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Driving Change

Wipro has reinvented its culture and business, leading to changes in people processes, promotions and hiring
Rukmini Rao | Print Edition: April 4, 2021
Driving Change

When Rishad Premji took over as the Chairman of Wipro in mid-2019, the company's performance was hovering around low single digits. One of the first things Rishad did was to speak to leaders about what was being done wrong and why the company was lagging its peers. What emerged out of those meetings was that the problem was more internal than external, and there was a need to bring together different parts of the company to drive a 'One Wipro' in front of clients.

It was then that the IT services major came up with five new habits - Being Respectful, Being Responsive, Always Communicating, Demonstrating Stewardship and Building Trust - that would be imbibed into the organisational culture. To translate these values into action, the company appointed Sunita Rebecca Cherian as Chief Culture Officer (CCO) in January 2020. "This is the single-biggest thing we have embarked upon in the last one year of our journey," says Saurabh Govil, President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Wipro.

Since the company embarked on this cultural transformation last year, Rishad himself has personally interacted with over 20,000 employees in small groups on how to put these values into action and push growth. "Wipro over the years has transformed many times, but the 'Spirit of Wipro' - our core values - has been constant. It's our true north that connects to the past and guides into the future," says Govil.

Cherian is driving the entire agenda of making sure these habits are inculcated across Wipro, stressing that change begins at the leadership level. "We believe when leaders change, the world will change and people below them will change. We are trying to drive that in a consistent and structured way," adds Govil.

In 2020, in another major development, Thierry Delaporte took over as the Chief Executive Officer. Delaporte brought in a greater market-bound approach, with a focus on promoting high-performance work culture - rewarding outcomes, differentiating between those who are doing well and those who are not. In November, the company rejigged its organisational structure and reshuffled the top deck. "From the talent perspective, it's about a high-performance culture, rewarding outcomes and performance and values equally," says Govil. Encouraging feedbacks from internal surveys is a culmination of the changes in people processes, promotions, hiring and raising the table stakes for high performance, while admitting that the work is accomplished 100 per cent, he adds. "We have to be at it."

Like its peers, Wipro also had over 90 per cent of its employees working remotely throughout the past year. The process still continues, with a number of measures undertaken to ensure that employees don't feel any disconnect. These include regular virtual check-ins by leaders and HR to address employee concerns, frequent smaller and informal connects within teams to foster a sense of belonging and running organisation-wide surveys on a regular basis to gauge employee sentiment across remote work, manager/leader effectiveness and the state of physical and mental wellbeing. With close to 2,000 employees testing Covid positive and the unfortunate demise of 11 more, wellbeing has been a key area of focus for the company, says Govil. "We have rolled out multiple programmes pertaining to physical and emotional wellbeing, including indoor fitness challenges, sessions by counsellors, employee assistance programmes etc. Recently, we also launched an employee wellness app."

With demand in the industry picking up and attrition rising, skilling and upskilling have become the new survival mantra. Providing such avenues virtually along with tie-ups with various learning platforms have been a huge focus area for the company. According to Wipro's latest annual report, 61,000-plus employees were members of TopGear, the social learning and crowdsourcing platform, and 155,000-plus employees were trained in digital skills as of FY20. "We launched online learning modules specifically focused on helping employees manage remote working," says Govil. Wipro did 5,000-plus net additions and 14,000 gross hiring in the second half of FY21. Being 'Digital first' has also opened the company's doors to non-STEM talent being hired for roles such as instructional designers, digital workforces service desk, language interpreters etc. The company has started rolling out wage hikes to around 80 per cent of its workforce starting January 2021, with those based in India getting an average hike of 5-6 per cent, and those overseas 1-2 per cent, along with a 100 per cent variable payout for the past three quarters.

While women constitute 35 per cent of the 190000-plus workforce from over 130 countries, the company also employs close to 580 people with disabilities. It has also overhauled its Employee Rotation Policy, Promotion Policy, Break-from-work Policy, Sabbatical Policy, Adoption Assistance Programme, Company Car Policy and India Paternity Leave Policy based on feedback from employees.

The pandemic has led the company and its people becoming more sensitive. Govil says in these tough times, it is very difficult to take business decisions that impact people, but how we empathise with affected people is important. Does that mean things have completely changed at Wipro? No, he says. "It's a journey... We are at it, and in the long-term, it will change Wipro and impact our business."

@rukminirao

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