Richard Lobo - 2In an attempt to answer the question, we met the new HR head of Infosys Limited. Richard Lobo moved to the HR function at Infosys from the Sales function for Industrial products and has experience of 15 years in this domain.

Our country is in a professional environment where the demand and supply of the workforce cannot find an equilibrium. For example, workforce with basic skills (no formal skill training like engineering) or graduates are not getting utilized given their potential and capability just because they do not have the skills or their skills are not sufficient for more organized industries. Our nation should address this before the gap widens and leads to an imbalance that cannot be restored.

“Everybody is aspirational but the aspirations don’t get fulfilled.”

Richard compares the Organizational Culture today with what it was a decade ago while taking the IT sector into consideration. Hierarchy and age are no longer the drivers as fundamentally the formal ambiance or the structured hierarchy or the organized way of working is breaking down, and hence the “workplace” is getting more informal. Skill and knowledge in today’s world are also not hierarchal, therefore every employee can bring value to the workforce provided that they know what they are talking about. Breaking the shackles of rigidity, many doors open towards non-hierarchical movements with a view that people do not necessarily require to spend a certain amount of time before they get things done. The optimism of today’s workforce can be viewed through 2 aspects. Firstly, the appetite among people for taking risks has increased. New ideas and bold career steps are taken without too much emphasis on the repercussions. Secondly, the “Desire to excel” and the focus on the need to improve and do well has increased significantly.

Even with an increased level of optimism, the leadership continues to face certain challenges in today’s business world. They are listed below:

  1. Longevity – Building and creating a workforce for a longer duration
  2. People do not stay long enough to make a mark. Even though an investment is made in an employee for a significant time, he/she would still switch to an alternate opportunity that comes their way. People are not expected to stay forever, however a reasonable amount of time should be beneficial.
  3. Selecting the most suitable candidate to perform the task at hand
  4. It is imperative to find the right person for the task at hand as the complexity of what an organization goes through is much more than what it was 10 years ago.
  5. Find the right mix of management
  6. Lack of competent managers to handle the present dynamic workforce and finding someone who will mentor people, train them and create the right environment.

“To overcome these challenges, hiring should be driven based on a purview of the desired skillset”.

Richard lists out three eminent traits that hiring managers should look out for:

  1. Look out for someone who creates a linkage between the knowledge of his/her subject matter to live business problems
  2. Critical thinkers who do not accept things as they are but drive their thoughts and innovation into how goals can be achieved in a better way
  3. People skills that encompass communication, working in teams, being able to have conversations and being able to listen.

Richard foresees basic technical knowledge or skillset as a given for any job. Kids today have exposure to technology all around them, thus what will be required in the future is expertise in the subject area. What we see today is a lot of generalist knowledge in the technology space but lack of expertise to make a substantial difference. When asked how we could overcome this challenge with a diverse talent source, Richard suggests that with opening one’s talent pool across diverse groups – men, women, LGBT and differently abled, one opens their talent pool for skilled people and becomes an inclusive employer. Secondly, every group has their own perspective to offer, hence giving the organization a broader outlook compared to a non-diverse organization. Also the fact that nobody likes a homogenous organization, purely from making the workplace a nice place to work is a good idea!

Addressing Inclusion at workplace – An Engineering perspective

  1. Changing Demographics:
  2. Engineering has seen a significant change at entry level hiring with an equal number of men and women today instead of hiring only men in the past. The reason for this favourable trend can be attributed to a change in the mind-set of people. The IT industry came about and showed people that it was possible to have careers in an environment which was much safer and more inclusive.
  3. Becoming an Inclusive Organization:
  4. Altering policies – for example – the sexual harassment policy, programmes for young mothers and a friendly physical environment for the differently abled. Creating an environment which is welcoming or more conducive to people from different groups.

Infosys has created an environment beyond the policy infrastructure. For example, its board has 30% women (higher than many boards in the country). At the board level, Infosys has 3 women board members who are leaders and whom people look up to. This is a good example of the company commitment to “Leadership by example”. This can also be noted from actions such as the open sessions with employees where the discussions begin with questions from their female employees. Another example is where the female employees took charge to address the problem of commuting  pertaining to the heavy traffic jams: a group of women went and met the then Chief Minister of Karnataka, Mr. Kumaraswamy and his father to address the problem, who were thoroughly impressed with the efforts and took their ask seriously. Thus, one might not be able to make a difference by just talking; visibility grows when you actually do something about it.

Diversity: An impactful tool

Richard quotes a business related example to depict how Diversity and Inclusion have a positive impact on an organization. When an organization manages another client as a part of a deal, it automatically becomes “Diverse” in its workforce. There is a mix between the existing experienced workforce and the experienced workforce managed by the client, buy effexor no prescription thus creating a palette of people from different nationalities. As an organization, the aim should be to retain this experienced workforce in order to direct all employees to a common goal. Therefore, acknowledging and preserving diversity is good for the growth of the business. Additionally, IT is becoming a diverse sector as the workforce at entry level today compromises a large number of people from Rural India with minimal educational qualifications in their families. This is a positive reflection of how diversity will change the country in the near future.

Richard describes the millennial generation workforce (an average age of 26-27 years) as having the mind-set and hunger to learn and not settle with a supremely linear or hierarchal organizational structure. There is access to technology and an optimism in their sense of vigour and responsibility. They are more open to questions, not afraid to ask questions, they want to enhance the ability to learn in a fun and interesting work environment. Infosys is not a very old organization, however in the 35 years of its existence, it has a workforce from various age groups. Even though the styles of working between these groups is different, the young learn something from the old, and the old learn something from the new!

India is a hub of diversity and could potentially grow by welcoming different nationalities in its workforce. However, one of the challenges that we as a country still face, is not making organizations friendlier towards the differently abled. Even though many organizations claim to take measures and alter policies towards this group, the result is not evident enough to believe that we as a country are ready to be inclusive. There is still some way to go in this area.

“Another example from the LGBT group diversity perspective is that most organizations adopt the ‘Don’t ask don’t tell’ policy which does not cause any stir for them at all”.

Many employees who come out in the open fear the possibility of discrimination from their colleagues. To help employees assimilate better, we set up a resource group. Infosys Gays Lesbians and you (IGLU), the employee resource group (ERG) for employees from the LGBT community, was set up at Infosys in 2011. The intent is to bring employees from the community together to have a dialogue on various internal processes and policies that affect them. We also conduct a series of diversity & inclusion awareness and a sensitization programs on various themes (sexual orientation / LGBT community being one of them) to foster an inclusive workplace through the implementation of non-discrimination practices. The focus at Infosys is to ensure that employees have a safe and harassment-free work place, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The ERG gives employees a platform to come together and discuss on matters of importance. Our initiatives consist of creating awareness and sensitivity, training employees, fostering and encouraging networks where employees can find common ground.

Richard’s perception of the workforce in the next decade:

  1. Hierarchy will be replaced by network and linear organizational structures
  2. People will be paid and hired based on the value they bring and not on their current position
  3. Rise in non-traditional jobs and roles will lead to people opting for alternate careers thereby reducing jobs in the formal sector and a general acceptance of people with alternate career choices. Eg- Ancillary services through more business models today such as contract fixing in households.

With this evolution of the workforce, the leadership should accordingly change with the trends. Richard suggests that future aspiring leaders must make conscious and constant efforts to update their skills and knowledge to break rigid mind-sets. A leader should be able to take it as a personal challenge to mentor and groom the newer generation of the workforce. Finally, the leadership can make an important mark on society by giving back something to the environment rather than just consuming the resources. Therefore, if one feels connected to a cause, he/she should pursue and commit to it with vigour and enthusiasm.

“One of the biggest fears for leadership in the future is that they might lose their relevance and accept the inability to offer anything to an ever so independent workforce.”

Richard suggests that tomorrow’s workforce will not be restricted to one leader but a group of leaders through extensive networking. And finally, since leadership in the future will move down a generation to an approximate age group who are in their 30s, their challenges will include the management of people from both age groups as human beings do not evolve as fast as organizations.

Diversity and Inclusion has made an impactful mark on organizational growth and capability. Richard describes an incident in the past when women were not given key assignments or strategic projects as the mind-set was that the male counterpart of the employee would be able to offer a better commitment as he did not have to go back home to take care of the family. Such incidents depict the need for sensitivity training. Infosys was one of the first organizations to acknowledge this divide and offer Sexual harassment and Sensitivity training programs to its employees. Post the “Vishaka Judgement”, such training programs sensitized the employees on sexist jokes and remarks that could create an unpleasant work environment. Thus, training is a constant endeavour to increase sensitivity among people. Infosys measures the progress of Diversity through a Diversity card which is reviewed by the CEO and published on their website as the “Sustainability Report” including the review and progress of the contribution made to the environment.

The Human capital needs a periodic investment of time and effort to cater to the evolving non-linear environment of working. Diversity is the key to unlock a professional world where prejudices can be eliminated and an organization can sail in an efficient way towards its goals. It makes employees feel motivated and understand the positive aspects of competition among peers. Going by Richard’s Mantra, in order to succeed, organizations need to create frontline leaders who can:

  1. Act decisively
  2. Seize opportunities
  3. Respond to change expeditiously