Priya Wadhwa on How to Successfully Manage Cultural Change

Priya Wadhwa on how to successfully manage cultural change

This article is a lightly-edited summary of the key takeaways from our speakers’ appearance on our podcast, “The Shape of Work.” If you haven’t listened to our show yet, be sure to check it out here. These speakers have an incredible stable of startup experiences to draw from, the kind of stories that are unbelievably helpful for HR/people managers to hear.

Priya Wadhwa is the head of People and Culture, Zipgrid, who handles a team of 200.

From working with MNCs to landing at ZipGrid, Priya shares her experience and perspective of cultural shifts across industries and organizations.

She interacts with Junius D’silva, Product Specialist at Springworks, about how an organization’s culture depends on a diverse set of factors and why cultural fitment is as important as skills fitment while hiring.


Name: Priya Wadhwa

What she does: Head of People & Culture, Zipgrid, at a community ecosystem platform that provides technology-led services to societies and other forms of housing and commercial communities. She’s also worked with some great companies like  Creativeland Asia, Madison, and Edelman. She has been in charge of many facets of HR during her 16 years of career experience such as talent acquisition, training, performance management, compensation, and benefits.

Find her on the web: LinkedIn

Get smart: “If you’re wanting to switch industries, be sure that you want to do it because you will have to understand it thoroughly. Otherwise, it’s no use of just putting in HR processes to something that you don’t like, or you don’t want to get into.”


“Set your interview process in a manner where you are transparent with your candidates about your culture and tell them that there may be certain variables or processes that you may feel are not set. So I think that really helps us in terms of screening the right set of people” 

Ask grilling questions to your candidates

There are two ways to look at your recruitment process:

One is the whole recruiter hat that you wear and go for sourcing, screening, and scheduling interviews with the candidates. When you’re at this initial stage, you aren’t sure of the candidates who will make it to the final round. This is why it is necessary to go to square one even at the ‘salary discussion stage’.

At the initial stage, as a recruiter, ask grilling questions to the candidate. For example: why have they applied to your organization, what interests them about your organization.

Asking these questions helps an organization understand whether the candidate is really interested in the opportunity even though it’s a startup. When it becomes evident that the candidate is more interested in your offer than the same with an MNC, the candidate’s values align with your organization’s values.  This is how we should look at candidate profiles from a screening perspective.

Evaluate the cultural fitment

Then comes the fitment perspective, where recruiters should keep the technical assessment at the last step of their screening process. It is obvious that the technical assessment would have already been done by the technical team. As HR professionals, we should spend a lot of time assessing the candidate’s cultural fitment. 

It is possible that you may have hired the best ‘technical’ people if they leave the organization after a week approximately because they aren’t comfortable with the start-up culture.

You will find a lot of people who technically fit in a lot of roles, but they are clearly not a fit for the organization, and that only your HR person can decide.

Keep your remote team together

Managing everything as an HR Head is tough, especially during the remote work environment. 

Priya says maintaining regular communication through video calls, training sessions, email, and even town halls is important. When the whole team is working, a voice or video conferencing call can go a long way to encourage group collaboration.

It’s also important to plan out virtual get-togethers for non-work-related chats, Priya says. At work, there’s always something stressful to discuss, and you don’t want every conversation to make you feel tensed and dreaded. Make time for work casual video calls to keep employees engaged and excited to be part of the team.


Culture changes with the industry

Working for MNCs such as Creativeland Asia, Madison, and Edelman, Priya decided to shift her journey to working for a startup. 

When Priya joined Zipgrid in 2016, there were only 35 people in the team and she knew it was difficult to attract talent at that point in time. However, her role of making a 35 person team to 100 plus felt like an exciting challenge to her.

“That’s exactly the challenge we put forward to any person that we want to hire”, she says.

Priya has been managing the entire gamut of HR. She wanted to explore a corporate housing industry like Zipgrid, and not repeat her journey in the media or advertising company.

A lot of her knowledge and understanding of industries came through her own research. Before she got interviewed at Zipgrid, she never interfered in her own society matters. Now she is a member of her society’s committee and has an internal committee. This change is something that she had to bring in herself because she wanted to get into this kind of industry professionally.

Every industry needs to approach HR differently because every sector or industry is different from each other. Somebody who’s really good in the media industry may not always perform HR the same way for the other industry. It is necessary to understand the industry and business thoroughly.

Don’t forget your gig workers..

Engaging gig workers demand a deep dive into the behavioral psychology of these one-of-a-kind people because one very significant thing is their availability. 

The value system that gig workers live by differs significantly from the value system of regular employees. To develop and maintain a happy, productive gig employee-base, HR must understand the psychology that inspires gig-workers.

HR must invest in resources to integrate freelance workers into the team, whether it means scheduling periodic team connections (even virtual), or using collaboration apps to enhance professional communication. 

Priya shares that they do a separate event for their gig workers where they engage them in fun activities and reward them with small cash benefits, but it’s advertised well across the organization to balance the engagement across the organization.

Priya Bhatt

I cover Employee stories at Springworks.

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