HR leading the way as India focuses on developing talent

While redundancies were all too common last year at IT companies around the
world, India’s Wipro added 4,500 new employees.

Revenue for the Bangalore-based conglomerate – which operates in software,
hydraulics, energy, medical systems, cooking oil, and call centres – rose by 28
per cent to £570m in 2002, and the list of Wipro’s acquisitions last year in
expanding its product and services portfolio reflects an aggressively
entrepreneurial market sense.

Nowhere is that market sense more sharply developed within the business –
recently named one of Forbes’s 400 Best Big Companies – than in its HR
operations, where each one of its managers has a master’s degree. And as the
company undergoes seemingly endless evolutionary growth on several fronts, its
HR operations are leading the charge on two key developments.

"Every single person, every single process needs to be contributing in some
manner to the business," said Pratik Kumar, vice-president, corporate HR
at Wipro in an exclusive interview with Personnel Today. "It is like one
giant wheel, and to set it in motion, it takes everyone to pull along. For a
business which is so business-driven, there is no way that HR cannot be
occupying the front seat. It’s a great sense of being engaged. There is nothing
like being inside the ring."

For 2003, the agenda for Kumar and his teams across Wipro’s business units
is well mapped out. First, changes in the IT and software industry demand new
business strategies – and ‘developing the developers’ to play new roles is a
business imperative for Kumar, Wipro’s HR managers and the firm’s Talent
Transformation operation in bridging what they see as a lack of skills.

By June, its new company HR shared-services division, Vividus, will be in
place to serve Wipro’s own business units, and within a year, the company
expects to enter the external HR shared-services market.

Wipro has introduced three-day annual technology forums, which workers are
free to attend during their working day. At the largest, held last month at the
main Bangalore software development campus, a roster of expert speakers
addressed employees on technological issues, and a variety of exhibits
highlighted various Wipro projects.

Wipro’s training target is 12 days, or 5 per cent, per employee each year.
But fortunately, a hunger for new knowledge is a prime motivator for software
engineers. As a result, Advanced degrees (staff pay only a fraction of the
actual cost), certification on new systems, cultural and language education for
employees heading overseas, and leadership training, are all on offer,
providing Wipro with one of its most valued employee benefits.

"Typically, what drives them is learning: is one adding value to
oneself or not?" said Selvan D, Wipro’s vice-president for Talent

Later this spring, Wipro’s HR operations will undergo its own ‘value-added’
move when it completes the migration of HR transactional work and accompanying
staff into Vividus. About 40 per cent of Wipro’s 565 HR staff will transfer to
the shared-services operation. Kumar sees the consolidation of the HR
transactional operations as having reached its second stage, since some have
already been aligned and shifted to a self-service HR employee portal.

"The people currently handling transaction processes are the ones who
will actually be moving into the shared-services operation, and we believe it’s
a good career move," Kumar said. "Tomorrow, when we actually take
this as an offering to the outside world, some of these guys will play a
critical role."

Kumar acknowledged there had been concerns that staff would not want to move
into the new operation. So an internal campaign to give Vividus "something
of a buzz" aimed to provide the unit with its own organisational identity,
complete with t-shirts.

"The people who are moving, feel they are moving into something
different, something a little exclusive," he said.

Employee concerns are not just limited to those transferring to Vividus, he
added. "I wouldn’t say people have doubts," he said, "but the
people who are going to be handling the task do realise we can’t afford to go
wrong on this."

By DeeDee Doke

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