In an exclusive conversation with Suchismita Burman, Chief Human Resources Officer, ITC Infotech India Limited on Talent Strategy during COVID-19
Suchismita Burman is the Chief Human Resources Officer of ITC Infotech India Limited. She brings in 21 years of experience working across Consulting, Corporate HR, CoE, and Talent Business advisory roles across industry sectors. She has worked closely with C level personnel across companies during design and implementation phases led multi-functional teams/projects across geographies (US, Europe, and Asia), has strong program management, people and business application skills; proficient in defining linkages to business impact areas and people plans at the strategic level.
She has worked with companies like Deloitte Consulting, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Infinite Computer Solutions, AoL Online India Private Limited, Mercer HR Consulting, and Larsen & Toubro.
In her capacity as the CHRO, she is also handling ITC Infotech’s interests in Facilities and Projects.
Suchismita holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Pune University and a Post Graduate degree in Personnel Management from TISS, Mumbai, and is a trained MBTI and masters NLP practitioner.
By- Romesh Srivastava
Q- Congratulations! You are about to complete your first work anniversary with ITC Infotech as CHRO. How has been your time so far?
It has been a time invested to learn about the organization lineage, culture, people, processes, and at the same time to charter out and act on people plans to enable the organization growth.
Q- How do you see the impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on HR and how has HR tweaked their talent strategy?
There have been several testing times in the past like the global financial crisis, the Gulf War, the 9/11 attack, the recession of 2008 to name a few. This COVID – 19 situation is unique as it has impacted the global community completely and at the same time span. It is a human crisis that has deeply impacted economies.
These times will require HR to be inclusive, experimental, and agile. Enabling employee engagement in an effective way will be key so that we can maximize support for employees and balance business priorities.
At ITC Infotech, we have our people plans focused on employee experience and we have defined 9 Moments of Truth that encompass the complete employee lifecycle. In the given situation, what has changed is the way we approach employee centricity and are re-defining “what” does employee experience look like and “how” will we enable that experience.
A few examples: Adopting technology for virtual onboarding and assimilation has happened, but that is possibly one part of the story. What we are focusing on, is the experience of the on-boarded employee and how to enable connects with team members, managers, and build formal and informal networks in a virtual environment.
Engaging a remote workforce: Engaging with a multigenerational remote workforce requires adaptive engagement model and ways to get an immediate response of what is working or not working to draft the appropriate interventions to ensure employee wellbeing and business productivity. Byte sized high impact engagements that are time-bound is an aspect we are working towards as a team.
The company has planned for safe transportation, food and accommodation for employees working from the company’s premises, along with special Government Issues passes to ensure safe passage during the lockdown in India.
Daily ‘Info Wire’newsletters aim at sharing updates on business and areas that impact employees globally.
The company has also launched a ‘Crisis Communication’ app and a ‘Fight Karo Na’ App. These apps have been developed to keep employees updated on the latest developments at ITC Infotech, provide a comprehensive repository of guidelines as they work remotely and give access to reliable sources of information on COVID-19 risk assessment.
Learning agility as an investment in learning, re-skilling, and upskilling of the workforce makes the organization future-ready in such situations. We are working on efficient bench management and talent deployment keeping future trends in mind and also areas that will help employees build proficiency in their current roles. Given that the ask will be about doing more at the same role/level, focusing on upskilling has become a necessity.
We are nurturing psychological and social safety among employees and their well- being (physical, emotional & mental and social) as a principle while implementing action plans around the Moments of Truth.
Q- How are you fighting with Coronavirus Pandemic and what are the measures you have taken to handle the impact on the business?
With the onset of the social distancing policy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home has become a new normal. At ITC Infotech, our plan implementation is guided based on our three-pronged approach of customer centricity, employee centricity, and operational excellence. Some of the key steps that we have taken are:
- ITC Infotech created a War Room, with cross-functional and cross-regional senior executives to action on priority areas. This War Room convened twice daily to outline key actions, monitor progress and make mid-way course corrections.
- On Tuesday, March 24, 2020, Day 1 of the lockdown in India, ITC Infotech enabled 99% of its employees to work from home. By responding swiftly to the crisis, ITC Infotech has created a solid foundation to not just tide through the crisis, but also emerge stronger.
- ITC Infotech’s IT team provisioned for additional assets – including proactive bulk procurement of laptops, dongles and other IT assets, required to enable working remotely and last-mile connectivity.
- The company has set up around-the-clock employee helpdesk, enabled through a toll-free 1800 number, to help employees raise and resolve any issues.
- ITC Infotech’s IT team has created a ‘Mobile Support Team’. If the company provided system needs addition support, ITC Infotech’s mobile IT team will collect the system from the employee’s house, bring it to the office, troubleshoot and fix issues and return to the employee.
- Additionally, we are aligning our employee communication to compliment the Government of India directives and advisories such as mandatory implementation of “Arogya Setu” app in private sector workspaces and travel guidelines.
ITC Infotech’s “Fight Karo Na” app
- In line with ITC Infotech’s philosophy of Employee Centricity, this App has been developed to keep employees updated on the latest developments at ITC Infotech, provide a comprehensive repository of guidelines as employees work remotely and also give access to useful external sources of information on COVID-19. Through ITC Infotech’s “Fight Karo Na” App, employees can also raise and track Alerts and connect with various department wise SPOCs for any assistance they might require. This App has been developed by ITC Infotech’s Innoruption Labs, and I’d be happy to set up a conversation with our Global Innovation Head.
- ITC Infotech is offering its “Fight Karo Na” app to clients at no cost, to help tide through these testing times.
- ITC Infotech has also connected with NASSCOM, as the apex IT-BPM industry body, and offered to extend the “FIGHT KARO NA” app at no cost to NASSCOM member companies.
Q- How are you updating and spreading positivity in the ITC Infotech family?
Employee centricity is at the core of all the HR initiatives at ITC Infotech. In order to ensure that employee has a consistent experience, we have aligned all our people strategies and framework to 9 moments of truth. The 9 moments touch upon all the employee touchpoints like recruitment experience, onboarding, establishing growth networks, performance management, total rewards, employee well-being, career progression, learning agility, and alumni connections.
Owing to COVID pandemic, two core foundations of employee centricity, employee experience, and trust are being put to the test. This global crisis is all about employee moments that matter. Hence, to spread positivity we have taken the following measures:
- Conducting 1-on-1 employee connects by HR business partners.
- Organizing sessions on mindfulness, stress management, emotional intelligence, and resilience.
- Facilitating virtual break-out sessions to destress employees.
- Conducting leadership connect sessions to build trust and confidence.
- Enabling managerial sensitization workshops.
- Launching internal employee connect platforms.
- Connecting our employees globally through daily “Power of expression” sessions to upkeep their morale and positivity.
- CHRO’s communication on how to ensure their work-life integration from their home office
- Regular information to the employees is sent through our internal channels “Infowire” & “Digiwire“.
- ITC Infotech’s MD & CEO addresses employees of the company globally through two virtual Townhalls. ITC Infotech’s senior executives are sharing videos of their experience of working from home, along with anecdotes on staying positive and productive – both at work and at home!
Above all, we have invested in various technology enablements so that our people have secure work from home because for us our people come first. We have successfully achieved the metric of having 100% COVID secure workplace. This itself ensures the employee positivity and morale high.
Q- What is your strategy of hiring, annual increments, and promotions of your employees for FY21?
We at ITC Infotech believe that disruptive problems always require adaptive solutions. Hence to cope with the COVID -19 pandemic aftermath, we have taken various proactive measures. We acknowledge we all are together in it and hence to take care of interest of all the stakeholders we have adopted some proactive measures:
- The hiring strategy has been aligned with business needs. Hiring is done only based on the business requirements.
- We also acknowledge our responsibility at large and thus we have ensured that we honor all the job offers that have already been made to the candidates.
- Considering the safety of all and ensuring the business productivity we have enabled 99% work from home.
- We never let the performance of our employees go unnoticed, hence we are conducting our annual performance appraisal as per plan.
- Recognizing mission-critical and client critical work of our employees is time sensitive and we are continuing to invest in this area.
Q- With the new normal of working from home, how are you scaling the remote workforce?
ITC Infotech has a strong lineage of ITC limited and we have always been invested in our people. Our people are the reason that we are getting regular client appreciations even during these extraordinary situations. Capability building is at the crux of every technology organization in today’s VUCA world. Our diverse business models and our capability to serve different industry verticals help us nurture diverse skill sets and opportunities for employees to upskill and reskill themselves. In addition to these, we have other initiatives in place like:
Prarambh: It is a campus learning program that helps us to build the gap between academia and industry. It is one of its kind program that caters to engineering graduates who are hired from campus by ITC Infotech. It is a platform that enables these budding professionals to groom themselves both technically and behaviorally.
Learning bytes: Our dedicated channel that helps our managers and employees to enhance their behavioral competencies. This aids them to be more impactful and resourceful at work.
Skills Challenge: With a majority workforce being millennials, the initiatives like skills challenge help us to bring the best out of them and align them to their learning needs. This enables us to optimize their learning curve and efficient deployment.
Q- In your opinion, what is the future of work post-COVID-19?
Darwin wrote when he was building his theory of evolution that natural selection favors a sense of flexibility. It’s not always the strongest species that survives; it’s sometimes the most adaptable. The same applies to organizations & society at large.
As I already mentioned that this global health and financial crisis has not only disrupted the social fabric but is also reorienting the way we work. It has already given rise to a new normal. The new normal has made the work portable across time and space to the extent that now the organizations are ready to work from anywhere. The success of the organizations in the future will depend on how they manage their remote workforce. The global pandemic has impacted several aspects like people in the operating network, learning opportunities, rewards, work environment, and quality of life.
This requires organizations to focus on building trust, empathy, and emotional intelligence in a sustainable and responsible manner. Given the current situation, agility is more important than elegance. An adaptable mindset is something that is going to earmark the future of the workforce. It means organizations need to be more relevant, resilient, responsive, and rigorous in their outlook.
I, as an optimistic individual, believe in post-traumatic growth. It means I wish this didn’t happen but, given that it happened, I feel like I am better in some way. It might be a heightened sense of personal strength; it could be a deeper sense of gratitude; it could be finding a new meaning or investing more in relationships.
Q- Any concluding remarks?
I know that we are facing testing times. And indeed, these testing times call for stronger measures. With immense grit and focus, I am sure we all can collectively sail through this and emerge ourselves back to a life which we often led as “Normal”.
Thank you, Suchismita!