Article: Genpact: Leading through uncertain times

#ChangeManagement

Genpact: Leading through uncertain times

As a pioneer in the outsourcing industry, Genpact realized in its heydays itself that it needed to break away from the shackles of GE if it had to create its own set of unique values and cornerstones. In this story, Piyush Mehta, Senior Vice President - HR, Genpact, shares their journey of transformation to an independent and matured organization
 

Genpact follows global best practices to ensure that it keep its employees engaged and retains them by giving them fruitful and rewarding careers

 

Each Genpact facility has the capacity to train five batches of trainees simultaneously

 

Amongst the many stories that form a part of Genpact folklore is an interesting nugget. Growing rapidly, Genpact was convinced that it could train and develop almost anybody. And so, a sign board was put up at Genpact’s 90A office reception that said in big bold letters: ‘Trespassers will be Hired!’

I can’t say if it was the self assured humor of that sign, the promise of GE’s great people legacy or simply the thrill of being part of a movement that would go on to transform the landscape of India’s economy – but something clicked.

Business grew and so did Genpact’s workforce. The first few processes started in early 1997 at Gurgaon’s Corporate Park on the 4th floor. The first international contact center India had ever seen consisted of a space of about 30 feet x 30 feet! Genpact hired its 1st employee into GE Capital International Services (GECIS) and then the 2nd and 3rd… leading to over 37,000 across the world today. During this journey, Genpact went from being a captive of GE to a third-party vendor and then finally to an independent global organization, listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Today, it has embarked on yet another journey to serve its clients better in this recessionary environment by becoming more commercially savvy.

However, Genpact has also faced its fair share of challenges in its journey over the years. Gurgaon did not exist the way it does today, the Business Process Industry was unheard of in India. Phone lines did not work, there were very few traffic jams on the roads that led to Gurgaon, the only office buildings available were old fashioned and certainly not equipped for our needs. But we knew it was a great idea, and with the backing of our parent company, GE, and our energy and commitment, we were sure we would find a way.

We sailed uncharted waters of explosive growth and increased employee strength consistently at the rate of over 500 a month. From a handful of employees sitting out of a borrowed corner in Gurgaon’s Corporate Park, Genpact slowly grew as a family and established its position as the number one business process management company in India.

But as Genpact took flight to come into its own, it held on to the values that it had inherited from GE -- an unyielding commitment to integrity and process excellence. Lean and Six Sigma Quality are a part of our DNA and we strive to exceed customers’ expectations in the quality of products and services provided. Today, Genpact is one of the world’s largest Six Sigma organizations, with more than 250 certified Black Belts.

Over the years Genpact has created its own unique culture with a set of values and cornerstones that bind it together towards a common goal. One of these values is teamwork and great emphasis is placed on it. Teamwork, and not hierarchy, has been the driving force behind every meeting or review mechanism at Genpact. It is only the need of the hour and the requirement of the customer that brings us together and speaks volumes about our leadership style.

The ‘Employer of Choice’ Quest

From a people perspective, we associate great importance to our cornerstone of ‘Employer of Choice’ and work towards attracting and retaining the best candidates. This is especially true in the current economic climate when it is easy for a group to become disengaged – a risk Genpact cannot take as now is when clients need us to go the extra mile and require even more commitment from us.

Genpact follows global best practices to ensure that it keep its employees engaged and retains them by giving them fruitful and rewarding careers. And perhaps its commitment toward employee engagement is the reason why it has a remarkably low attrition rate of 22%, (amongst the lowest in the industry) – an achievement that has been recognized by prestigious organizations like Global Services Media, COPC (Customer Operations Productivity center) and Frost & Sullivan.

Hiring: The strategy begins with bringing in the right people and Genpact does this through a number of ways; employee referrals, storefronts, online applications, campus recruitments and headhunters.

Employee referrals have worked very well for Genpact as people working here understand our need and culture and usually refer the right candidate – it’s also a channel that sees the least attrition. Another channel that has worked rather well is the Storefront concept. Storefronts are Genpact hiring offices in tier II cities like Bhubaneswar, Indore and Cochin. For 2008, storefronts contributed 17% of the total associate (employee) level hires. Other channels that Genpact actively leverages are online applications (6%) and campus recruitments (5%).

Training: Genpact places huge focus on training its employees and it has a valid reason too. When we started off, we were the pioneers of this industry. So everything was new and it was seemingly difficult to find the right kind of talent that was trained to handle the work coming our way. So we took it upon ourselves to train employees on various fronts including process training, voice and accent training, Lean & Sigma training, cultural training, et al. For instance, in a calling process, while our associates had the right information and positive attitude, they might not have grasped some of the cultural/regional nuances of the person they were speaking to. We learnt from our mistakes and became better with time. Since our business requires direct interaction with clients, there were far more “moments of truth” for our employees than in some other industries – making training not just a lever for success but critical to survival!

Genpact has since created a robust training mechanism and has over 5,000 learning modules, world-class training facilities (Uppal in Hyderabad was our response to John F. Welch Leadership Center at Crotonville and is comparable to the best in the world!), some of the best trainers in the business and a pioneering partnership with NIIT to take our training mechanism up a notch.

Each Genpact facility has the capacity to train five batches of trainees simultaneously. Our training classrooms are used for 8-16 hours everyday with an infrastructure to train 1,300 people per day. Our learning modules combine classroom and technology based material and ensures that trainers evaluate content and its application to define the optimum delivery mechanism.

In 2008, Genpact partnered with NIIT to create the NIIT Institute of Process Excellence (NIPE Uniqua), which offers training programs in Business Process Services to create a talent pool for the business and technology services industry. The initiative was a first of its kind and well received by stakeholders.

The idea to partner with NIIT stemmed from the simple fact that the education system in India doesn’t train students in business process management and as we grow, we cannot rely on our internal training mechanism alone. And so NIPE Uniqua came up to cater to the needs of the business & technology services industry by training aspirants in business processes, language skills and business communication. Here, Genpact provides industry-specific knowledge while NIIT leads the content development, training delivery and education process management. Graduates of the institute then get internships or job opportunities at Genpact.

In the first phase, training facilities have been set up in Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai and Pune. This will be followed by Dalian, Changchun, Shanghai and Xian in China, and Manila in the Philippines in the next phase. We aim to have over 250 learning centers over the next 3 years.

Talent Retention

Genpact believes in a holistic approach that meets the employee needs for a “Dream Career” and not just a job. Various innovative employee practices were started to assist supervisors from the pre-hire stage to integrating and developing their teams. These become all the more significant in a turbulent economic environment, where employees generally tend to be amongst the first casualties.

Leadership Development: A key learning that Genpact adapted early on from its GE days was the importance of developing top talent into the future leaders of Genpact. The war for talent is here to stay and we believe that the organizations that are able to identify, develop, and promote their leaders from within will find themselves better positioned than their peers. Each year 80% of promotions are from within.

Our Leadership Curriculum includes several development programs designed to broaden leadership skills and business acumen. These are called the BUILD Programs and are focused towards developing middle managers for Leadership roles through an 18-month structured program.

GOLD, HRLP, FMP and IMLP are Genpact’s flagship leadership programs and help cultivate operational and technical depth in our employees. GOLD prepares high potential managers for leadership or expanded roles over an 18-month structured development program that includes job rotations across businesses, functions and regions, as well as classroom training and senior leadership interactions.

Currently in its fourth year, the program was launched in 2006 to build Genpact’s Leadership gene pool. 145 leaders graduated from the program and have taken on Global Leadership roles in the organization. For our AVP+ population, we’ve partnered with Duke University – the world’s premier university for executive education - for a senior leadership program focused on strategy, customer focus, leadership, talent management, execution, finance and commercial skills. These programs go to show that leadership development is a priority for us, one that takes on even greater meaning as clients demand increased commitment in these turbulent times. Each of these programs is a critical part of our investment in our people to bring out their best. They are the foundation for building the leadership gene pool and we take them very seriously.

Rewards and Recognition

Recognizing high performers from average performers and rewarding them is a strategy that has worked very well for Genpact. It provides recognition and motivation to high performers to continue with their winning ways, while also raising the bar higher for mediocre performers to perform better. The reward may not necessarily be financial but clearly differentiates high performers to keep them motivated and committed. We have an online rewarding system called ‘Cheers’ that enables managers to instantly reward deserving employees with Cheer Awards (Bronze / Silver / Gold / Diamond / Platinum). The Diamond and Platinum Awards are extremely prestigious and are conducted in a grand manner with a ceremony felicitating the employee in front of their families and the leadership team. The Platinum Award is Genpact’s highest honor and goes to the top 0.1% performers of the company. Every year, these individuals are sent on a week long vacation to an exotic location with their partners which culminates in a ceremony fit for the winners. It generates tremendous aspiration and excitement in the company and motivates employees to perform better each time.

Performance management is a critical area for Genpact and we spend a lot of effort in planning each employee’s career and aligning their goals with larger organizational goals. When every goal an employee is appraised on is linked to a bigger organizational goal, accountability and ownership gets driven on the job every single day.

Communication and Engagement

The third piece that’s important in terms of retention of top talent is listening, communicating and connecting with the employees regularly. Open, transparent and frequent communication with employees on both good and bad news fosters trust and goes a long way in building employee loyalty.

In uncertain times, emotions run high and employees look up to leadership for direction and most certainly appreciate direct communication rather than hearing it from the grapevine that may instead spin off multiple interpretations and impact morale and productivity. Genpact uses multiple channels like town halls, web chats, the intranet, one-on-one meetings, et al, to regularly connect and communicate with employees. Our intranet draws inspiration from Web 2.0 technology and enables employees to participate in conversations and freely comment on any management decision or business strategy.

Empowering employees to voice their ideas, concerns and feedback is a key piece to keeping them happy. In this recessionary evironment, when companies are reeling under the impact of the economic slowdown, Genpact decided to reach out to its young workforce for ideas on how to drive cost productivity and increase our efficiencies. It launched iThink – a digital platform that makes receiving and implementing ideas a breeze. So far we have received close to a thousand ideas, many of which have been implemented and several are in the pipeline. Another key channel of taking feedback is the Employee Satisfaction Survey – the results of which are driven with rigor and passion throughout the company.

Measuring and preventing attrition

In its early days, Genpact experienced attrition amongst associates who were leaving to pursue higher education. So we put our heads together and decided why not offer them the chance to study while continuing to work at Genpact. It meant practically launching and managing our own internal university and Genpact did it successfully via its Education@Work initiative. Partnering with premier B schools like IIMs, NMIMS, XLRI, IMT and other prominent educational bodies, it offer employees courses to develop their career skills while working with the firm.

There is a clear demarcation between generic courses and domain expertise courses. Classes are held within the office premises and are organized around employee work schedules. The program offers subsidized course fees which are reimbursed on successful completion. Close to 10,000 employees at Genpact were trained under the Education@Work Program in 2008, where we blended our operational excellence with our people centricity for the Early Warning System using Six Sigma to proactively assess and mitigate attrition risks.

Genpact also introduced the concept of serving hot meals to employees on a 24x7 basis. Having young people to work at odd hours may effect their health and well-being and it was therefore important to provide them with hot and nutritious meals at the right time. The concept of picking and dropping our associates from their homes was also initiated by us and then replicated across business circles. From a security standpoint, the company ensured that its cab drivers were trained well for the job and also provided security guards for the safety of its women employees on night shifts.

Special focus on Gender Diversity

Research reveals that more women at the leadership level translates to higher return on equity, higher operating margins and higher returns to shareholder value – bottom line, increased diversity means increased growth for companies. Genpact has come a long way in realizing the importance of a diverse workforce from a gender standpoint. Our customers are demanding that we include more women at the leadership level.

We have set a target for ourselves to bring gender diversity at the top level to 25% and have undertaken a number of measures to achieve this, broadly in the areas of hiring, developing and retaining our women employees. In terms of hiring, our target is to ensure that 50% of all AVP+ hires are to be women. Under the development and retention arena, Genpact has a suite of initiatives – a global affinity group for women—Genpact Women’s International Network (GenWIN), whose mission is to foster the professional development of our women workforce, a formal mentoring program (WeMentor) that pairs high-potential middle-management women with experienced leaders in the company to assist and guide them on various professional fronts as well as several flexi-practices such as Work From Home, Flexi Timing, Extended Maternity Leave, Sabbatical Option, Health Camps, et al, to support the well being of our employees and help them achieve a healthy work life balance.

Conclusion

As an organization, we have always believed in turning challenges on their head and creating opportunities out of them. As the business environment gets tougher and talent becomes readily available, we think it’s the right time to get the right people in and this is precisely what we are doing across the world. Genpact is also gearing up to meet the growing expectations of our clients because leading through uncertain times requires new skills. And so we have taken a multi-pronged approach to align our leadership attributes with those of our clients. It’s important to grow beyond the basic “hygiene factors” and become far more commercial savvy and market oneself. However, to grow with the challenging world, it is imperative that we take on risks as well as quick bold decisions.

As we look ahead, the future will present an altered landscape. As the business reality around us changes, HR will have to redefine its role to align itself with the demographic shifts, social, environmental and technological trends that will fuel growth and create new risks. Talent is the oil of our future. We need to pinpoint the hotspots, identify the reserves and know how fast the pipelines can get up and running.

 

 
 

 

 

Topics: #ChangeManagement, C-Suite, Leadership

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