Experience certainty: Q&A with Ajoy Mukherjee
From just over 10,000 employees in 1996, TCS has over 140,000 people today
We believe that a happy workforce creates happy customers
Historically, TCS has played a pioneering role in opening up new markets and introducing new business models. Ajoy Mukherjee, VP & Head, Global HR, TCS shares how TCS has spearheaded the journey of India’s reputation as an IT superpower.
Over the last four decades, Tata Consultancy Services has continuously invested in Process improvements that are now recognized as the benchmark of excellence in software development. Through our Global Network Delivery Model, our domain-specific expertise, our global workforce of over 140,000 professionals, and our flexible approach to client relationships, we focus on helping global organizations solve their most challenging business problems.
In 2005 we felt the need to integrate a value with the TCS brand - ‘Certainty to customers’. The new articulation, based on performance and facts, was validated and supported by customers during this phase after which we came up with our new tagline ‘Experience Certainty’. To an existing customer, this is an articulation of what they have already seen about TCS - a result-oriented partner, with great commitment to delivery excellence. To a new customer it is an assurance of delivery excellence to meet his company’s business interests, as well as to meet his own career goals.
Tata Consultancy Services has spearheaded the journey of India’s reputation as an IT superpower. Now a $6 billion company, TCS started operations as a division of the Tata group that provided computer services to other group companies.
Over the next few years, the bright young engineers at TCS under the leadership of F. C. Kohli realized that they were staring at a potential new business opportunity, They hence started offering data-processing services to customers outside the group. The first breakthrough in India came in 1969 when TCS won a contract from Central Bank of India to automate branch reconciliation processes. However, progress was slow due to a regulatory regime that discouraged imports of computers and placed stringent requirements about the use of scarce foreign exchange.
A partnership with Burroughs resulted in TCS winning a large project for the Detroit Police Department in 1974. The work was split between Mumbai and Detroit, and the notion of ‘off-shore’ services, or the ability to provide services from remote locations was born. Without adequate telecommunications infrastructure, programmed tapes were sent on weekly flights to US, while software requirements came through the postal services.
In 1979, Mr S Ramadorai, the current Vice Chairman and Former CEO, moved to the US to expand the US business. The first breakthrough came from the financial services industry when TCS won an engagement from Institutional Group Information Corporation to maintain and migrate retail banking applications for ten banks handling over two million accounts.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, the Indian IT industry led by TCS continued to establish itself in the developed markets. Successful execution of large complex projects like Sega Intersettle, the Swiss Depository, brought global credibility followed by the Y2K projects, where TCS’ factory approach led to emergence of scale.
In 2003, TCS became India’s first billion dollar IT Services company and went public through an IPO in 2004. This set the stage for the next phase of growth for the company as it expanded its portfolio of service offerings. Thereby the addressable market space expanded into new emerging markets and set up a Global Network Delivery Model (GNDMTM) across five continents.
Historically, TCS has played a pioneering role in opening up new markets and geographies, or introducing new business models. Since 2002-03, TCS expanded its Global Network Delivery Model by setting up global development and near-shore delivery centres in Hungary, China, Uruguay, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, UK, and USA.
In conjunction with the company’s growth to $6 billion dollars (doubling revenues every 18-24 months), our employee base has grown significantly. From just over 10,000 employees in 1996, TCS has over 140,000 people today. With scalability came the need for processes to set high and uniform quality standards globally. Excellence had to become a part of the organization’s DNA across every process.
Our journey of talent management has been very strategic to our business goal. People are our single-largest asset. In the last decade, we have focused on every HR process to enhance the TCS experience for employees and drive high satisfaction levels internally. We believe that a happy workforce creates happy customers. Today, excellence is not just an organizational or individual goal, but a part of the TCS DNA.
The last three years have been significant in terms of talent acquisition for TCS. In that period, strong growth in business meant the company added over 95,000 employees of which nearly 50,000 were fresh graduates from college campuses. The challenge was primarily to ensure that the on-boarded trainees were consistently of high quality, while ensuring that we met our talent needs. Strategically, we needed to expand our catchment area for recruitment while ensuring quality of hires.
We saw the opportunity to look beyond tier I cities and institutes and tap a huge talent pool available in tier II cities. We established a robust talent acquisition process through dedicated academic relationship managers that helped us tap India’s engineering talent pool beyond the metros. This helped in creating a sourcing model that became the industry benchmark. Despite the scramble for talent we have witnessed in the last five years, this strategy helped us successfully attract the best talent in the industry on a sustained basis.
Learning & Development
Induction, training and integration are keys to success when it comes to creating certainty in the recruitment basis. Here, we are engaged at the leadership level to ensure continuous improvement and agility. Our campus-to-corporate ‘Initial Learning Program’ (ILP) is an industry benchmark to facilitate a successful transition from a student to an IT professional. ILP training prepares new hires for transition from the campus to a corporate environment of TCS.
Today we have ILP centers in six cities across the country in addition to our training centre at Thiruvanthapuram. In countries like US, China, Hungary where we have been hiring trainees locally, we have started replicating our ILP programme as well.
Multiple channels including online and classroom learning, job rotations and competency certifications offer Team TCS to remain on a high learning curve throughout their career. In addition to technology, there is strong emphasis on soft skill development which is strategic to the individual and organization competency needs of TCS. In a customer-centric business like ours, we are represented by our employees in global deals and ongoing customer engagements. This creates a strong business need for language proficiency and communication skills in customer interfacing roles
Today, soft skills or ‘people skills’ have emerged as a key parameter of individual learning and development. Cross-cultural communication and diversity management are key organizational and individual competencies at TCS that help create a sensitive and inclusive work environment. This allows highly dispersed cross-cultural teams to collaborate and work as a cohesive unit. We also consider soft skill as a key leadership trait where one requires strong team building and people management skills. We have integrated soft skill development into all leadership development programmes with emphasis on managing cross-cultural teams.
Leadership Development/Succession Planning
Over the years, our leadership development framework has evolved from a top-down and a bottom-up approach, to a multi-layered leadership model that is aligned to our overall business goals. The framework clearly articulates competencies and key behavioral attributes that are relevant to groom and develop managers for key leadership positions globally at TCS. This includes holistic learning and development across technologies, domains, communication and life skills to help TCSers assume more strategic roles in the organizations globally, meet customer expectations, understand cultural nuances of a country and effectively handle the challenges of leading a diverse talent pool in the organization, and become mentors and role models for the team members.
For example, Ambassador Corps is a comprehensive learning and development program that prepares TCS employees for global sales roles. There is a strong focus on enhancement of essential inter-personal attributes, team management and sensitization to cultural and social dimensions in client-facing roles. TCSers who complete the programme move to global sales roles.
There are several leadership development programmes on strategic leadership that are modeled on courses from Harvard Business School. These courses are delivered through a combination of classroom and web-based training. In addition faculty from renowned business schools conduct strategic leadership development programmes for the senior leadership team at TCS.
A complete learning ecosystem that constitutes of a unique and innovative combination of classroom training, simulation exercises, employee engagement activities, experiential learning as well as web-based learning ensures that we effectively build the leadership pipeline in TCS.
The organizational structure supports the identification, grooming, nurturing and mentoring of leaders from the early stages in the organization. Well laid out High Potential programme ensures identification, retention and tracking career of the high potential employees. High performing and potential employees are provided opportunities through challenging job content, rotation, and growth. It creates a pool of leadership talent in the organization and fosters an environment that rewards and recognizes high performance and high potential.
An integrated competency management system creates a list of competencies required for each role. The tool can do a gap analysis of individual competencies against required competencies for each role and suggests programmes to bridge the gap. Integration of the competency management system with our training programme ensures training effectiveness.
Over the years, we have closely aligned our performance management process with the overall organizational goal of delivery excellence. We follow Balanced Score Card framework that aligns organizational goals with the goals for business units and the individuals. Our performance-linked compensation structure reiterates our commitment to a performance-driven work culture and delivery excellence. Our quarterly component of our variable payout for Q2 FY10 has been 150% given our exemplary performance in the last quarter.
Performance is given due recognition on an ongoing basis at TCS. There are several internal rewards and recognition initiatives like Best White Paper Awards, Star of the Month, Creative Workspace Awards, Best Project Awards, Best Faculty, among others. We have now digitized our entire reward and recognition mechanism. Every recognition rewards an employee with gem points that can be redeemed for merchandise at our online mart.
Diversity is one of the key drivers of our Global Network Delivery model. We recruit locally in overseas geographies to leverage foreign language skills and domain capabilities. For example, Uruguay helps us address European and North American requirements and cater to companies that need Spanish capabilities support. Currently, we have over 10,000 people of international origin from 75 different nationalities in TCS.
Cultural sensitivity is a core to all diversity initiatives at TCS. TCSers globally interact not only with foreign nationals internally but also interface with our customers globally. Modules on cultural sensitivity are integrated in our grooming initiatives as well as global leadership programmes. We train TCSers in Spanish, French and German under our Foreign Language Initiative. Employees receive regular updates about different countries, nuances, traditions and practices through emails and our knowledge management system.
Employees are one of our key stakeholders. We believe that productivity is closely linked with healthy body and mind. Employee engagement has played a key role in driving satisfaction levels and retaining talent over the years. TCS has one of the lowest attrition rates in the industry today.
All community activities, for example, in TCS are volunteer-driven. From blood donation camps to AIDS awareness activities to helping Tsunami-affected villagers to child and adult literacy, TCSers actively involve themselves in every sphere of community initiatives globally. TCSers worldwide champion CS for TCS and actively involve themselves in various local and global causes in North America, Australia and Europe. Around 15,000 TCS volunteers spent over 50,000 man-hours in 2008-09 in various community initiatives – educating people, providing healthcare support, training differently-abled people and touching the lives of millions of people globally.
Certainty in Uncertain Times
The global meltdown in the last two years has created significant challenges for our customers. Renowned global corporations have struggled and the entire business environment has been in turmoil. Keeping employee morale high in a volatile environment and aligning them with organizational goals has been one of our biggest challenges in recent times.
We realized that transparency and continuous communication was the key to talent management in a volatile environment. While employee communication is an ongoing process, we intensified this further. Our senior leadership team that includes the CEO is closely involved with all communication to address employee concerns. Various forums like the company internal portal, townhalls, HR forums are being used to make communication effective. Our proactive internal communication strategy was led by the CEO to continuously update employees on the external business situation and also create awareness on key measures being adopted to drive internal efficiencies. After we announced our performance results in Q2FY09, we conducted a dipstick survey to capture employee feedback on the company’s performance. This has helped us understand the pulse of our employees in the current environment and fine tune communication to drive effectiveness. Personalized mails are also used to make communication effective, offer employees reassurance and enhance motivation levels.
Industry leaders have the ability stand apart in the manner in which they respond to difficult times. Leaders make the most of the worst, and that is what we are trying to do at TCS. Our ability to drive agility under a lean organization structure, remain focused on our long-term business goals and effectively engage the workforce to drive productivity is helping us manage ourselves better in a volatile environment.
We continue to invest in enhancing people competencies. In FY09, Over 1.6 million learning days have been invested in developing additional competencies; almost 23,000 TCSers gained additional technology certifications and over 1400 high potential individuals have been identified and are being trained for future leadership roles in the company. We have also increased the training period of trainees from three to six months.
While there is room for occasional shocks, we believe the worst is behind us. As TCS gears itself to take advantage of any upswing in the business environment, HR continues to reinvent itself to strategically align with the business and help TCS attain the next level of growth.