Article: Mindtree to focus on diverse workforce & reskilling people: Chairman


Mindtree to focus on diverse workforce & reskilling people: Chairman

What are the effects of automation? How should companies respond to the negative projections of automation? What is the role of reskilling and diversity of workforce? Krishnakumar Natarajan, Executive Chairman, Mindtree shares in an exclusive conversation with People Matters
Mindtree to focus on diverse workforce & reskilling people: Chairman

The new buzz is that Data is the new oil, but while addressing the audience at the 3rd Talent Analytical Conference, Krishnakumar Natarajan, Executive Chairman of Mindtree, set the new phrase, “Data is the new olive oil”. By olive oil, he means that Data gives positive results if used with right insights. 

Natarajan is fascinated by the notion of corporate culture and feels it can’t be put in power point presentation. “It is something you need to experience in an organization and in my organization, I tell people that corporate culture is something which really demonstrates you what the organization is all about.” He stressed that today the ability of Data to generate actionable insights has dramatically increased, which is different from the traditional model, when traditionally, Data only generated information. 

On the sidelines of the Talent Analytics Conference 2018, Bangalore, he spoke exclusively to People Matters about the idea behind Mindtree, the journey so far, how his past HR skills helped him build his organization and key focus areas for Mindtree in the next financial year. 

Mindtree will complete two decades in 2019 and Natarajan believes that the approach towards the clients with transparency have built trust and respect for his organization over the years. 

“Automation can never replace humans and intuition. AI & Chatbots will complement human to be more productive and always operate under human controls.”

Diversity of job roles critical for evolution

If someone tries something new in the company and fails, no one points out the mistake but tries to give a helping hand. “The transparency, honesty and empathy with which you deal with people demonstrate key building blocks in terms of how you build a mutual respect and trust for each other,” said the founder. 

During his Wipro days, Natarajan wore many hats like Group HR, Chief Marketing Officer and others. Diverse responsibilities have helped him to understand the perspective of other people’s opinion, particularly in the HR role. During his stint with Wipro, the company was becoming more global and bringing diversity was a key element. He ran a program to increase the number of women employees in the manger level function across the company because the idea was to become more preferred employer for women. 

He shared that in his previous organization, rotating people in different functions to make the employees understand the organization in a larger context was a normal practice. This has certainly helped him as a CEO to understand the role of people’s functions and how it can impact the organization. 

He founded Mindtree in 1999, after working with Wipro for many years. Natarajan shared that there was no push factor from Wipro which led the birth of Mindtree. But rather, there was a strong motivation and aspiration to form a more aspirational company than Wipro. He gave 17% of Mindtree equity to his employees in 1999, which currently values around 3000 crores. They came up with the word Mindtree because the mind is always imaginative and tree stands for stability. 

Future of jobs, automation and layoffs 

There is no shying away from the fact that automation is causing job loss in various sectors, but Natarajan feels that there is more noise about it than reality. The situation is not as bad as the media projects. He feels that unfettered growth in the industry is the fundamental element behind this. 

“Layoffs happen where people get static and don’t change. If the people will change themselves according to the demand, they will grow and they will not get dropped.”

Natarajan asserted that layoffs percentage may vary from one organization to another. The media project it at 50-60 percent, but his gut feeling is that it’s around 15 percent, because these people get frozen in time.

Undoubtedly, automation is a reality and becoming mainstream, but it’ll impact things which are repetitive in nature. There are high chances of manual jobs getting replaced by automation, but on the other hand, there are new jobs being created. The smart people will graduate towards new jobs such as that of Data Scientists. It was not there earlier, but now Data Scientists are the most sought-after professionals, said the Mindtree’s Chairman. Batting for the human touch, he said, “Automation can never replace humans and intuition. AI & Chatbots will complement human to be more productive and always operate under human controls.”

Mindtree is currently present in 17 countries with 17000 employees around the globe and the founder finds it tough to make a cohesive culture across all the offices. The one key thing he believes is that leaders need to be real ambassadors of corporate culture. This is why Mindtree spends a lot of time choosing leaders in each of their geographies.

When asked about how many jobs he is going to create in the next financial year, the Chairman replied, “The rate of addition of people will be far lower than the rate of growth of revenue.” He feels that the productivity of people is getting enhanced because of automation learning.

Building diverse workforce is one of the key focus areas for Mindtree in the next financial year because the market is essentially demanding local presence. Unless there is diverse workforce, one cannot leverage on that capability. “The most important key focus area is to reskill people because in the new age an organization can never survive with existing people. There is a big part of reskilling which is important,” concluded Krishnakumar Natarajan.  

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Topics: Diversity, Skilling, #TAC2018

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