Bangalore: Infosys’ strategy for succession planning has been one of the most process-driven among IT firms in India. Its Leadership Institute in Mysore, set up in 2001 by N.R. Narayana Murthy when he realized that a number of young employees were diffident about voicing their ideas, has seen 800 people pass through it so far. Most of the top layer of management at Infosys today has attended the programme.
Each management role in Infosys is linked by a feeder system to the next layer of potential leaders. “At the top is a pool of 300 people consisting of executive council members, senior vice-presidents and vice-presidents. For all vacancies in this level, internal job postings are floated,” explains Mohandas Pai, outgoing head of human resources at Infosys. From a list of respondents, a panel headed by Pai and another member of the board, Srinath Batni, shortlists talent based on a set of traits.
Talent pool: The Infosys campus in Bangalore.
“As far as the board is concerned, the leadership pool comes from heads of business units who have an enterprise view, like the executive council,” says Pai. The firm has classified leaders into three tiers with 50, 150 and 450 people at each level.
The Leadership Institute follows what it calls the nine-pillar model, which offers these future leaders a 360-degree feedback, developmental assignments, culture workshops, and leadership skill training among others.
The candidates are put through classes with leadership experts and tier-leaders, as well as virtual leadership scenarios where they can practise their skills in an artificial environment.
Some experts have observed that Infosys’ leadership grooming process is primarily inward looking, even if highly successful.
Priya Chetty-Rajagopal, partner and vice-president of executive search company Stanton Chase, says: “They have had the group of founders doing the round-robin. At the next level, there are some outstanding people who have been with the company for a long time, who will take over now. This system is an advantage because all of them are insiders who understand the DNA of the company and will keep it going.”
However Chetty-Rajagopal believes that Infosys will see a few lateral moves—leaders coming in from outside who will act as a counterpoint so that the firm does not become too inward-looking. She contrasts Infosys with firm like Cognizant which have seen a lot of talent coming from outside.
Pai, however, dismisses the fact that Infosys has been inward looking.
“This is not supported by statistics,” he argues. “We bring in laterals all the time. Our head of product development today is a lateral hire and we have many country managers in France and Germany who have come in from outside.”
The only challenge, he says, is to find enough people who want to be leaders, because the process begins with volunteering for a role.