Revenues of $4.3 billion in 2006-07 make Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) number eleven among software companies globally; on the very threshold of the elite top 10 in its industry, worldwide. In other parameters, however, it is already there: fifth in terms of the number of employees and market capitalisation, and sixth in terms of profitability.
“But TCS’s global success goes beyond these numbers,” says S Padmanabhan, executive director and global head for human resources. He heads a workforce that is spread over 40 countries and nearly as many nationalities. “It could be measured in terms of the number of global customers we serve, our strong global delivery model, or the fact that a significant part of our workforce is non-Indian,” he says. As a global company in an industry where people skills are paramount, effectively weaving together the TCS team that spans geographies, nationalities and cultures, is obviously the greatest challenge.
Virtuous cycle of success
That one of the largest software services companies in the world can still grow at such a fantastic pace is the result of decades of organisational development. TCS has had to assiduously build competency by honing and relentlessly implementing an elaborate system of routines and standards. The competencies stored in TCS’s organisational memory are largely the retained results of lessons learnt by its workforce on the frontlines. The company’s most critical resource — over 94,000-strong workforce — creates, uses and recreates these systems through a virtuous cycle of corporate learning.
Padmanabhan and his HR team ensure that the individual workforce competencies match the organisational competencies the customers require. This is no easy task, given how fast the organisation is moving. “The key challenge today is managing competencies across geographies, service areas and industries,” says Padmanabhan.
This pace of change requires new ways of fitting organisational competencies to the demands of the fast changing environment — in attracting people with the right kind of skills or competencies, and assimilating them into the systems and processes of the company. Then, there’s the task of retaining them; or even re-training them, if their competencies need updating.
Attracting the best talent is becoming increasingly difficult, not only due to the fierce competition for the right people, but also the way the company has grown. Says Padmanabhan, “Last year, 70 per cent of TCS’s technical campus recruitment was in smaller cities, and about 9.6 per cent of our workforce is now non-Indian. We’ve moved a little away from our insistence on engineering graduates and started hiring the brightest science graduates as well.”
The company puts these people through special training programmes. Ignite, a seven-month residential training programme, provides IT competencies to science graduates, transforming them into IT professionals.
TCS has developed a formal competency management process, integrated with its learning management system, to ensure a proper fit between the competencies required and those available. For each role in the organisational structure, a defined competency profile details the certifications and competencies required. Each individual employee is profiled in terms of the nature and level of his competency. All the information is fed into the learning management system and analysed, so that special learning programmes can be designed to deal with gaps in the competencies of the company’s workforce.
A job profile is the most direct way organisations fit an individual’s competencies and skills into organisational routines and processes. The way TCS’s job profiles have changed over the decades is a measure of how the company has transformed itself through its drive for globalisation. According to Padmanabhan, “We have introduced a new set of job descriptions not only because of our entry into new service areas like BPO, but also because of the pressures of globalisation. Sales jobs, for example, now require the understanding of how to sell across the globe.”
The global village
There is also the need to deal with cultural diversity. To attract and assimilate people from other countries, the company has spent much time in understanding the social and local needs of the different nationalities. Padmanabhan elucidates,“For Indians, one of the major attractions of working with TCS is the opportunity to travel and work in other countries. But elsewhere, people would rather work in their own countries. They are more concerned about their roles and what compensations they are being offered.”
“Our focus,” says Padmanabhan, “has been to build strong global systems that are attuned to local practices. So in each geography, we try to hire people who are familiar with the local practices and work culture.” A policy of rotation allows TCS employees an exposure to different ways of living and working, and the results are fed back into its HR processes.
Away with attrition
TCS has the lowest rate of attrition in its industry — 11.3 per cent — compared to the industry average of 15 to 20 per cent. The company offers its employees a rewards-driven career development path that emphasises continuous learning through a number of training and learning programmes, opportunities to work across technologies, industry domains, functions and geographies, and a healthy work-life balance.
TCS has also expanded the range of its offerings to employees. “To deal with the variety of expectations, we try to identify broad segments of employees. While we cannot meet everyone’s demands, we are able to cater to the expectations of broad sections of the workforce,” adds Padmanabhan.Flexi-firm
Dealing with diversity has also brought flexibility to the work environment. The company allows employees to work part-time or from home under special circumstances. It even offers adoption leave to parents, irrespective of gender. If a woman chooses to temporarily discontinue work owing to family commitments and rejoin later, continuity of service is considered. Employees can also go on sabbaticals. TCS Maitree, a unique community for TCS employees and their families, is another initiative that helps them achieve a healthy work-life balance by providing a support system for those working outside their countries, as well as facilitating non-work-related interactions.
TCS encourages people from different cultures to work together in project teams, and understand each other better. It also encourages non-Indians to work in India, so that they can better understand Indian ways of working. It conducts cultural awareness programmes, including an annual event called the Global Village, to facilitate greater sensitivity to other cultures.
For Padmanabhan, a key task for the future is cultural integration, “With an increasingly global presence, it will be crucial for us to assimilate and integrate a diverse and distributed workforce by enhancing capacity in other geographies, and through strong and relevant training programmes, diversity in projects, improved communication and interaction, and strong but localised systems.”
TCS’s strength is its unique combination of platform and people, assisted by collaborative tools, which translate into processes that are consistent and effective anywhere on earth.