May 2016

The success blend

Tata Communications has benefitted from its diversity policy, the Winning Mix, which is leading to the creation of an inclusive culture and improvement in the talent pool

Vinod Kumar, managing director and group CEO, Tata Communications, unveiling the Winning Mix initiative

The term Winning Mix says it all. With the belief that diversity breeds business success, Tata Communications adopted the Winning Mix initiative in October 2014 as a structured approach towards diversity and inclusion. It was launched by Vinod Kumar, managing director and group CEO, Tata Communications, at the Leadership Forum, where he explained the business case behind diversity and inclusion and reiterated the company's commitment to the programme.

Tata Communications' diversity policy strives to create an inclusive culture, increase the diversity talent pool as well as develop and retain talent. With the overall goal of achieving a 30:70 gender balance, Winning Mix was conceived as a holistic approach to diversity and inclusion that includes:

  • Putting an oversight structure in place.
  • Developing communication campaigns.
  • Conducting workshops on awareness.
  • Establishing talent acquisition guidelines.
  • Setting up HR policies.

Leadership moves
The company has set up a diversity council chaired by Vinod Kumar and led by Aadesh Goyal, Tata Communications' chief human resources officer. It is supported by an active steering committee which consists of the top management, and backed by regional diversity leads who bring in local perspective to the initiatives. The diversity council meets twice a year while the regional diversity leads hold monthly meetings to discuss initiatives and share best practices. There is also a monthly dashboard that tracks diversity figures by region, band, new hires, etc.

Connecting through conversations
Connecting with employees and initiating conversations around diversity and inclusion is an important part of creating an inclusive culture. At Tata Communications, employees can participate in discussions on diversity and inclusion and share best practices through the interactive Winning Mix forum on Tata Communications' intranet page. Communication campaigns have been integrated globally with various aspects of an employee's lifecycle.

Quarterly blogs by the senior leadership in Tata Communications' newsletter, The Insider, also play an important role in inspiring employees. There are diversity roundtables held every quarter involving middle and senior management, who act as 'influencers', initiate conversations and gauge the pulse of the team on themes that have been agreed upon during the roundtables. Since Winning Mix was launched, several efforts have been undertaken to trigger a paradigm shift as well as set processes to promote diversity.

One such initiative has been the Conscious and Inclusive Leadership Workshop. These workshops aim at creating awareness about unconscious biases that can change the way people approach talent management, strategic decision making, inclusion and organisational culture. The 200-member strong leadership forum participated in this workshop in October 2014, which had Cook Ross, global expert on 'Unconscious Bias', facilitating impactful sessions with the team.

The Conscious and Inclusive Leadership Workshop is now being cascaded across the senior and middle management levels.

Promoting diversity
Guidelines have also been established with regards to talent acquisition. Tata Communications strives to have a diversity slate of 70 percent men to 30 percent women and external recruiters are asked to accordingly source suitable candidates. This effort has begun to pay off: in FY15, 23 percent of new hires were women as compared to 19 percent in the previous year. Even the global graduate hire programme follows this slate. Career rotation, on-the-job training and mentoring are provided to high-potential employees as part of the DevelopMINT programme to enable them to take on leadership roles. Seventeen percent of these high-potential employees are women.

Leaders at the Conscious and Inclusive Leadership Workshop

Being inspired by the Tata legacy
The Tata group offered its employees maternity benefits decades before the law came into force. At Tata Communications, this has now evolved into gender-agnostic policies that cover adoption, maternity and paternity leave. These policies have been customised to regional regulatory requirements and cultures. Tata Communications has also tied-up with creches in Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Pune to make it easier for working parents to take care of their children. A supporting data point: 66 women availed of maternity leave in 2014 -15; only two quit. On the anvil is a new policy where all new parents can avail of three months of flexible work starting from the day their maternity, paternity or adoption leave ends. For those who need to work from home, the company will provide support in the form of equipment with secured access to the internal network and a 24/7 global IT helpdesk. Safety of its employees is a primary concern. The company provides shuttle services till the nearest public transport point. Apart from this, women employees can also avail of a free taxi service if they have to stay back late in office.

The challenges and way ahead
In its first year the Winning Mix faced several challenges, especially in creating a common language around diversity and the time it initially took employees to understand the initiative. This was mitigated through regional diversity leads who engaged in their regions, created awareness and encouraged employees to participate.

The Conscious and Inclusive Leadership Workshop was a key enabler as well. It helped employees get familiar with diversity, enabled them to understand unconscious biases and encouraged participation in dialogues. The company believes that the successful dialogue that has been created around diversity will help build momentum around the initiatives. That is Tata Communications' winning game plan.