March 2016

'Clear goals and targets are important'

Vinod Kumar, managing director and group CEO, Tata Communications, talks about why the organisation considers diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace critical to business success, and how it ensures that the focus on D&I is maintained.

According to global research, diverse leadership leads to greater business success. What can organisations do to build a diverse leadership pipeline?
Creating conscious leaders who value and recognise the impact of diversity towards business is the most fundamental principle. This, coupled with a strong outreach, both internal and external, to increase the funnel that provides for a healthy, diverse mix will bring in the best talent. With this, we must create an equally supportive and encouraging environment through inclusive policies that enable retention. At the same time, a strong focus on capability development needs to be there to encourage employees to recognise their potential and successfully create careers for themselves within the organisation through concentrated exposure to learning and development opportunities.

You are a visible proponent of diversity as a key driver of business globally. What is the business case for diversity and inclusion at Tata Communications?
At Tata Communications, what we do for our clients around the world is provide solutions for connectivity and collaboration. The very nature of our service is based on integrating diversity, albeit at a physical and technological level. We believe that an organisation’s business objective should be infused into the core of how it operates internally. Therefore it is a must to have an organisational culture that is diverse, inclusive, collaborative and heavily interconnected. The other business reason is to ensure that we leverage the brainpower of young women who account for 60 percent of the world’s university graduates, especially as we introduce young talent to change our business models.

Making work-life integration easier
Gender-agnostic policies including adoption, maternity and paternity leave.

  • A three-month flexi work policy for new parents.
  • Tie-ups with crèches for employees’ children.
  • Shuttle services till the nearest public transport point.
  • Free taxi service for women employees if they work late.

What impact do you expect to see through Winning Mix? How has its positioning as a strategic initiative changed the conversation around D&I issues?
Our diversity and inclusion initiative, called the Winning Mix, was launched through a series of management-led roadshows and positioned as a strategic business requisite, with clear goals and targets, which are then published internally. Participation through blogs, commitment videos and discussions were instrumental in amplifying the message and creating a community at Tata Communications that recognises, believes and embraces diversity.

Our focus is manifesting itself in many ways. Senior leaders are focused on improving the ratio of women at all levels. Discussions on targets, specific programmes and performances have been embedded into the functional performance and talent reviews with the senior-most leaders. This keeps the focus and conveys the importance of the Winning Mix initiative. The top bracket of middle management and senior management actively partner as ‘influencers’ through our quarterly diversity roundtables. This helps them to leverage the potential of a gender-balanced workplace in their teams and communities through personal ownership, to create awareness, drive women referrals and recognise the catalysts in this journey. Our conversation with our hiring partners is now explicit on the philosophy, the targets and actions around the Winning Mix.

Women are increasingly playing an important role in the workforce. Have you seen an increase in the number of women being hired at Tata Communications and what kind of support is provided to them in terms of career advancement, mentoring, maternity leave, etc?
We have witnessed a 15 percent improvement in our women new hire mix, which has reached a level of 26 percent at the end of September 2015. The leadership ratio is up by 10 percent YOY to 11 percent. There is an increased awareness to reach out and hire from the women talent pool purely based on the strong business case that we have around gender diversity. We recently launched 'Aspire to inspire', a campaign that showcases strong, stable and secure careers of women leaders at Tata Communications, which has gained great visibility.

Employees are beginning to recognise the inclusive culture and policies that we have been successful in creating. Noteworthy to mention here is that though we are determined to drive gender balance, all our programmes and policies are gender agnostic. There are mentoring connects for middle management employees wherein we support women who have enrolled for the programme. For senior management, we have some of the high potential employees as part of our DevelopMINT programme, which has a structured developmental plan for taking on leadership roles. Career rotation, on-the-job training and mentoring are provided to these high-potential employees.

How can best practices be implemented in a group as diverse as Tata, especially in companies just starting on the D&I journey?
A structured approach with clear goals is the key driver to implement diversity and inclusion. Having said that, it is equally important to build strong internal partnerships through councils, communities and employee feedback at each stage. It will ensure that these efforts are not perceived as one of the projects or initiatives of the season, but a strategic imperative critical to business success. Stakeholder buy-in and business partnerships along with strong communication campaigns further strengthens the agenda.

An upward trend

  • Current gender mix – 18:82 in FY15 as compared to 16:84 in FY14.
  • Gender mix for new hires YTD is 23:77 as compared to 19:81 in FY14.
  • 25 percent representation of women in the global management committee.
  • 12 out of 17 top level managers hired one woman at the general manager level and above.
  • An increase in the number of women hired at the senior management level.