Aadesh Goyal, the global HR chief of Tata Communications Ltd, brings to life Peter Drucker’s mantra "Culture eats strategy for breakfast" through a compelling case study on company culture, at People Matters TechHRIN.
Presenting a case study on his company's work to put people at the centre of financial success, Aadesh added, ‘In real-life scenarios, there often exist just three possible responses: agreement, disagreement, or an undecided standpoint. Consequently, culture is the centre of what we are doing at Aadhaar Jeevani Vishnu.”
Redefining strategy towards culture
Delving deep into the case study, Aadesh shared, “We trace our culture as ‘DRIVE AHEAD’, this entails D for Daring, Responsive, Inclusive, Venturing, and Ethical. Moreover, we painstakingly clarify the purposes of each element. The term ‘AHEAD’ itself encapsulates the concept of continuous progress. What's exceptional about our approach to culture is that, instead of merely defining it, we've clarified the meaning and impact of it. For us, this translates into fostering collaboration, nurturing innovation, embracing agility, nurturing a growth mindset, and demonstrating responsiveness. These attributes collectively empower our culture. "
"When we talk about ‘Daring’, it signifies the nerve to step beyond familiar boundaries. Similarly, ‘Venturing’ highlights our willingness to embrace risk, journeying into uncharted territories to conduct experiments.”
Capital gain with ‘reimagined strategy’
Shifting focus on the financial success of Tata Communications with their strategic approach towards culture, Aadesh revealed, “Financial success encompasses facets such as substantial growth, an impressive return on capital, robust profits, and a commendable market valuation that equates to a share of returns. Over the recent years, our journey has been fortunate, marked by significant accomplishments across these fronts. Currently, we're in the process of executing what we term the "reimagined strategy," a vision geared toward the future that hinges on a digital platform strategy. We actively collaborate with around 5,000 sizable enterprises across 200 nations, and our strategy is intrinsically aligned with the digital landscape.”
Fostering culture with technology
Amidst the challenges of employee turnover and new talent acquisition, building culture becomes a herculean task. Explaining this, Aadesh said, “Reflecting on the past two years, we've experienced substantial growth, even in the face of notable attrition. Notably, approximately 40% of our employees possess a tenure of less than two years within the organisation. This prompts us to consider: ‘How does one foster culture when time is limited and circumstances are fast-paced?’
This is where technology emerges as our ally. Starting from our interactions with candidates, extending through onboarding and induction, and spanning the initial months, technology proves pivotal. This initial period holds immense significance. To illustrate, let's consider Applause—a platform we've devised. It's anchored in diverse forms of recognition, all tethered to our drive behaviours. The intriguing aspect is that while anyone can bestow recognition, they are required to provide context. This encompasses their reasoning and the specific cultural behaviours they've observed. This method seeks to encourage the habit of acknowledging positive actions. The more this cycle continues, the more these actions proliferate, ultimately fortifying our culture. In essence, this process expedites and reinforces osmosis.”
He further shared, “Applause programme is the first pillar of fostering culture. We've established various categories of recognition, each tied to our driving behaviours. While anyone can present an award, they are mandated to offer a brief explanation of their choice. This entails identifying the cultural behaviours that are manifesting. The fundamental premise is to encourage a culture of acknowledging commendable actions. As this practice becomes more entrenched, it invariably fortifies our organisational culture.”
Enhancing employee experiences: A social commitment
Furthermore, Aadesh shared insights on building, enhancing, and delivering employee experiences and value, by saying, “Our journey in this regard spans a decade and has identified approximately 20 drivers. These encompass factors such as meeting employees' career aspirations, providing meaningful opportunities, maintaining high-calibre management and leadership, fostering an enriching work environment, and holding ethics in high regard. Additionally, we're deeply committed to contributing to social betterment in the communities where we operate. Each of these drivers is meticulously intertwined with a digital strategy. Over the past 4-5 years, through collaborative efforts from our leaders, managers, and our global team of 13,500 individuals, we have successfully enhanced each of these driving factors. In terms of employee feedback, our scores are consistently in the 80s, ranging from early 80s to high 80s. Additionally, when considering employee engagement, our current rate stands at 87%. Our objective is to maintain this level, as I'm uncertain about the potential for further improvement.”
Talent Central for hiring ‘best fit’ from the talent pool
The second pillar of digital strategy supporting Tata Communications culture as shared by Aadesh, “At present, we're stationed within Cloud Central, an integral platform that caters to the diverse needs of all employees, whether they're individual contributors, newcomers, seasoned professionals, managers, or leaders. Consider yourself in the role of a manager for a moment. Imagine you've finally secured approval for a new hire after numerous discussions and persuasive efforts. As soon as you initiate a request for the new position, Talent Central springs into action, presenting you with a lineup of potential candidates. These candidates might emerge from your team, your superior's team, your peers' teams, or other corners of the organisation. External candidates could also be included. All of this occurs in real-time, affording you the opportunity to express your interest in meeting these candidates. The system is cleverly configured to spotlight the top candidates, tailoring the experience for internal versus external candidates. Furthermore, it outlines the top five internal job transitions that align with an employee's profile. It appraises areas of alignment and gaps, and for the latter, suggests learning programs or projects to bridge those lacunae. This seamless and comprehensive digital process empowers individuals to embark on new professional journeys or apply for roles, fostering autonomy without imposing strict constraints.”
Significance of learning in fostering culture
Aadesh introduced the third pillar of fostering culture - the learning platform, Tata Communications Learning Academy (TCLA) was started as a project that was named LearnFlix (on-demand learning platform) which was launched in April 2017 and was inspired by the model of Netflix. He shared, “TCLA has transformed on-demand entertainment into on-demand learning. Initially, our platform was proprietary, but later we transitioned to a commercially available platform. Currently, it accommodates diverse learning interests and needs. The system allows you to search for topics of your choice and commence learning instantly. The range of learning options is extensive, from comprehensive programs that encompass assessment and certification over 6 to 12 months, to shorter sessions such as two-minute videos."
"Within this framework, we've established around a dozen specialised academies. The impact of this initiative has been notable. Prior to our platform's launch in April 2017, our employees averaged 3.5 days of learning per year, with 90% of it being in-person. Over the subsequent three years, particularly by March 2020 as the pandemic took root, this increased to 7.5 days per employee annually, with the same majority being delivered in person. Importantly, this learning is now accessible at any time, including weekends, commutes, and travel."
"In the past year, which concluded in March of this year, we facilitated 9,000 certifications for approximately 13,000 employees. This equates to about 9,000 days of learning per employee annually. The transformation is evident – our organisation has truly embraced a culture of learning, with individuals engaging in continuous development. The key lies in creating a smart, consumer-oriented product that aligns with people's needs. This, in itself, renders further extensive efforts unnecessary. This serves as a prime example of our commitment to fostering a learning-centric environment.”
Project Marketplace - A platform for gig-workers
Sharing the fourth pillar of building culture through technology, Aadesh shared, “Marketplace is a platform that serves as a gig marketplace, where any manager is empowered to propose projects. Concurrently, any employee has the option to volunteer for these assignments. The rationale behind this initiative is quite clear. Often, managers require tasks to be accomplished, yet they may lack the requisite resources or expertise within their immediate sphere. In such instances, there are employees who either possess the required expertise or are enthusiastic about acquiring new skills through participation in these projects."
"Our utilisation of this platform is impressive, with around 200 projects being undertaken annually, engaging approximately one thousand employees each year. An additional feature we've introduced is the option for managers to publicly announce these projects on our internal freelance platform. Essentially, this opens the opportunity for any employee to step up and take on the project. Furthermore, there's the option to release these projects on a paid freelance network, such as Upwork, which boasts over 15 million freelancers. This system facilitates automatic matching, thereby ensuring the completion of the task."
"This approach underlines our desire to foster collaboration not solely with full-time employees, but also with those who can contribute when their skills are needed. This can be likened to the concept of using an Uber, where a car is dedicated to you at the moment you require it. In essence, this endeavour is a step towards optimising flexibility and resource utilisation within our organisation. This platform centers around a seamless consumer-grade experience, guided by AI integration. The resounding success of this endeavour can be attributed to the proactive role assumed by numerous members of our HR team. They've adeptly embraced the role of product managers, envisioning and crafting robust solutions that cater to the diverse needs of employees across various platforms.”