In Conversation with Srikanth Karra, Chief Human Resource Officer, Mphasis on HR Challenges in IT Industry for FY24
Srikanth Karra, Chief Human Resource Officer, Mphasis is an industry veteran and seasoned human resources (HR) officer with close to 30 years of experience in business-focused, innovative, HR systems and processes. He has been instrumental in institutionalizing global benchmarks for large enterprises as well as startups.
Over the years, Srikanth has strategized, spearheaded, and seamlessly executed numerous people initiatives. His functional experience spans resource strategy, manufacturing operations, industrial relations, HR technology implementation, and process excellence in multiple industries including manufacturing, information technology (IT/ITES), and telecom.
Srikanth started his career with ITC, where he worked for about 10 years across various geographies before moving to a Silicon Valley startup, Aztec Software, and then to General Electric Capital International Services (GECIS) as their HR Head. He was also the Global HR Head at Syntel Inc., and then the country Head – HR for Hewlett-Packard (HP) India.
His entrepreneurial spirit led him to invest and work with technology startups, which he passionately continues. He then took on the role of HR Director at Airtel and later as Head of HR Strategy and Culture for Syntel.
Srikanth holds a master’s degree in personnel management and industrial relations from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and a bachelor’s degree in general law from Mumbai University.
He has also attended various executive programs with the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Manila, Wharton, GE Crotonville, and Harvard.
Q. Currently, what are the top HR challenges in the IT Industry? How do you cope with economic pressures and uncertainty as an HR business partner?
The IT industry is facing several HR challenges, including the war for talent, upskilling and reskilling, managing a remote workforce, and ensuring employee well-being. These challenges are only going to become more pronounced in the future, as the IT industry continues to evolve, and new technologies are introduced.
Businesses can tackle these obstacles by considering an investment in intelligent learning platforms. These innovative tools enable companies to assess and monitor employees’ learning capabilities, identify skills gaps, and provide employees with the training they need to stay ahead of the curve.
In addition to helping businesses to address HR challenges, smart learning platforms powered by cognitive technologies, such as AI, machine learning, and natural language processing can also help empower employees and give them the skills they need to succeed in the future of work. By investing in smart learning platforms, businesses can create a more agile and adaptable workforce that is better prepared for the challenges of the future.
Moreover, it is important to recognize that the employer-employee relationship has changed forever, and businesses in the sector need to adapt to this new reality. The traditional model of managing a workforce is no longer effective in the age of remote work. Businesses need to find new ways to gauge and inspire their employees’ learning quotients, ensure employee well-being, and foster a culture of collaboration.
Mphasis addresses these challenges by embracing a “Hybrid First” work model, which allows employees to work from anywhere but also provides opportunities for collaboration and teamwork in the office. This is designed to give employees the flexibility they need to work in a way that suits them best, while still providing opportunities for collaboration and teamwork.
By investing in smart learning platforms and embracing a hybrid work model, we believe we are well-positioned to address the challenges of the future of work and thrive in the years to come.
Q. How do you meet employee needs to engage and retain them in tough FY24?
Amidst the headwinds in the sector, at Mphasis, we have taken a proactive approach to enhancing employee engagement and retention. We recognized the need to cultivate a culture of cross-team collaboration that promotes talent development, shared goals, and trust among team members.
This realization led to the conception of the “Mphasis Geek Cloud,” an innovative internal crowd-sourcing platform. This platform enables us to leverage the diverse skill sets of our employees across various teams, offering a unique opportunity for collaborative project contributions. The Geek Cloud has particularly proven effective for tasks that can be modularized and don’t heavily rely on domain expertise.
Our journey with the Geek Cloud began by drawing inspiration from esteemed institutions like the University of Berkeley and the California Institute of Technology. We infused the concept with a sense of fun and camaraderie, aiming to rejuvenate our work dynamics and fuel creative problem-solving.
Over the past three years, we’ve witnessed an encouraging surge in participation and enthusiasm surrounding the Geek Cloud. Over 11,000 of our employees have embraced this initiative, showcasing its meaningful impact on upskilling and engagement within our workforce.
What sets our approach apart is its organic evolution, driven by our employees’ ideas and passion, rather than a top-down directive. We’ve invested in refining the platform’s usability, thereby fostering trust and encouraging active contributions.
As a result, our employees have grown to trust and value the Geek Cloud as a platform for meaningful skill development and valuable contributions to our collective success. By nurturing a culture of cross-team collaboration and recognizing contributions with badges of honor, we’re creating a robust foundation for deeper engagement, skill enhancement, and mutual growth.
Moreover, remote work also hinges upon the utilization of virtual communication tools. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to uphold clarity, conciseness, and proactivity in interactions with both peers and supervisors.
Engaging in regular check-ins, actively participating in virtual meetings, and harnessing collaboration platforms can significantly contribute to cultivating robust connections and facilitating shared understanding, even in the face of geographical separation.
The resulting sense of belongingness among employees also stands as a pivotal factor in effectively addressing attrition challenges.
Q. How do you create a high-performance culture especially when people are working remotely?
Given the widespread adoption of remote work, especially in larger enterprises, effectively navigating this situation and ensuring sustained employee engagement is vital for fostering a stable performance culture. Organizations can adopt strategic approaches to achieve high engagement from remote employees.
Firstly, building a strong connection between leaders and employees is paramount, promoting trust and belonging. Replicating certain aspects of office culture virtually becomes crucial in motivating employees, and fostering camaraderie and team spirit. Additionally, investing in the professional growth of employees demonstrates the organization’s commitment to talent development.
Mphasis’ “TalentNext,” an in-house skilling platform, exemplifies such initiatives aimed at training employees and cultivating a thriving learning ecosystem. At Mphasis, our unwavering dedication to being a Hi-Touch, Hi-Tech, and Hi-Trust enterprise drives us to prioritize human interactions, technological excellence, and trustworthiness, even in the realm of remote work.
Q. What are your hiring plans for FY24?
Our hiring strategy for FY24 will be shaped by the influence of the market on our business, prioritizing optimization and cost efficiency while upholding profitability as a key principle. We’ve heightened our utilization by tightening corporate policies and prioritizing pyramid actions like training, adaption, and upward rotation.
This approach has not only streamlined non-billable headcount but also boosted utilization, yielding significant cost advantages. Although we do not have specific hiring figures public yet, we anticipate a reduced number compared to last year’s hires.
Additionally, with the advent of generative AI leading to developer productivity and usage of IPs the linearity of headcount-based growth in our business is reducing fast.
With a robust talent pipeline, we’re implementing phased onboarding aligned with supply chain demands. Our approach remains adaptable, influenced by existing capacity and evolving market conditions.
While FY24 progresses, we’ll make informed decisions to ensure an agile and talented workforce that supports business growth. Our commitment to optimizing operational efficiency and delivering value to clients will continue to drive our strategic hiring initiatives.
Thank You, Srikanth!