diverse workforces.

Use of immersive training techniques, which centres the learner’s experience, and provides a safe space for questions and doubts, are some of the ways we do the above consistently and successfully.

Workplace cultures vary greatly across industries and regions. How does KelpHR’s approach to PoSH account for these differences?

Smita Shetty Kapoor: At KelpHR we give a lot of importance to understanding the client need. We have multiple conversations until we are satisfied with our understanding, we are aligned and we feel we can add value to the situation.

We have detailed questionnaires to take a brief, and then we customize our training material through a consultative process with the client. Dry runs and simulations are also conducted in order to give the client an idea of our different training modes and methodologies.

Not only that, we are constantly updating our own understanding of the workplace in general, the demographic shifts in the workforce, the global nature of work today, we are participating in conversations and initiatives at industry level, and interacting with other pioneers of the field, so that we can advise and serve our clients better at any given time.

What is your success tips for women entrepreneurs?

Smita Shetty Kapoor: It has been a journey filled with valuable lessons. In the early days, I faced numerous challenges, with investors doubting the financial feasibility of my idea and board members hesitating to join the cause. Limited funding and scant support made the road ahead seem daunting.

However, we’ve managed to overcome these and contribute to society. KelpHR is predominantly led by women; we actively hire women returnees, members of the LGBTQ community, and individuals with disabilities.

I can’t stress enough the importance of using your networking skills to build a business. My  friends and well-wishers in my circle helped me grasp the importance of perseverance and financial prudence, especially the need for a financial safety net. My mantra has always been that my network should be aware of my business, facilitating exponential growth in connections and valuable insights.

As we conclude this exclusive interview with Smita Shetty Kapoor, it is evident that her passion and dedication to the cause of creating safer workplaces through PoSH training for employees are not only commendable but also essential in today’s corporate landscape.

Her invaluable insights into the challenges and solutions surrounding workplace harassment prevention shed light on the path to a more equitable and inclusive future.

With leaders like Smita driving change, we can anticipate a brighter, harassment-free tomorrow for employees in organizations worldwide, where every individual feels respected, protected, and empowered to thrive.

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