In In­dia, too much em­pha­sis has been given to en­gi­neer­ing streams, to­day’s busi­ness prob­lems need more than just en­gi­neers says Satish Jeyaraman, Vice Pres­i­dent, Hu­man Re­sources, Cog­nizant. In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with Dataquest, he shares his in­sights

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If you look at the ICT skills land­scape, what ac­cord­ing to you are the 2 chal­lenges the in­dus­try is fac­ing now?

The first big chal­lenge is this: In this age of near con­stant tech­nol­ogy adop­tion and dis­rup­tion, we do not have enough tech­nol­ogy ta­lent glob­ally.

The speed of dis­rup­tion is com­pound­ing the prob­lem. In the last five decades, ev­ery big tech­nol­ogy dis­rup­tion — main­frame, client server or the In­ter­net — was fol­lowed by a long pe­riod of sta­bil­ity. This gave com­pa­nies and the academia enough time to ad­just to the changes. But now, we are see­ing an un­prece­dented con uence of mul­ti­ple dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies such as au­to­ma­tion, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, In­ter­net of Things, aug­mented real­ity and vir­tual real­ity, big data and an­a­lyt­ics, cloud, and Blockchain. There is go­ing to be no in-be­tween lull and times of sta­bil­ity. This makes ed­u­ca­tion and skilling, both within com­pa­nies and in the academia, even more chal­leng­ing.

Se­condly, in In­dia, too much em­pha­sis has been given to en­gi­neer­ing streams; to­day’s busi­ness prob­lems need more than just en­gi­neers. We are also grap­pling with a real dearth of hu­man­i­ties ta­lent – com­merce, lan­guages, arts and sciences, data sci­en­tists, be­hav­iour an­a­lysts, psy­chol­o­gists and so on.

The Dig­i­tal Dis­rup­tion cou­pled with au­to­ma­tion has com­pletely changed the na­ture of tech skills re­quired for to­day’s ICT jobs – as an or­gan­i­sa­tion how are you cop­ing with sourc­ing the right skills?

To­day, com­pa­nies ex­pect niche skills and pro­fi­ciency in dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies from stu­dents. They should be able to go be­yond just ac­quir­ing the­o­ret­i­cal knowl­edge and have the know-how on prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion of the the­ory. A keen un­der­stand­ing of new tech­nolo­gies would be im­por­tant. Com­pa­nies would also want can­di­dates who are job-ready and who do not need much train­ing time be­fore they are de­ployed in projects. Mass re­cruit­ment will be re­placed by niche-skill re­cruit­ment.

In B-schools too, dif­fer­ent mod­els are emerg­ing. Con­sult­ing ear­lier was about a prob­lem state­ment and ar­chi­tect­ing a so­lu­tion for that. In the dig­i­tal era, con­sult­ing is about an op­por­tu­nity that no one has thought of be­fore. That is the sort of con­sul­tant com­pa­nies would be look­ing for.

We be­lieve in both hir­ing for the need and con­tin­ued reskilling to bridge the gap. Up­skilling our ex­ist­ing work­force with dig­i­tal skills is cru­cial in to­day’s dy­namic busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment. At Cog­nizant, we have fo­cused on ‘skilling at scale’ and have up­skilled over 1 lakh of our em­ploy­ees last year while in­vest­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in help­ing them deepen their do­main and busi­ness knowl­edge and ac­quire dig­i­tal knowl­edge. To ac­cel­er­ate this skilling move­ment, our cen­tre of learn­ing, Cog­nizant Academy has de­signed mul­ti­ple learn­ing in­ter­ven­tions and pro­grams to ac­com­mo­date di­verse learn­ing styles and cul­tures of our multi-gen­er­a­tional global pop­u­la­tion. We

of­fer our em­ploy­ees learn­ing con­tent in var­i­ous for­mats – hands-on labs, gam­i­fi­ca­tion, mixed real­ity, video-based learn­ing and mi­cro-learn­ing de­liv­ered in small nuggets, and al­ways-on ac­cess through mo­bile plat­forms.

What are your top 2 pri­or­i­ties for your HR or­gan­i­sa­tion the on­go­ing year and what makes your com­pany an em­ployer of choice of ICT job as­pi­rants?

Cog­nizant of­fers a work cul­ture that stim­u­lates shar­ing, aligns in­di­vid­ual as­pi­ra­tions with that of the or­ga­ni­za­tion, re­wards per­for­mance and is com­mit­ted to in­di­vid­ual de­vel­op­ment and all these have con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to our be­ing an Em­ployer of choice. Our as­so­ciates ex­em­plify Cog­nizant’s cul­ture of ex­cel­lence, per­for­mance, and client fo­cus—a fact that is re ected in our strong cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion rat­ings.

De­spite our size, Cog­nizant be­haves like a startup – en­tre­pre­neur­ial, nim­ble, col­lab­o­ra­tive, and ag­ile. Our model is built to en­sure that our as­so­ciates are em­pow­ered to take charge of a part of the busi­ness, act like miniCEOs with a cus­tomer fo­cus, and think about in­no­vat­ing to achieve that goal.

We have al­ways had a cul­ture of em­pow­er­ment, of giv­ing peo­ple the kind of guide­lines of how we want them to be­have, what we want to achieve, but let­ting them do what they have to do and they un­der­stood.

This com­bi­na­tion of a strong foun­da­tional cul­tural value sys­tem and em­pow­er­ment is very unique to Cog­nizant. It is this com­bi­na­tion that has helped nur­ture and in­cu­bate en­tre­pre­neur­ial ven­tures that our em­ploy­ees have ideated. Some of our most suc­cess­ful ser­vice lines, plat­forms and prod­uct suites are a re­sult of this em­pow­er­ment at work.

On the HR Pri­or­i­ties for the cur­rent year

Our HR man­date fo­cuses on two ob­jec­tives: skilling and cre­at­ing a whole­some em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence. As men­tioned ear­lier, we have fo­cused on ‘skilling at scale’ and have up­skilled over 1 lakh of our em­ploy­ees last year while in­vest­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in help­ing them deepen their do­main and busi­ness knowl­edge and ac­quire dig­i­tal knowl­edge.

The sec­ond im­por­tant HR ob­jec­tive is to en­sure that as an or­ga­ni­za­tion, we cre­ate the very best em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence for the or­ga­ni­za­tion. We are soon go­ing to com­plete 25 years of op­er­a­tions and we have a unique multi-gen­er­a­tional of em­ploy­ees work­ing with us. This brings the role of Hu­man Re­sources into sharp fo­cus as we try to adapt the shifts in work­place dy­nam­ics and max­i­mize the ben­e­fits of this gen­er­a­tional con­ver­gence. With a rise in the num­ber of millennials step­ping into man­ager and lead­er­ship roles in or­ga­ni­za­tions, en­gag­ing them mean­ing­fully for growth and suc­cess has taken on strate­gic im­por­tance and im­me­di­acy. We are eval­u­at­ing ev­ery as­pect of the em­ployee life cy­cle and up­dat­ing or cre­at­ing sys­tems and pro­cesses to en­hance the em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence. This in­cludes the en­tire spec­trum of pol­icy frame­works, work-life ben­e­fits, fit­ness and health touch­points, net­work­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels, lead­er­ship con­nects, di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion pro­grammes and other al­lied HR sys­tems.

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