When Aadesh Goyal—now the global chief human resources officer (CHRO) and member of the global management committee at Tata Communications—joined the company more than a decade ago, he realised that people in the organisation were very helpful. At the time, he believed they were just respecting his position. But he is happy to report that the culture of helping and easing a newbie into the organisation has only gotten stronger.
“Everybody told me, without exception, that they are getting a lot of support from whosoever they reach out to. It does not matter who that person is. And that is still continuing,” says Goyal.
This culture of adapting, propagating, and reciprocating good things for the organisation helped the company navigate the Covid-19 pandemic that hit right after Tata Communications started its ‘Reimagine’ journey in October 2019. Amur S Lakshminarayanan, managing director and chief executive officer of Tata Communications, came to the company with a plan that had a three-pronged approach. This involved stronger customer-centricity through formation of customer success teams, sharpness in products as the focus shifts to digital platforms and solutions, and bringing efficiencies globally through automation and the right operating model.
“These have started to deliver results that are evident from our achieving benchmark levels of NPS scores of 80 in 2021 and, of course, profitability. We are halfway there. Profit and cash flow generation has improved dramatically. We now have a stronger balance sheet providing us with the flexibility to invest for future growth of the business,” writes Lakshminarayanan in an email response to Forbes India.
Tata Communications was prepared to maintain the momentum of this approach, even during the pandemic. Employees had the experience of working remotely to accommodate the time zone differences of the geographically dispersed teams. A lot of their IT infrastructure and resources were fully automated. “We did not have to struggle from that point of view,” recalls Goyal. “We kept creating a simple learning pathway and propagating it to everybody. In two weeks, we went from 2 or 3 percent employees working virtually, to 98 percent or so working virtually. The spirit of all our employees, their resilience and their commitment helped us cope well with the pandemic, and the ball was not dropped.”
More than two years into the pandemic, the fundamentals of working have changed. So have the ways to develop and nurture leaders from within. A dynamic world calls for a bold approach. While Goyal believes that the new recruits have not had a chance to build relationships when employees meet in cafeterias, impromptu brainstorming sessions by the watercoolers, problem-solving, innovation and bonding via unplanned discussions, he is still in pursuit of improving the leadership pipeline even when the team is virtually connected. For that, Tata Communications has relied on its Drive Ahead and Leading from the Inside Out (LIO) initiatives.
The company defines Drive Ahead as the next step of their previous leadership signature. The initiative has shifted gears to “a sharpened focus of agile mindset, ownership and accountability, can-do attitude, problem-solving, collaboration and continuous learning.” Lakshminarayanan writes, “Talent transformation, getting our Drive Ahead culture embedded and improving employee engagement, particularly in these trying times have been hugely important.”
LIO, a foundational leadership development programme created for the next generation of leaders, is another important initiative. According to their internal report, as of H2FY22, more than 860 people managers and leaders in the organisation are developing themselves using LIO.
“Tata Communications has managed to redesign the organisation and its leadership for the future through its LIO programme,” writes Gayathri Vasudevan, executive chairperson, LabourNet, in an email response to Forbes India about the progress in the succession planning process at Tata Communications.
According to Goyal, how we look at leadership has changed. Companies do not have the luxury of spending decades honing the skills of a leader by rotating them through multiple jobs in multiple geographies. “If you look at the manager and above level, we hire at least 75 percent of any new positions that come up every year, by hiring from within. For me, that is leadership development. That is what creates the momentum for people to continuously keep moving to the new roles, moving laterally, moving vertically,” says Goyal.
“Through the talent platform, they need to have an increased focus on diversity and inclusion to access the workforce of the future, and to retain that workforce, it is imperative to reinvent careers and provide lifelong learning opportunities,” says Vasudevan.
“This is the sixth time we have been recognised [as Best Employers] and I feel that is a result of collective work people have done in the last 10 to 15 years in the company. A lot of those people are no longer here. But they contributed at the time to create the momentum. New people carry on and build new momentum. That core needs to be strong for you to be a good employer,” says Goyal.
“We continue on our transformation journey to play a solid role as a digital ecosystem enabler—a digital fabric on which our customers can build secure connected digital experiences. We see huge opportunities, and driving growth is our top priority,” concludes Lakshminarayanan, with an outlook of 2022.
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(This story appears in the 11 March, 2022 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)