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Sonica Aron

Sonica Aron: Making a Difference to Peoples’ Lives and Careers through Marching Sheep

For a successful transformational global leader, her team is her strength. Company is never about monetary profit but lifelong connections she forges with her people. Whatever she does is always people-centric – her colleagues and clients alike. Thus, by putting her people at the centre of all her endeavours, Sonica Aron not only became one of CioWorld India’s Top Transformational Global Leaders but was also recognized in various capacities by other world-renowned organizations, including being listed among

  • Forbes India’s Top 10 Women Entrepreneursin 2020,
  • Forbes India’s Most Valued Leadersin 2021, and
  • Inspirational Leadership Iconsby Fortune India, 2021.

Additionally, she has been honoured as the 

  • Women Entrepreneur of the Yearat the 62nd National Summit on ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat 2022’ by the Government of India and
  • The recipient of the Gender Impact Awardby the American Embassy and
  • Featured among Asia’s Top 100 Power Leaders.

Renowned for its bold, authentic and pioneering approach to enabling progressive DEI practices across organisations, Marching Sheep, led by Sonica, has emerged as the world’s leading transformational company in the human resource and human capital management niche.

Marching Sheep is

A Purpose-Driven Organisation 

Sonica states their purpose- “Making a difference in people’s lives and careers runs through everything we do. We are a passionate team of committed individuals who enjoy doing what we do and feel immense satisfaction when we see results.”

Sonica’s journey from an employee to one of the best employers is fascinating. In her own words, Sonica always considered herself the most risk-averse person. She says, “When I started my career, I never thought I would ever start a firm of my own.”

However, as she navigated through different professional and personal life stages, Sonica realized over some time that what made her happy was making a difference, a real difference. She took a sabbatical in 2012. She recalls, “I was heading HR for Philips Consumer lifestyle business at that time.” After a year, a mother of two, when it was time to get back to work, having been an HR professional for over a decade and having worked across industries like FMCG, FMCD, telecom and healthcare in Strategic HR business partnering roles, Sonica realised the power of having streamlined HR policies and processes, aligned, motivated and capable workforce in driving business results. Having been a professional woman, she had also closely seen the evolving narrative of diversity and inclusion and the gaps in the industry. Armed with these insights and experience, it was natural for her to establish her firm, Marching Sheep, with service lines in these areas.

The Distinctions

Global industries are always evolving. Yet, carving out its niche by positioning itself as the best HR solution provider means Marching Sheep has its set of USPs. Sonica shares the same. Their biggest USP is the fact that the entire team at Marching Sheep has industry experience. “We are not just trainers or consultants, but HR professionals who have recognized their passion for contributing to client organizations in tangible ways and are realizing this passion through our work at Marching Sheep.”

Their second USP is solution orientation. Sonica and her team help clients find solutions to their articulated needs. “We always keep our audience at the centre and work on- what will benefit them,” she adds.

Their third USP is that they do not just consult; they also help in the implementation, and all their assignments are directed towards driving Metrics that matter. “We truly help clients move the needle,” says Sonica. We do not offer canned off-the-shelf programs but work closely with the clients to design solutions, curate contextualised interventions that truly move the needle, and address real business and people needs.”

Marching Sheep’s four main services are:

*Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Strategies and interventions

Sonica says, “We truly believe that inclusive organizations are more productive and enable our client organizations to arrive at their diversity charter and strategy through a diversity diagnostic, executable plans, and partner with the execution, drive mindset change, and culture building.”

OD Consulting

Organizations need their HR strategy, process, and policies to enable employees to deliver on the business strategy and goals. “We work closely with client organizations to streamline the Vision, mission, values, behavioural frameworks, HR strategy, policies, and practices, drive communication and socialization, the internal Leadership, managerial capability to enable the same,” shares Sonica.

Bespoke learning interventions

As the socio-economic fabric evolves, so do the competencies needed to succeed at work. Sonica says they work with clients to enable individual contributors, managers, and leaders to grow by building the right competencies. “We curate each intervention to drive the right behaviours by facilitating insights, reflection, and practice.”

Health and Wellness Portfolio

Wellness today includes emotional, mental, and physical well-being. While policies and insurance can take care of the physical aspect, there still needs to be awareness and life skill-building around dealing with issues like anxiety, stress, and burnout. With programs curated after research and with the help of clinical psychologists, Sonica and her team enable individuals to become emotionally resilient by identifying their stress triggers, responses, and coping mechanisms and, hence, more productive, personally and professionally.

Marching Sheep offers holistic interventions in people strategy, development, diversity and inclusion, starting from diagnostics to enabling solutions, including policies and processes, customized interventions that help organizations attract, engage, retain, develop and grow a diverse workforce and finally, governance models. The team understands the situation’s nuances, societal backdrop, and mindsets individuals and organizations struggle with. It proposes and implements multi-pronged solutions, driving visible, long-term, sustainable change.

In all of these, Sonica’s transcendental leadership style is recognized as a driving force behind Marching Sheep’s tremendous achievements. Sonica states her approach to leadership and team building within the organization:

Respect, Humility and Inclusion

As a leader, Sonica says, “My biggest strength is my team and the connection I share with them. I am transparent with them about my weaknesses, openly seek feedback, and work on them. I am accessible to my team for both professional and personal concerns 24*7, and I know they would do the same for me. This honesty builds trust and support among us.”

Perseverance, emotional intelligence, Resilience, self-awareness, and nurturing team members are critical competencies needed for a leader to succeed in today’s complex and dynamic environment. Success is not just about how a leader operates but getting the best out of their team members and building other leaders.

In today’s BANI world, as an entrepreneur and business owner, Sonica says she needs to ensure that her team is taken care of mentally and emotionally, that they enjoy their work, are treated fairly, are given timely constructive feedback and are enabled to do their job. She must create an environment where everyone can be authentic, no matter how challenging the business situation. “The feeling in the team should be that if we are together, we shall prevail.”

At Marching Sheep, they have a plan to strengthen and motivate their team. “We know that a successful team is what drives us forward,” says Sonica. We follow strategies that keep us motivated and help us work well together.”

Sonica lets her team members take charge of their tasks. This helps them make good decisions and feel responsible. “We talk a lot, and I’m always available to listen. We also learn new things all the time to stay up-to-date.”

It is important to say “thank you” and give helpful advice. This helps them grow and improve. They also work as a team, sharing ideas and developing new ones.

Sonica adds that they set clear goals and ensure everyone knows what to do. They also manage their work-life balance to stay motivated and not get too tired. “Celebrating small and big wins keeps us excited about our work.”

Sonica ardently believes that it’s important to help each other grow. “That’s why we guide and support each other. And we don’t forget to enjoy our success too.”

The Enlightening Equilibrium

The essence of future transformation lies in innovation, disruptions, and enhancing the end-user experience. Marching Sheep has clients across industries and life stages. Sonica says they have worked with global MNCs and Indian conglomerates, large giants and emerging organisations, and funded startups.

We have worked with the FMCG and FMCD sectors, the Power and infrastructure sector, the manufacturing sector, the IT and ITeS sector, the Financial sector, the Media, Health Care, and BPO/KPO. We have delivered interventions for participants across India, the APAC region, Australia, the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.”

According to her, innovation and continuous learning are key to offering meaningful solutions to their diverse clients. “We as a team also keep upgrading ourselves on new technology and concepts to deliver high-impact interventions for our clients.” Every assignment has multiple consultants engaged so that balls don’t get dropped and collective expertise is utilised.

They conduct many on-ground non-commercial engagements and research with diverse communities. Their expertise is based on reality and lived experiences, which connect with their clients authentically.

Integrity is another core value of our organization,” she adds. “We follow some important guiding principles

  • We build long-term relationshipswith clients based on the quality of our delivery. 
  • We deliver what we commitand on time
  • We spend time understanding our clients’ real needs and pain points and offeringsolutions that will solve those issues
  • We build authentic relationships
  • We proudly say that all our clients return to us for more work based on trust and credibility.”

Techno-Momentum

Digitalization and technological advancements are crucial aspects of the modern industrial ecosystem. Integrating these principles into its core functioning and contributing to a technovative future, Marching Sheep is offering its interventions using various technological platforms. “It has enabled us to connect with and deliver for clients globally,” says Sonica.

As a consulting organisation, they must evolve with the times. “We need to evolve and cater to the needs of this evolving workforce.” Leadership imperatives and managerial skills have all evolved. At the same time, they firmly believe that technology is an enabler that makes their work more effective and efficient, not a destination. “Here again, we keep our clients’ capacity in focus while offering them different delivery modalities,” she informs.

Emerging Victorious

Adversities are part of all successful journeys. It had been the same for Marching Sheep. Sonica says all their interventions got cancelled when COVID-19 struck and the lockdown was announced. “We were down but not beaten.” The team demonstrated extreme resilience and presence of mind. Sonica reflects, “The question we asked ourselves is, what is it that industry needs now? We engaged in the following-

  • Pulse surveys.
  • One-to-one Industry leaders’ engagements.
  • Panel discussions.
  • New content curation.
  • Getting trained in virtual facilitation.

She adds, “We also realized that the industry, too, was going through its own pain, and pushing clients for engagements would not work. So we spent all our energies on building awareness about topics relevant to the industry and building relationships.” Over time, as the situation improved, so did the inflow of work for them.

Principles of Progress

So, the values of integrity, perseverance, client orientation, and responsiveness were pervasive. At the same time, the team remained resilient, united, and collaborative.

Businesses are a way for the Indian industry to accelerate its economic potential and capacity. In her advice to other budding entrepreneurs aspiring to venture into the startup space, Sonica says: It’s very important to be passionate about what you do and keep learning and growing. It requires stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself, but the results are extremely exhilarating.

Humility. As a leader, she believes that the biggest strength is the team and “the connection we share with them.” Perseverance, emotional intelligence, Resilience, self-awareness, and nurturing team members are some of the critical competencies needed for a leader to succeed in today’s complex and dynamic environment. Success is not just about how a leader operates but also about getting the best out of their team members and building other leaders.

Here are a few things Sonica follows

Her one success Mantra is that there is no shortcut to success. Do the right things, and success will follow. She works very hard Monday through Friday, but she gives herself a clean break on weekends as far as possible to recharge her batteries.

Integrity in everything is non-negotiable. “In what we say and do, we have to honour our commitments.” Trust has to be earned. “My team is my family, and I will stand by my team however challenging the situation might be.”

Perseverance—it has been a roller coaster ride with its ups and downs. “I have learnt to celebrate the wins and not let the dips demotivate me or my team.”

Envisioning Ahead 

Sonica says their purpose at Marching Sheep is to impact lives and careers through meaningful interventions that truly move the needle and drive respect and equality for all through inclusive workplaces. “We believe in doing meaningful work that touches and impacts the lives of the workforce and, in turn, builds agile, responsive, and great organisations. We will continue to research and evolve our offerings. We wish to enable organisations by building capability within and offering more certification programs. We wish to expand our geographical presence further.”

They also keep upgrading themselves to new technology and concepts to deliver high-impact interventions for their clients. Every assignment has multiple consultants engaged so that balls don’t get dropped and collective expertise is utilised.

A Better World

Further, she adds that they are extremely passionate about building an inclusive world. “So, in addition to our work with our clients, we do a lot of non-commercial work to bring awareness and equity at the societal level.” They work closely with Brave Souls Foundation, an NGO working towards the rehabilitation of acid attack survivors. “We recently worked towards raising funds for a survivor’s surgery.” Additionally, they have associated with Tweet Foundation, another NGO that educates, skills, and grooms transgender persons.

Despite not being into search and recruitment, team Marching Sheep supports the Tweet Foundation by connecting Transgender candidates to appropriate openings with its clients. This will be another non-commercial initiative. “We organize several fireside chats and panel discussions to increase awareness about different disabilities, reasonable accommodation, infrastructure, and mindset challenges that need to be addressed,” concludes Sonica.

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