For Tata Consultancy Services, talent development is a business-critical function powering growth and transformation.
Talent development leaders at Tata Consultancy Services, headquartered in Mumbai, India, embrace a strategic approach in developing employees—from hiring and onboarding through ongoing career training. In recent years, talent development has evolved from a support function to a strategic driver for business growth, says Chandrima Chakravorty, specialist on the talent development team. "Our TD teams are in constant touch with our business teams, to proactively plan for future skills demand to fuel our business growth, as per the changing priorities of business."
It starts with new hires
The strategic partnership begins with onboarding. TCS recruits between 30,000 and 40,000 university graduates annually who join the organization after completing engineering programs. The company recently reimagined its entire Talent Acquisition and Development model to incorporate innovation and agility in hiring talent and to accelerate onboarding while reducing costs, says Annie Felix, manager of the Xplore program, an off-premise digital training initiative.
TCS did so by moving away from a traditional on-campus hiring model to a democratized hiring approach by leveraging digital hiring and adopting the Xplore program. The team coupled the program with a plethora of engagements, such as niche skills certification, hackathons, online proctored assessments, and a series to boost digital skills.
Using the new platform, "candidates become more tech-savvy, then take a proctored assessment prior to onboarding," Felix explains. This shift-left approach to training reduced the on-premise training duration from 90 days to between five and 15 days while ensuring deployment-ready talent.
The digital format prepares candidates to be project ready when they join the company, Felix notes. After piloting the program in India, the talent development team expanded it to the US and Europe. The reimagined Talent Acquisition and Development program has helped to exponentially reduce time to hire and time to business, achieving a strategic shift in TCS's talent acquisition and development space.
One-stop shop for learning
After onboarding, the company offers ongoing training—via an integrated talent development platform—to position all employees as key stakeholders in TCS's growth. In 2017, the company created a unified learning ecosystem that is gamified, cloud based, mobile first, and integrated into an intelligent learning management system. The platform houses smart content, encourages peer learning, incorporates analytics, and serves as a one-stop shop for talent needs. Apart from internal content, the system also integrates with LinkedIn Learning and similar platforms.
Employees across all sectors have embraced a "back to learning" mindset, with junior and senior associates seeking out opportunities to learn new technologies, skills, and leadership qualities on the talent development platform. L&D leaders appreciate the flexibility and scalability of the platform, which can train up to 30,000 users simultaneously, says talent-technology team member Sandeep Kumar Tripathi. "We can increase our bandwidth on the fly."
Since the platform debuted, TCS has successfully trained more than 353,000 associates in digital skills and more than 417,000 associates in agile skills. The talent development team can fulfill 86 percent of business demand through internal skilling. "Associates are learning so many things," says Chakravorty. "They no longer need to go outside of TCS's platforms for learning." Moreover, through the platform, the company has set a benchmark of the lowest attrition rate (12.1 percent in fiscal year 2020) in the IT services industry, Chakravorty reports.
Extending the sales force pipeline
One of the company's other award-winning initiatives, the Global Sales Enablement Program, targets associates from various sectors who wish to move into sales roles. It transitions technology consultants into sales leaders. The talent development team developed the program with the goal of future-proofing the workforce and customer organizations. "We needed to make a paradigm shift to be relevant to stakeholders," explains Viswarupa Sanivarapu, head of the sales training program.
The program relays key information on emerging business trends and offers instruction on strategic persuasion and advanced negotiation and presentation skills. It also enables participants, whom business unit leaders select after rigorous screening, to build their personal brand and interact with senior client leaders with poise and confidence. Participants become brand ambassadors who position the company as a key differentiator offering IT services.
TCS has built a pipeline of future business relationship managers and business development managers via the Global Sales Enablement Program, transforming technology and domain experts into a leading sales force.
Finally, the company has reinforced the importance of mentoring and coaching employees at all levels through its Force Multiplier Coaching Program. Designed to work as an integral—rather than a stand-alone—initiative, the program launched after the talent development team reassessed its coaching needs and recognized that senior leaders, when operating under pressure, were inclined to be task oriented and occasionally neglected the responsibilities of building sociable and human relationships.
"It was important for leaders to experience coaching for themselves," says Rupika Singh, the coaching program lead. It provides support to company leaders, promoting trust and enhancing conflict resolution.
The talent development team alleviated apprehension among employees reluctant to participate "by communicating that it's not performance driven, but growth driven," explains Singh. Leaders at every level report positive impacts of the program, which has engendered a culture of innovation, trust, and inclusion. It assists business and organizational leaders in gauging the effect they have on others, resulting in more mindful and empathetic team members.
The robust structure built around coaching needs has developed organically, incorporating skills development, accreditation, and integration into other L&D processes, such as the appraisal system, talent management, succession planning, and personal development.
The Force Multiplier Program has evolved into the most in-demand approach to people and leadership development at TCS. "Coaching has become a need and an ask," reports Singh. Leaders focus on participative leadership in their efforts to achieve a sustained competitive culture. Subsequently, "We've seen shifts in better client interactions, revenue improvement, and positive business impact," she notes. And the program has been particularly effective during the past year, Singh says, as the pandemic increased requests for crisis coaching.
Since its inception more than a half-century ago, Tata Consultancy Services has grown to become a global provider of IT services, consulting, and business solutions. Behind the scenes of its business success are more than 480,000 people comprising the company's innovative culture. This year, in addition to earning four Excellence in Practice Awards, TCS earned the ATD Innovation in Talent Development Award. The honor recognizes an innovation that has a measurable impact on an organization or audience, is moving the talent development industry forward, is sustainable, and is replicable within or outside the talent development field.
TCS's reimagined approach to talent development is undergirded by a commitment to innovation-led thinking. And through myriad programs, TCS demonstrates a clear commitment to readying its talent for careers, not just positions.
Take, for example, the #LearnInLockdown program, which comprised purpose-driven gamified learning engagements and initiatives. With the motto of "Turning our lockdown into a learning advantage," #LearnInLockdown was a global challenge to invigorate associates across geographies while they worked remotely. For the initiative, TCS launched new learning platforms, created virtual instructor-led learning programs, and partnered with global content providers to bring all associates within one click of learning opportunities.
Notably, TCS converted US employees' #LearnInLockdown learning hours to monetary donations to organizations fighting COVID-19. The result was a total of $40,000 donated to charities in the US and Canada. Globally, associates clocked in more than 8.8 million learning hours and gained more than 974,000 competencies.
Another innovation is #TalentOcean, a program targeted for talent development associates with exclusive upskilling opportunities. For this hackathon initiative, talent development team members from across the enterprise generated more than 500 innovative ideas spanning eight future-focused workplace themes.
—Derrick Thompson, Writer/Editor, ATD
View the entire list of 2021 Excellence in Practice Award winners.