Manoj Biswas, India HR head of IT and consulting major Accenture, talks about the company's HR priorities and policies that matter.
What are your company's priorities from a people standpoint, especially in a slowdown year?
Overall, the entire sector is focused on the talent landscape - recruiting the best talent, developing new capabilities, becoming more focused. Retention is important to us. We have always been a learning organization. We have an integrated talent management initiative that focuses on career building for our employees, on both domain skills related learning and leadership skills. We collaborate with learning organizations - for example, we partner with XLRI to build HR talent; we partner with ISB to build middle management and senior management; we also partner with IGNOU to build talent in the BPO space.
Besides, we have culture practices. One of the things that have worked very nicely is the 'Buddy Program'. Any new employee is allocated a buddy and we do it for team leads and above. Before you join the organization, your buddy will reach out to you, talk to you, take you through the entire settling down process. We are also a listening organization and we take pride in that. We listen to the unique needs of employees. This helps us reinvent ourselves. The other priority is the career counselor framework. Every employee is allocated a career counselor. He would take an interest in your career. He would help you become an effective leader in the organization. The last piece is "reverse mentoring". The young generation mentors the older employees.
What policies, introduced last year, have worked for the firm?
Those that worked well were policies linked to the lifecycle of an employee. You could be going through some serious crisis or problem in your life. It could be a critical illness in your family. The unique policy we have worked on is that if you require an extended time off because of an illness, other employees could donate "hours of work" to you. It is not a cash donation. It is not leave without pay. So other employees can pitch in. This has worked well and has been appreciated. We also introduced an adoption leave policy, just like a maternity leave. A large segment of our workforce goes for adoption. It has been well received.
Since the job market has cooled down, what role will salaries play this year in talent retention?
When I discuss with my HR counterparts in other firms, the mood is that the same constituents of HR will still continue. People would still continue to hire - hiring the best talent is going to be critical. It is a good time to look at some of the processes we can consolidate. It is also a good time to look at some of the challenges around leadership development. Retention and engagement are intertwined. We have to be focused on retention from a learning perspective, keep listening to employees. From Accenture's perspective, I don't think we have changed anything in terms of people plans. We still continue our hiring and retention journey.
Other IT companies say that there is a dearth of middle management talent. How does Accenture view this?
Is it something we keep our eye on? The answer is yes. However, we have not only focused on the middle manager but the entry level manager. We keep on enhancing your skills as you go on. We say that if you want to join Accenture, join because you don't need a job - but because you need a career. That is the driving force. Once the industry starts maturing, we will start to look at niche skills, niche lines of businesses. We have to figure out how to develop some of these paradigms.
What has helped you become a better HR head?
I was a major in the Indian Army. I completed an MBA before becoming a business guy - I was developing product lines. Then I moved on to become a recruitment person. I have a 'breadth' career experience rather than a 'vertical' or 'horizontal' career. That was unique; it gave me a wider perspective to look at things.