TCS can’t copy others’ HR model9 min read . Updated: 22 Oct 2013, 11:33 PM IST
TCS's Ajoy Mukherjee speaks about the HR challenges facing the company
TCS's Ajoy Mukherjee speaks about the HR challenges facing the company
Mumbai: Ajoy Mukherjee, executive vice-president and global head of human resources (HR) at Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS), said his company is likely to employ more than 300,000 people by the year ending March by hiring an additional 50,000 employees, more than it had intended to because of better-than-expected quarterly results, new orders and a good deal pipeline. The HR challenge at the software market leader is huge as it is present in multiple locations and has people from around 180 nationalities working for it, he said. The firm, which also plans to hire 25,000 trainees from campuses, has a current employee utilization of 83.4%. The challenge is becoming even more critical as TCS beat analysts’ estimates with a 35% rise in fiscal second quarter profit, aided by the rupee’s sharp depreciation against the dollar and robust volume growth. In an interview, Mukherjee discussed the key challenges and learning of managing so many people. Edited excerpts:
What are the key challenges in managing a firm that has nearly 300,000 employees and has been growing consistently?
For me, if I look at the challenges from a TCS perspective, one is scale. Scale is not only the sheer size, but also the diversity that we have in terms of multiple geographies and number of nationalities. We have around 180 nationalities as a part of TCS at this time. So how do you integrate that workforce into TCS, governed by a single uniform policy, is a challenge.
The second challenge is with respect to building competencies. TCS is in a business of technology where technology becomes obsolete every three years. So you have to continuously train and retrain the people that we have. At the same time, we have engaged everyone in a legacy platform as well as high-end technologies. How do you motivate the workforce in all these gamuts of technology? Because if you tell someone that you will continue to work on the same platform, there will hardly be any motivation. So this continuous development of the workforce competencies is challenge number two.
The third one is regulatory requirements. Different countries have different policies at different points of time. How do you keep a track of these changes and also make the company compliant of all these changes? If you are not managing this, the risks are too high at this point in time. These are the main challenges.
How do you deal with these challenges?
It is a question of developing your processes, which have to be very robust and agile. We have been perfecting these processes every year over a period of time. For organizations of this nature, this complexity and this size cannot be managed unless you have very strong IT (information technology) systems of your own. So we do have a very complex and strong internal HR management system. A centralized system that relates to appraisals, compensation, payroll and the competency profile of each individual. This helps the management to know how you deploy the people, where exactly they go if they have to travel overseas, how will they get support for visas and to keep track of what kind of visas they need. This is a very complex information system as the policies are universal, whether the individual is in India or somewhere else. The basic policies remain the same, but then these policies have to adapt to country-specific requirements, which is the regulatory requirement and something related to the local culture.
Can you give an example?
Training in India is done in a certain way. Training in some other country will have to be done in a totally different way. In India, I do a lot of soft skills training. In the US, I don’t have to do so much of that, but the fact that we have to do training remains the same. The training processes have to be the same and it can be done when you have a very strong application and IT system. Internally, within the HR workforce itself, people have to be trained so that the HR at least is able to give one uniform view across the globe.
Does the multiplicity of skills required create a management challenge at TCS?
In an organization like TCS, where we have six major service lines including IT, BPO (business process outsouring), infrastructure business, consulting, non-linear. These different service lines demand a different set of skills. So when we talk of diversity, we usually talk of gender, nationality, age, etc. But the other major diversity is the educational background and qualifications. And in an IT organization how do you merge all that into one single workforce to give, what I call as One TCS culture. What it means is that it is one single team, no matter what kind of vertical you are working in. So how the organization is today, we have been able to give agility to the workforce.
You have been very consistent in your performance. Do you think there is huge pressure on the employees to maintain this level, especially when you said that entry-level salary has not increased for some time?
A certain amount of pressure is good. It should be there because if there is no pressure, there is no motivation to achieve certain goals. As you see, stretching for something is always, in a way, good. But pressure should not go to a stage where it becomes very difficult to handle, because then it starts to have a detrimental impact, so it’s a very fine balance that you have to have. You have to push, but within the limits, so that is what we do. We also take relevant feedback from people as to know when it becomes difficult.
How do you de-stress employees as you need them to be motivated all the time?
There are different techniques. Firstly, if the company does well that itself is a motivating factor since everyone wants to be a part of the winning team. Secondly, people should feel that yes, they are being taken care of. This is done through our engagement initiatives, including townhall meetings and communicating them where the company is heading. We also communicate the policy changes.
How do you engage them and at the same time offer a career progression?
Second side of engagement is from a career development angle. Talk to the employee—what is it that they want to aspire for, how they will go there, what they are willing to do and what is the training they need.
We also give them opportunities to rotate in different technologies, domains, accounts and geographies. So one develops as a holistic individual. Today if you look at any large organization, there is not one single technology stand, but there are multiple technology stands. So for us, the policy of rotating people across various technologies works very well. The third aspect is the leadership opportunities. All these are all work related.
The other aspects are non-work related engagements. For example, fitness, sports. We have cultural festivals in the organization. Then we have an arm within HR which is called Maitree, where we are doing a whole lot of engagement activities outside work, like photography clubs, dance clubs or adventure clubs. These are various things which help you to engage with the employees. We also have CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives in which we have several things that we take up and we provide volunteering opportunities for people.
How is the young generation responding to these engagement initiatives and how you retain them?
Today, if you look at the young workforce that we have, about more than 70% of TCS’s workforce is Gen Y and they are very much inclined or interested in getting involved in these kind of projects. Because the kind of satisfaction that one gets from these activities is very difficult to get from somewhere else. And the opportunities that we provide in this activity helps them develop or groom themselves as an individual. So these are various things that we are trying to do to improve our retention levels. So far, I think we are in the right direction and the retention levels are very high. We are pretty happy with that.
In terms of a model, which company do you want to follow as a model in HR practices?
From a model point of view, it will not always be exactly the same as what you are. You can learn from something, may be in the same industry or even in a different industry. It could be small or large, but it should be doing something similar to what you want to do. If we go back in TCS history, when we started in 1968, there was not much IT in India, so we have learnt a long way, a whole lot of learning has been through the institute by being part of professional bodies, through our customers. We are fortunate enough to have very good customers.
Do I have a specific model that I see that I would follow? The answer is no. We have to have something that could go with our own business requirements amidst our own culture that is the critical part because I can’t copy something that will not work in TCS. Our culture is different and that culture has developed over a period of time. A lot of values that we inherited from the group, though TCS was established in 1968, the group was established in 1868, so the core values come from there. And Tatas, you know the kind of brand value and the image that it has, so those are inculcated in our people. As a result, there are a lot of things that you have to do on your own.
Do you share your experiences with other Tata group companies?
We have a process where within the group we share ideas through our group office and we continue to do that.
What is the mandate from Tata group chairman Cyrus Mistry?
Overall at the board level, people are pretty happy with the performance that we have delivered so far. We do discuss different scenarios, questions from a board’s perspective. And from the people’s side, which is again about the integration of the workforce. These are the things that keep coming up, and we continuously talk about it.
KEY CHALLENGE AND REGRETS
Scale: Our main challenges will continue to be scale and integration. Also, it is a question of countries, a question of diversity, and how you integrate that workforce. I don’t think we have cracked that problem, but we have improved from what we used to be earlier and we will continuously have to improve on that process.
Technology: Technology will continue to evolve every three-five years. What we have been doing, the same thing now is on a bigger scale. So how do you face it? It is a challenge.
Regulatory differences: From a regulatory point of view, we have to manage risks and the risks are something that are critical in today’s time. So we have to ensure that everything is 100% as far as regulatory frameworks are concerned.
It is about integration in the workforce, which is something that we have to do. We are doing it, but we have to make significant improvement in that area.
l Developing processes that will help the organization become robust and agile
l Creating a centralized system of data on human resources
l Thinking globally, training locally
l Taking feedback sincerely
l Encouraging holistic challenge in employees
l Creating leadership opportunities
l Developing initiatives for the younger generation
l Managing the key aspect of skills