August 7, 2010


Let me make an innocent attempt to provide a snapshot of my learning at the NASSCOM HR SUMMIT 2010:

The knowledge summit started with the Inaugural talk by Som Mittal, President, Nasscom followed by a panel discussion called Indian Townhall: CEOs in conversation’ where the conversation primarily revolved around managing the Gen Y aspirations and other emerging talent issues.

The eminent panelists for the event were R Chandrasekaran,President & MD,Cognizant; Aparup Sengupta, MD & Global CEO, Aegis Ltd, Krishna Kumar Natarajan,CEO & MD,Mindtree and Som Mittal, President,Nasscom.

Some of the key inferences that emerged from this discussion were as follows:

S Chandrasekaran: We have to create enough scope for the mavericks to perform in the best of their capacity in order to leverage their creativity. He mentioned that there is always a risk of being complacent while sustaining growth. Especially in such instances it’s very important to be open to ideas of all formats from everyone. Since the majority of the workforce today is Gen X & GenY. We must connect with them in the right manner. He explained this with an analogy. He explained how a Gen X & GenY employee experiences a seamless virtual connectivity through social networks/media like twitter & facebook where his concerns and inquisitiveness is satiated in a shortest time span on a Sunday but on the Monday morning he again gets into the rigmarole of following HR manuals and time consuming processes. The real challenge is to recognize and sincerely act on repeating that Sunday experience into the Monday experience also. He also focused on the need to collaborate seamlessly and identify enablers that can help to collaborate better. The need for infusing appreciation in the performance mgmt ecosystem, fostering an entrepreneurial climate, infusing fun in the work culture, being tech savvy and embracing the global talent were also key insinuations from his conversation with the panelists.

Abarup Sengupta: In order to witness transformation at work, we must start measuring the task in terms of the impact it creates on the solution and not the task in itself. For example, we must stop measuring the number of associates reporting at office or the number of hours invested by the associates. Rather we should measure what kind of impact their presence and task has on solutions. He also emphasized how a strong belief must be transformed into a collective behavior through repetition of the tasks firmly based on the belief in a consistent manner. While commenting on framing the right ‘vision statement’, he said that the vision statement must be simple and uncomplicated so that everyone can easily internalize it.

Krishna Kumar Natarajan: He emphasized on how the transition of Gen Y recruits from their campus to corporate happens at a very quick pace and hence it’s important to restore campus experience also at the office. The office needs to be recreated as a campus. While speaking about leadership he said that the ideal way to build leadership is not always the volumes approach but it’s about narrating the right stories and inspiring anecdotes. He also mentioned that one of the indicators to know whether HR has graduated as a business partner is to observe whether the HR associate can be prepared to make a business presentation infront of the client.

Som Mittal: Leadership must never be distanced from the people and must ensure that people release their energy in the right manner and in the right direction. He also emphasized on the need for having strong code of conduct within the industry in the midst of the turmoil [high attrition & poaching] so that there is a method in the madness.

Session II: Knee Jerk HR: Was there a better way to handle the downturn.

Speakers: Dr John Sullivan, Professor of Mgmt, San Fransisco State University & Kris Ramachandran, advisor to Chairman, Higher Education Project, Aditya Birla Group.

Chair Person: Prithvi Shergill, Lead ,Human Resources, Accenture India.

Prithvi Shergill: Whether HR played a pivotal role in handling the downturn is based on whether the HR team was having a place in the table during the strategic discussions? Did the HR team ask the right questions in the right time? Did the organization genuinely invest in HR to become more strategic? These were the few questions through which he set the platform for the discussion. Dr John Sullivian also added the question that did we call our CEO’s during the down turn and specify the areas where we should have invested in order to position ourselves better after downturn or did the CEO call the HR leader and ask him about his opinion (even better)?.

Kris Ramachandram: Two extremely contrasting examples of GE and South West airlines were given in order to explain how both the companies had completely different approach in being global leaders in their respective fields. GE was synonymous with very objective and aggressive approach of fixing, selling or even closing down their business whereas South West airlines had a much lenient approach of having no layoffs. Yet even though the approaches of the two companies did not have any convergence but both are still leaders in their respective industries. Similarly, there is no ‘one’ right way to deal with the downturn. He mentioned the 5 dimensions of the Hofstede model and how understanding the respective cultural dynamics are important in framing out the approach towards dealing with downturn. He mentioned the following points to be kept in the minds of the employees in order to deal with a future downturn:

  • Realize that there are no free lunches in this world. We are never ‘entitled’ for the company benefits; we are only ‘eligible’ for the benefits.
  • Keep yourself employable through superior performance, constantly improve your skills.
  • Be an influencer.

As an Employer we can do the following:

· Focus on continuous productivity (Repair the roof when sun is shining J)

· Manage expectation, beliefs & values.

· Connect & communicate.

John Sulivian: He categorically mentioned that the following went wrong by HR in downturn:

· It went into a reactive mode and was not anticipatory enough.

· Did not realize the new economic reality of continuous ups & downs, with little warning.

· Being overtly optimistic

· Not having any warning precursors for identifying what occurs prior to a major problem.

· No contingency labor plan.

· Lack of prioritization.

· Cost cutting focus rather than productivity & innovation focus.

· Solutions adopted with no data on tools effectiveness.

· No midcourse feedback loop metrics.

· No accountability.

· Only ‘guessing’ when to resume talent growth.

Must do list for HR before the next downturn:

· Conduct failure analysis.

· Benchmark best practices.

· Focus on innovation/productivity.

· Establish contingent labor component.

· Do surgical layoffs based on performance.

· Substitute technology for labor (No people first approach)

· Continue to outsource ‘non core’ activities.

· Use ‘peak time & Seasonal empoyees’

· Next time do countercyclical hiring & poaching [;-) not my thoughts]

Session III: Open House- Are Indian players ready to handle a globalized workforce?

Speakers: D P Singh, Director,HR, IBM Daksh & Saurabh Govil, Senior Vice President, HR, Wipro Technologies.

Chairperson: C. Mahalingam, Executive Vice President & Chief People Officer, Symphony Services.

C Mahalingam: ‘Money is what money does’ and similarly ‘Globalization is what globalization does’. The context for the discussion was lucidly set by putting into perspective the thoughts of Thomas Friedman where he considered that Globalization 1.0 was influenced by the government, Globalization 2.0 was influenced by major MNCs and the new age era of Globalization 3.0 requires major role from Individual companies.Mr Mahalingam gave case examples of how Mc Donalds & Coke acted as catalysts in globalization and can be considered as icons of globalization. The following ‘distance issues’ were highlighted as they are to be carefully studied in course of embracing Globalization 3.0:

Culture, Administrative, Geographic & Economic [CAGE].

He also mentioned that the key drivers for success in globalization 3.0 must recognize that global workforce will have different aspiration, ability and engagement. Hence, it will become important to constantly manage as we learn and constantly learn as we manage.

D P Singh: The key levers for success in globalized economy are going to be Shared Visions, Policies, Processes, HR system & Communication. Companies have to leverage technology, opportunities, capital & structures. The right answers to the following few questions would help us to handle the globalized economy better:

· Do you have shared values across the globe embedded & understood by all?

· Do you have processes to identify, reward & grow talent.

· Do you have processes & policies in place with effective & robust control mechanism?

· Do you encourage diverse unconventional points of views to finally integrate with business objectives?

· How will you relate the Gen Y to your business objectives?

Saurabh Govil: The apparent hard issues like labor laws & compliance are much easier to manage but the challenging issues are the perceived softer issues like building local leadership, cultural issues and communication. It also becomes very important to keep on repeating the right things so that it becomes a part of the organizational fabric. He made a major emphasis on leveraging social network as the future of communication will not be e-mails but social networks.

Session IV: Management of paradoxes

Speakers: Hari Thalapalli, Chief People Officer, Mahindra Satyam & Piyush Mehta, Senior VP,Human resources, Genpact.

Chairperson: Elango R, Chief Human Resources officer, Mphasis an HP company

Elango R: The statement ‘contradiction fuels innovation’ suffices to articulate that even though managing the paradoxes might be tough but it would be well worth it. Managing paradoxes in HR would be about being an ‘active game changer’ and not by being a mere facilitator/part of the change process. It would require HR professionals to shift their focus from their HR books to Adam Smith’s ‘The wealth of nations’ and more importantly it will require HR to work in grey shades.

Hari Thalapalli: It’s fascinating how in life’s philosophy itself so many statements & anecdotes are contradictory yet seemingly idealistic. Hence, the same replicates in business & HR too. The right answers of today’s HR paradoxes would be different tomorrow. It’s important that in HR’s pursuit to manage its paradoxes, it should focus equally on its associates, investors and final customers. Hence, investment into research, capacity building has to sharply increase.

Piyush Mehta: The focus must be on making/building talent in an organic manner through Internal promotions, moving to tier 3,4 cities and digitalizing platforms. Another important inference was that the business orientation of the HR would be good for people as in long term what is good for business would certainly be good for people.

Session V: What is your USP as an employer?

Speakers: Aparna Ballakur, Vice President, HR, Yahoo! & Sreekanth Krishnan Arimanithaya, SV, Global HR operations, HR Business Partner, CA Technologies

Chairperson: Gaurav Ahluwalia ,Senior Vice President, HR, HSBC Electronic Data Processing India Pvt Ltd.

Gaurav Ahluwalia: USP of either a product or service or even an employer is based on how it brings value to its customer and brings visibility in the market. The case example of Maruti-800 brought out the message clearly. While speaking about USP from employer perspective, he said that pay is only a part of the offer but the real USP is not pay most of the times.

Sreekanth Krishnan Arimanithaya: Six elements of creating & evaluating value proposition are Utility value, Satisfaction level, Offer alignment, Employee engagement & Employee performance. The organizational brand components are total rewards (base pay, external equity, stock options etc), work life (business level, location etc), company (risk taking, diversity etc), Work environment (job fit, promotion, empowerment project responsibility etc). Hence the USP of the company needs to leverage these elements and brand components with the purpose of managing, governing and securing the talent. A special emphasis was made on fostering an entrepreneurial culture within the company.

Aparna Ballakur: For an employer USP in the current economy stands for Unique Staying Proposition. Creating the right USP revolves around answering the three questions: What brought you here? What keeps you here? What can take you away from here?

She also explained how the focus should be increasingly on ‘stay interviews’ rather than exit interviews. The USP in Yahoo is centred around opportunity (to change the way the world uses the internet), work (scope of impact:600 million users) & workplace(company cares for every individual & shows this in every process/policy).Also it was interesting to know that ‘fun’ is a core value of Yahoo’s culture. In a nutshell, an USP must appeal to the intellect and touch the heart.

Session VI: Conquer the Mt Everest-Motivational Talk by Jamling Tenzing

Conquering the Mt Everest in the realms of thought itself is very inspiring. If we spend a few moments hallucinating about the presence of Mt Everest then we can realize the how insignificant we are infront of the mighty Everest. Yet few people conquer it through their spirit-‘the human spirit’. The human spirit is common to all of us yet only few realize it. One such man is Jamling Tenzing, son of legendary climber Tenzing Norway.

Jamling Tenzing’s presentation was themed as ‘Touching my father’s soul’. He passionately spoke on why he had a single minded focus on climbing the Mt Everest and why it meant so much to him. His childhood hero was always his father and he wanted to climb the Mt Everest the way his father did. In 1996, he climbed the Mt Everest which was later documented in the IMAX film, Everest. This journey helped him to understand himself, his father & his community (Sherpa) better.

His quest to climb the Everest was full of challenges like staying away from the family in the hope of meeting them once again to loosing friends who died on the way to climb the Mt Everest.

Like in any other team, a mountain expedition also has team members with designated roles. The leader paves the strategy to climb the mountain whereas the Sherpa provides strong support in carrying the food, goods and other essentials. Jamling Tenzing acted as the member who bridged the relationship between the leaders and the ‘sherpas’ as he himself is a Sherpa who was educated in America. HR’s role in business is also similar; he acts as a bridge between the business leaders and the associates. He is expected to be a business as well as people champion who can translate the language of business into a language which is best understood by the people.

In business also, the HR team is often confronted with huge challenges yet they are met with the right direction, team support, planning, courage & passion.

Another important life lesson learned from his presentation was that “In mountaineering, climbing up is optional but getting down is mandatory”.

Similarly, in life or business also we make the choice of being the best but we must be ready to face failures courageously too. If we cannot recognize failure and know how to deal with it then we will never know how to react when failure again strikes us in life.

He also mentioned how climbers are increasingly realizing that it’s important to respect nature and keep the surroundings clean while venturing into mountain expeditions.

Hence, it’s not only the end which matters but also the means. HR is the conscious keeper of the organization and must always adhere to ethics in its pursuit to achieve business success.

Jamling also stressed that human beings must be passion driven and not ego driven in their pursuits. He cited examples of how many rich businessmen wanted to satisfy their ego to climb the Mt Everest by risking the lives of many sherpas.

It was delightful to know that Jamling had great plans of teaching mountaineering to Indian kids in order to infuse in them the idea of sportsmanship. He has been doing a lot of work for the Sherpa community and wants to continue the good work.

Even HR has a community to take care of that transcends the associates and their families.

He concluded his presentation with his father’s quote: “Be a leader, Be a guide…Be great and make others great”.

Day 2

Session VII: Social Network: Leveraging or lamenting

Speakers: Arvind Rajan, Vice President, International, Linkedin & Nandita Gurjar,SVP, Group Head HRD, Infosys Technologies Ltd.

Chairperson: Anand Pillai, Senior Vice President, Talent Transformation & Intrapreneurship Development, HCL Technologies.

Anand Pillai: Social Networking is becoming the new operating system for the new workforce which has the following characteristics:

· They want freedom.

· Customized job profile.

· They want transparency.

· They thrive on innovation.

· They love having fun.

· They want to collaborate.

It was interesting to know that HCL has a virtual ‘passion wall’ where associates are free to write about their passion and what it means to them. Adding to this practice, they also started the passion club where associates can mention their top 5 passion indicators and join the communities related to them. These communities would facilitate discussions related to their passion and keep them engaged.

Arvind Rajan: A few startling statistics on how majority of today’s workforce is either actively disengaged or not engaged. Adding to that most companies are having 1 HR associate for every 100 employees. Hence, communication between HR and the associates have sharply reduced. Social media in such a scenario helps to enable better communication. Most companies have focused on horizontal communication through social media but there should be focus on vertical communication too. A CEO’s blog is an example of effective communication that also ensures inclusiveness through the ‘comments’ feature in blogs. It also ‘personalizes’ the leadership especially when the company is large. Social media should be leveraged for recruiting (employee referrals,tweets), Reward(recognition) and retaining(through collaboration). Following are the few steps that can be taken in order to embrace social media (linkedin specifically):

· Encourage employee to be on linkedin & connect.

· Have a strategy for status updates.

· Give them guidance on how to collaborate.

· Add purpose & a fresh perspective on being networked.

Nandita Gurjar: The 3 myths surrounding social media are:

· Face to face relationships are far more valuable than virtual ones.

· The best way to control the use of social media is to block.

· There is no ROI in social media.

Many eye opening case examples of companies were given where improper use of social media backfired heavily. Hence it’s important to ensure the following are never discussed in social media:

· Client confidential.

· Policy documents.

· Misuse of code of conduct.

It was interesting to know about the ‘My voice’ initiative in Infosys where employees can voice their opinion on policies before its creation and can also comment during the probation period for which the policy is implemented before its final implementation.

Micro-blogging is also an area where companies need to progress towards.

Session VIII: Cracking the code on Business agility: lessons from high performing learning organizations

Speakers: Bob Danna, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Bersin Associates & Daniel R Bielenberg, Director, Capability Development Strategy

Bob Danna: In high intensive learning organizations the following checklist must be kept in perspective:

· Rethink the learning purpose.

· Focus a deep specialization.

· Support learning agility

· Get realigned to the business

· Manage programs like portfolios.

The two key attributes in a learning culture are as follows:

· Knowledge sharing on a frequent, encouraging & supportive basis.

· Reflection- Post success & failure, opportunities for learning at all

levels must be leveraged.

Daniel R Bielenberg: The existing talent challenge today is dealt through deep specialization, innovation, changeability, industrialization, people development, case skills & common culture (all of them have a learning & development element in it). The process of building a high performing learning organization begins from building foundational industry knowledge to leveraging high performance business and finally generating sales with industry specific offering & framework.

The biggest challenge in learning and development is that most managers treat coaching as a side job and much sincerity is lost in the coaching process.

It was interesting to know how an Accenture employee used blogs in order to persuade employees for enrolling in a learning module. She was able to sign up 5000 employees by using a free tool. It is actions like these which make the real difference in both learning development & use of social media.

Session IX: The transformed job market

Speakers: Aadesh Goyal, Executive Vice President, Global Head, HR,TATA Communications Ltd.

R V Balasubramanium Iyer ,Vice President, Reliance Retail. Chairperson: William Paul, Executive Vice President, HR, Global Shared Service Centers, Scope International, Standard Charted Bank

William Paul: The speed & quantum of change is humungous today and the customers are also becoming increasingly demanding. This has led to huge talent shortage in many industries. Hence it’s important that we do the following:

· Invent your own raw talent pipeline.

· Finding the balance between raw talent & lateral

· Day 1 readiness

· Use of metrics

· Diversity mgmt

Aadesh Goyal: Following must be done in order to deal with the highly transformed job market which seems similar to the pre slowdown phase in 2007:

· Must focus more on behavioral competencies than technical

Competencies while hiring.

· Continue to hire at lowest level.

· Build & develop the talent for middle & top management.

· Hire from outside (new competencies & new geographies) for new


In addition it must also be recognized that the market for CXOs is hot and compensation offered is also very high.

R V Balasubramanium Iyer: He had a humorous take on the dilemma of being a recruiter in the retail industry where the desperation for recruiting goes to the extent of advertising in front of the stores saying: ‘Trespasser would be recruited’. He emphasized on the importance of partnership between industry, academia & individual.

One of the good examples of such partnership is between Manipal University and ICICI (


nisha said...

Interesting article. You make some good points. Thank you again.

Richa Desai said...

Thanks for sharing the info..