Given the business that we are in, talent is a business critical element. In all the projects we do, strategy and human resources functions are the line functions. The first principle we follow is AER - Attract, Enable and Retain, through which we are able to hire around 1200 people annually and have also recorded the best retention record in the industry. The overall retention of almost 90 percent has been possible because of the numerous growth opportunities Zensar creates for its employees. There is a process in place to identify fast track performers and enable them to grow as managers and leaders.
Further, we also encourage people to stay connected beyond their domain. Our people are extremely important for our business and I spend a lot of time on grooming the critical talent. Therefore, we spend time with them, talk to them and try to take care of all their concerns. This approach has enabled us to create a connected environment, which has also been acknowledged by Harvard Business School. We call it CONNECTEDNESS. I was in Boston last year, at Harvard Business School, where we presented the case on how we engage people beyond the workplace boundaries.
As CEO, apart from the regular roles of managing stakeholders, a lot of my time goes into managing people expectations, not only those who report to me but two levels down as well. We sit with them, engage with them, understand their aspirations and try and make it happen. The organization attempts to provide channels to employees to rise up to their own aspirations and I personally spend a lot of time on this. Almost 40 percent of my time is spent in engaging with people. This engagement happens in two ways. One is the standard level discussion, where almost 400 people out of the entire 7000, are interacted with on a design basis, for example, through once-a-quarter discussions, etc. Beyond that, the Vision Community, which Harvard Business School has also written a case study on, enables us to actively engage with all employees. The Vision Community was initially started as a platform for generating ideas and allows emerging leaders from all levels to brainstorm, ideate and innovate. This community is launched every year, where employees can volunteer to participate in the forum. This is a phenomenal initiative as it has led to many ideas, which have resulted in critical business opportunities.
The business strategy is finally dependent on people; employee engagement scores, direct talent, retention of people, delivery quality, market growth, are all dependent on the quality of people we have. My personal time has probably come down compared to the time when I was a CEO with 400 people under me. While, then I would spend 70 percent of my time personally working with people and making sure they really sharpen their skills, the same has reduced now, as I have personally groomed the next line of leadership. These leaders are groomed and mentored by me. Therefore, while the time I spend personally on people has reduced, if the same is measured in terms of the importance of HR on my scorecard, which caters to both direct and indirect responsibilities of a CEO, it has remained the same.
In the coming year, we are focusing mainly on a couple of initiatives – one is the organizational development initiative, which is important because it would take us beyond the leadership level, where we are planning to cover more than 700 managers across the various country branches. The second is CSR activities where I take personal interest.
As far as the role of the CEO is concerned, I personally feel that an organization should have a very strong HR team. The responsibility of talent on the CEO is very much there, but the CEO should not become the HR head, rather he should provide the right opportunity to the HR team to develop and allow HR to lead from the front.