Business Today

Holding Together

Scaling up of the Secure Borderless Work Space platform helped TCS shift its entire workforce to the WFH mode, without even a single day of delivery failure during the pandemic
twitter-logoNevin John | Print Edition: April 4, 2021
Holding Together
Photograph by Rachit Goswami

Former US President John F. Kennedy once said that the word crisis when written in Mandarin has two characters - one represents danger and the other opportunity. Covid-19 was more than a danger for Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Its resources, assets and business, its 4.5-lakh workforce, were spread across 46 countries. The IT services giant moved quickly to bring the functioning back on track. The company first framed the Secure Borderless Work Space (SBWS) infrastructure to facilitate remote working, where all employees migrated to the digital work structure. Secondly, it announced it would not lay off employees and honour all job offers, including the 40,000 given to new graduates.

According to Chief Human Resources Officer Milind Lakkad, TCS is gearing up for growth, with a focus on employee engagement and morale. "Our sustained investment in organic talent development is now paying rich dividends, helping us support business growth," he adds.

This move towards borderless agile workspaces has been there even before Covid, and that helped the company shift its entire workforce to the work-from-home (WFH) mode without even a single day of delivery failure. SBWS was built immediately after Covid hit India, enabling remote access to employees and protecting them with a cybersecurity framework. The virtual workspace also ensures that work allocation, monitoring and reporting continues unobstructed.

At present, TCS has enabled remote working for 95 per cent of its employees and established Cloud-based governance of over 23,000 projects, enabling high volume of digital collaboration - 35,000 online meetings, 406,000 calls and over 3-million messages. Rajesh Gopinathan, MD and CEO, had earlier told BT, "We never thought of SBWS before Covid. But, like the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. When suddenly the rug got pulled from under our feet, we realised that we were already sitting on what was required. We only had to scale it up." With the success of SBWS, TCS was also among the first to announce the 25x25 work model, which envisages that by 2025, only 25 per cent of the workforce will be required to work out of TCS facilities at any given time, with individual associates required to spend only 25 per cent of their work time in office.

Meanwhile, the HR team has reimagined associate engagement with 'purpose orientation'. 'Engagement with Purpose' is a 360-degree programme across different areas- health and wellbeing, lifelong learning, career building, serving communities and social collaboration. Through this programme, the HR engaged with over 4-lakh associates during the last one year. Focus on physical fitness and emotional wellbeing through yoga, nutrition and home safety have been key drivers to ensure associate wellbeing globally.

For dealing with the pandemic, TCS has established a 24x7 dedicated medical helpline for employees. Besides, it had set up 11 first-line isolation centres for employees and their families within office premises in Chennai, Kochi, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Delhi, Bhubaneswar, Indore and Nagpur. It also provided home healthcare benefits, besides arranging self-quarantine in partnership with hotel chains and hospitals. Considering that 80 per cent of TCS workforce is Gen Y, it launched OneTCS Channel for virtual townhalls with the CEO and senior leaders. It also hosted chess grandmaster Viswanathan Anand and astronaut Ron Garan, among others.

"We have leveraged collaboration platforms across geographies for bringing employees together. In addition, we conducted webinars for learning yoga and live cooking sessions. Virtual connect with families of employees and children has also invited tremendous response," says an executive. It also had sessions designed to help handle stress and maintain work-life harmony. "We are continuing with our journey to reimagine and transform the HR value chain by leveraging technology," says Lakkad.

TCS believes the new work order will be propelled by the establishment of highly-distributed, location-independent work models. There will also be the emergence of 'talent clouds'- a concept that pairs a business' talent needs with people based anywhere in the world. It will pave the way to derive exponential value by maximising opportunities and embracing risks. In the last year, TCS has also built a merit-based transparent talent framework called Elevate for tighter linkage between learning, career and rewards.

"There will also be the rise of multi-skilled experts. For instance, an expert would split his/her time across multiple projects," says the executive quoted above. "Reimagining the talent ecosystem to embrace the future of work and building resilient, purpose-driven organisations will help us thrive in the 'new beginning," he adds.

The company has rolled out new models for mid-level hiring and incremental reskilling, on similar lines as it did for entry-level hiring, training and onboarding. TCS' National Qualifier Test (NQT) has become an industry pioneer for entry-level hiring, with over 3.5-lakh freshers evaluated in the safety of their homes. It also evaluated over 1.3-lakh candidates for lateral positions virtually. "All our recruits are trained and onboarded virtually. They start working on projects virtually nowadays. Over 85 per cent of them join TCS as 'project-ready'," says the executive. The company has built a pool of over 16,000 Contextual Masters - who have knowledge on customers' businesses, their functioning, business landscape, culture and people.

The initiatives are showing results. Attrition has gone down considerably. The company also employs over 1,75,000 women in different roles.


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