Article: How Unisys India is future-proofing its workforce


How Unisys India is future-proofing its workforce

Sumed traces the evolution of the tech landscape —from the era of mainframes to the rapid pace of AI innovation and how the company is betting on AI to solve customer challenges and cater to employee needs.
How Unisys India is future-proofing its workforce

Spearheading meaningful change is the most rewarding part of the job for Sumed Marwaha. Overseeing a team of 4,500 in India and part of a 16,000-strong global workforce, what keeps the MD at Unisys India “truly fulfilled” as a tech leader with his 28-year journey is witnessing the professional growth of individuals.

Sumed traces the evolution of the tech landscape, in an exclusive interview —from the era of mainframes to the dot-com boom, and now, the rapid pace of AI innovation. “Today’s speed of change is unprecedented,” he asserts. Even as quantum computing makes new ripples, cloud transformation thrives, accelerated by digital priorities after COVID-19. With 5G and exponential IoT advancements adding to the flux, Unisys India maps navigation strategies to stay ahead.

“While consumer AI like chatbots and virtual assistants evoke excitement, we believe enterprises deserve the same,” Sumed explains. Internally, Unisys is actively harnessing AI capabilities like generative writing to enrich customer experiences beyond keywords. Soon, enterprise users could articulate issues through detailed prompts for interactive resolution. Strict security controls remain vital as they explore self-learning systems.

But pioneering change necessitates nurturing talent that can keep up. Hence reskilling existing staff on emerging skills takes priority over external hiring.  However, the pandemic necessitated overnight shifts to virtual hiring. Fresh challenges as offer declines emerged. Unisys India tackled issues by blending data with human connect - increasing referral rewards while having new hires visit physical offices to meet teams before Day 1.  

From the LeadingEdge Series...

Talking about their internal mobility between roles and locations, Sumed asserts, "Internal Job Posting (IJP) system is helping us to retain and nurture talent."

Here are the edited excerpts:

How do you see the global buzz around Gen AI, and what steps are you taking to ride this wave of artificial intelligence?

Generative AI has opened doors to a myriad of possibilities, but the true power lies in how companies translate its potential into customer-centric solutions. Unisys is actively creating use cases to transform our customer challenges. Chatbots, traditionally, relied on specific keywords for responses. Our experiments will enable customers to articulate their issues in complete prompts, allowing for a more interactive solution journey. For example, we could potentially create a data library from which the chatbot could get answers to a prompt by a customer. To make it secure a protective wrapper could be added to the library and the chatbot would only be able to find answers to customer prompts from within that library.   

The excitement surrounding consumer-focused AI, like virtual assistants, is amazing. However, I believe the same level of enthusiasm can be replicated in the enterprise space. Enterprise users are, after all, individuals accustomed to advanced technology in their personal lives.  Our journey with AI and data analytics spans many years, and tools like ChatGPT have turbocharged this progress. : Especially when it comes to presenting outcomes in a simple format. ChatGPT has made AI more accessible to the common man. We're working toward creating use cases using a ChatGPT-like interface for our customers, and training models to produce better outputs.  

Given Unisys' unique position as a midsize company with a substantial workforce, could you share insights into the talent management strategies that have allowed you to navigate the disruptions of the last three and half years?

Our talent management approach at Unisys is shaped by the advantages of being a midsize company with around 4,500 employees in India, and 16,000 overall, offering a culture reminiscent of multinational corporations.  India is the biggest delivery centre for Unsiys with 27% of our employees from this country.

We have programmes like internal mobility, allowing individuals to move between roles and even departments. This encourages professional growth through healthy competition. We utilise various third-party tools for training, whether in classrooms or online, and collaborate with universities for higher education and certification programmes. Our goal is to retain and upskill talent within the organisation, recognising that internal candidates bring valuable institutional knowledge. 

How did Unisys tackle the issue of new joiners accepting offers but then reconsidering alternative opportunities?

New hires accepting offers and then exploring other options posed challenges for us. To reinforce our company culture, we increased incentives for employee referrals, leveraging the familiarity and trust that already exists within these networks. We introduced a thoughtful welcome package for new joiners, including meaningful gifts and connections with colleagues. Our recruiting team and business leaders actively engaged with new hires, giving them insights into ongoing projects and what to expect upon joining. Having them visit the office beforehand helped them connect with teams and the work environment, reducing the challenge of remote hires feeling disconnected.

Unisys is relocating some senior global roles to India. What's prompting this move?

During certain reorganisation phases, we recognised the need for an increased focus on senior roles to better align with our evolving goals. Today, key leadership positions, such as the Global Service Desk leader overseeing global services, are based in India. Roles with a global impact, such as those in operations and unified communication, are also based in India.  

Our ongoing strategy involves a continuous evaluation of skills and opportunities, ensuring that we tap into the wealth of talent available in India. As a result, we currently have a substantial number of global roles based in India.   

You mentioned about internal job posting; can you elaborate on how this approach helps in balancing internal and external talent?

Our AI-driven talent strategy empowers individuals to express interest in internal roles. When a new opening arises, our internal AI tool suggests ready and available candidates. This dual-pronged strategy not only empowers individuals but also provides our teams with data-driven insights on potential candidates.

This strategy is complemented by the Unisys Innovation Programme, a 10-month programme that distinguishes itself from traditional hackathons. It involves students from universities nationwide submitting ideas, with selected ones undergoing mentorship to develop tangible pilots.

I  saw your recent ESG report highlighting your progress. How do you ensure that prioritising ESG aligns with your business priorities?  

We've been early adopters of ESG, dating back to our 1994 sustainability report. In India, over 40% of our commuting transportation now uses electric vehicles. We actively enhance environmental sustainability in our facilities through partnerships with builders and landlords. Recently, our Hyderabad facility achieved zero waste from a water standpoint, and our Bangalore collaboration on rainwater harvesting received recognition from the Chief Minister of Karnataka.

Promoting diversity is integral. In India, our focus is on gender diversity, with the Cultural Diversity Council playing a crucial role. This contributes to a leadership team where approximately 42 to 43% are women.

In 2022, Unisys set a new goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2030, reaching its 2026 target, and reducing GHG emissions by 75% ahead of schedule. Simultaneously, the company initiated mandatory DEI training for all associates, ensuring principles are integrated across all levels.

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