Article: Creating role models for future leaders - The Infosys way


Creating role models for future leaders - The Infosys way

Leadership Development not just as an initiative but as an integrated program

At Infosys, leadership is about walking the talk, building the next generation of leaders and changing the context


Retaining talent is about aligning employee aspirations with that of the organisation


Leadership Development not just as an initiative but as an integrated program.

With its focus on quality delivery of services and its image as one of India’s most ethical organizations, Infosys Technologies is a model company in Corporate India. By ensuring immaculate succession planning, the company has also demonstrated its ability to anticipate future needs and groom leaders.

Today, with 100,000+ employees and an employee growth rate above 25%, it is interesting to learn the company’s policies and plans to develop leaders for its burgeoning organization.

At Infosys, a structured process for identifying and developing talent was initiated in 1999, when the management realized that the company needed a formal process to identify and groom leaders. The management team looked at best practices in the industry and got ideas and inspiration from companies like GE. The result of this exercise was a plan based on the Infosys brand of values and the creation of the “Leadership Institute”.

Based in Mysore, the Leadership Institute’s team works in collaboration with the HR team but they are independent groups that report to the same person on the board. This distinction helps in maintaining focus on overall employee development, which falls under the purview of HR and in particular to those who have been identified as future leaders under the leadership nurturing program.

The identification of leaders starts at identifying the critical roles in the organization at different levels. “Employees who are playing a critical role and have been top performers for at least 3 years regardless of when they joined the organization are considered for this elite pool,” says Nandita Gurjar, HR Head at Infosys. These employees are evaluated under a defined Leadership Index during the appraisal process about the values and ethics that they have demonstrated. To be selected as part of the Tier leadership, each employee is interviewed by a panel consisting of board members. The panel assesses candidates for leadership capabilities demonstrated and the potential of the employee.

The leadership pool is structured into three different levels. Tier-I leaders are the top 50 people in the organization, including heads of business units, who have in excess of 20 years of experience; Tier II consists of roughly 150 leaders and typically are mentored by Tier-I leaders. Tier 3 represents 300 people with an average 10 years of experience and are mentored by Tier 2.

This structure, by construct, defines the training and development program for individuals from each tier and also the mentoring process to be assigned. Mentors for Tier III leaders are identified from the Tier II group and Tier II employees have mentors from Tier I group and finally Tier I leaders have board members as mentors. Each person in the board has 7 to 8 people to mentor. “The mentor is never a direct supervisor so the feedback given has nothing to do with performance evaluation. It is a genuine intent on helping the person to develop him or herself,” says Nandita. The investment of time in the mentoring program across the board is exceptional, the mentoring sessions are expected to develop the strengths of the individual and highlight the areas for improvement. Once the strengths and weaknesses are identified, the mentor and mentee will decide a set of actions to be accomplished as part of the development plan. There is also a coach from the leadership institute who tracks the action plans and the development of the employee.

Interestingly, at Infosys there is no difference in compensation structure for those who are part of the Tier leadership. Leaders who contribute more get higher rewards “We truly believe leadership at infosys is a privilege and the opportunity to change the context is the reward” says Nandita. Becoming part of the Tier leadership in Infosys is a prestigious opportunity and employees within this group are given opportunities to take on company-wide initiatives and to getting a much broader perspective of the business. “Many companies feel that compensation is a way to retain talent, in my experince retaining talent is about aligning employee aspirations with that of the organization” says Nandita.

The linking between the Tier leadership and other HR processes happens in two ways: Access to career development opportunities and Access to leadership training and coaching. Employees on the Tier leadership have priority access to openings in critical roles. In terms of the leadership training program, each tier has different modules based on their requirements. Tier I and Tier II are also part of the faculty team in the programs, based on that areas of experience and credibility. The training happens in the leadership institute and there is also access to external programs to enhance networking with other people from within and outside the industry.

Infosys measures the success of the leadership programs in terms of achievements in succession planning. With a strong culture of operational excellence and customer orientation, succession planning plays a very important role at all levels. The target here is to fill critical positions internally. “Of course, there is also an element of lateral hires that is required for the business because lateral hires bring different capabilities to the business,” says Nandita. Infosys has a 70 – 30 ratio in filling positions in leadership roles from within and as lateral hires.

“Output-wise, the process of identifying and grooming leaders has worked.” says Nandita, “We have been able to integrate the HR Function and the Leadership Institute.” The leadership program in Infosys has been linked to the rest of HR processes like job postings, career development job enhancement, etc. “Only when the Leadership Program is an integrated system do people believe it works, it is not being part of a club. It is much more than that and it is engrained in the culture.”

Infosys has one of the highest retention rates in the Industry. One of the main reasons for this is the culture of investing in people’s development at every stage of the employees’ career. “We also have a fair and transparent performance management process that creates equal opportunities for all employees. Of course, leadership programs contribute, but this is only one part of the overall commitment to our employees’ development. Investment in people is built into our culture. So if you are performing well, you will be given opportunities to develop yourself and that is what keeps people at Infosys,” says Nandita.

The Leadership Program at Infosys has a strong element of maintaining seamless succession planning. The focus of the founding team has been on creating stability and a professionally driven organization, where transparency, communication and investment in talent play a very definite role. All this is reflected in the company’s ability to grow leaders internally and maintain a high level of employee identity with the organization.


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Topics: Leadership, Culture, #BestPractices

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