Milind Lakkad, who has completed just nine months as chief human resources officer (CHRO) at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), India's largest IT services company, has to pay attention to scores of issues every day. One issue of late has been the worldwide outbreak of coronavirus. It is not an easy task considering that TCS operations are spread across 46 countries and its 4.46 lakh-employee base is made up of people from 146 nationalities. The company has asked its employees to work from home and has created core groups to address their issues.
The grim news notwithstanding, the IT giant's focus has been to make each employee a "Happy TCSer" for which it drives four key behaviours - follow your passion, stay hungry, commit to lifelong learning and thrive together. "Learning is ubiquitous in TCS. Formal and informal learning opportunities are available to everyone. Our state-of-the-art learning ecosystem enables our associates to follow their passion, embrace continuous learning and consistently deliver high performance. Internal digital platforms such as Fresco Play gamify and encourage anytime, anywhere learning," says Lakkad. The company feels this is important as, considering the increase in focus on local hiring, there is an urgent need to build a "One TCS" culture globally. That is why TCS learning programmes are rolled out globally and employees are encouraged to learn new technologies, work with new customers and stay relevant.
"The culture of lifelong learning and innovation has given TCS the ability to cycle through technology and business model changes," says Lakkad. For example, it has reskilled 3.3 lakh employees in digital technologies. "The idea is that you should be able to learn things quickly, through nano courses, learn through nano videos (20 minutes), apply your knowledge, and move on to learning the next thing. We have virtual labs and an online playground for hands-on practise," says Lakkad.
TCS recently started an initiative called Linking Learning with Careers, under which it links learning performance with job performance to help employees decide their career path. "The framework helps us identify top talent across different experience levels and provides them with opportunities for accelerated career and leadership positions," says Lakkad.
TCS provides opportunities at different employee levels and enables differentiated career and compensation paths for those who excel at learning and do well in internal assessments and work performance.
In formative years, learning is more prescriptive and aimed at helping employees develop core skills and become full stack developers. At the mid level, they choose roles and career paths - whether they want to work on cloud architecture, security architecture, data science or emerging roles. At this level, learning is more subscription-based, and aimed at transforming leaders into specialists.
The company also has more experiential programmes based on soft skills for stakeholders at the customer front. "One must stay hungry, demonstrate the desire to learn something new and learn something different.The people who demonstrate this behaviour will continue to grow and drive their career growth by following their passion," says Lakkad.
Then there is the internal Digital Capability Assessment Test, offered to those with up to three years of experience. This gives employees an opportunity to move to higher roles. In many cases, after clearing the test, employees have been able to command double the compensation. As a policy, TCS emphasises customer centricity, giving equal importance to associate empathy. "We believe these are two sides of the same coin. We have implemented the 'Full-Stack' HR concept to build on the emotional connect we have with our people," says Lakkad. Full-stack HR professionals offer the full spectrum of employee solutions - be it onboarding or talent development or grievance redressal. There is one dedicated full-stack HR professional for 500 employees.
"Empathy has to be established. It will build through emotional connect, continuous connect and understanding the person, and not just getting the task done," says Lakkad.
The TCS Connect
The company has conceptualised Workforce 4.0 to rekindle the organisational ethos of pride, hunger and agility. The initiative is aimed at creating a sense of belonging among TCSers, says Lakkad.
Another initiative is Recoginising Contextual Masters, built on an understanding that some employees acquire deep knowledge of the customers business and deliver exponential value. TCS has selected 3,500 contextual masters and shared their stories across internal social network platforms. Another programme, Inspire to Lead, is for first-level supervisors, about 20,000 of whom have attended the programme.
In the TCS National Qualifier Test (NQT), a national-level examination to qualify for campus hiring, those who perform exceptionally well in the online test also get an opportunity to take a shot at a digital skills-based examination, one of the toughest in the industry. Over 40,000 job offers have been made on the basis of NQT results in FY20. Gamified Hiring allows candidates to demonstrate skills. The latest TCS CodeVita, the flagship global coding contest, saw more than 2,00,000 registrations worldwide.
The initiatives are showing results. Attrition in FY19 was 11.3 per cent as against the industry average of 15-20 per cent. TCS is among the largest private sector employers of women - 36.3 per cent employees (over 1,63,000) are women. "Our initiatives for women revolve around four pillars: sensitisation and awareness, lifecycle management, grooming and development and networking and affiliations. We have customised these initiatives so that they appeal to women in different stages of their lives at personal and professional levels," says Lakkad. The policies for women employees include maternity leave, special maternity leave and adoption and childcare leave. "In addition, we also run programmes such as Women Discussion Circles and Workplace Parents Group to help women through mentoring, counselling and parenting workshops," says Lakkad.
The retention rate for women who go on maternity leave is 99 per cent, he adds. TCS also has a women leadership programme, iExcel, which grooms women in middle and senior levels to become leaders. It helps women employees interact with top executives within and outside TCS. The executives also act as role models and mentors. So far, over 600 women have participated in the programme. Under another programme, Network to Win, or nWin, TCS assigns mentors to women employees at junior levels.
TCS has been recognised as the Global Top Employer for the fifth consecutive year by the Netherlands-based Top Employers Institute. It is also the Number One Top Employer in three regions - Europe, MEA and APAC. In country-wise rankings, it was ranked as the best employer in 11 countries - Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, UAE, the UK and the US - and among the top three employers in eight other countries.