Wednesday, September 16, 2015

When Need Meets Opportunity!

What is need? In some essential way, we are all needy. We are all ‘people who need people’ and people who need help of some kind or the other.  Sometimes, it is very easy to spot need. It is there, staring you in the face – which makes it easy to be able to extend a helping hand. But sometimes, need exists in a far more subtle manner – and is that much more difficult to recognize.

The story goes that the great mathematician Ramanujan struggled for years to get his work noticed outside of his small hometown. Then one day he wrote to the renowned British mathematician G.H Hardy, who immediately recognized his genius, paid for his tuition, put him on a boat to Trinity, Cambridge – and the rest is history. Ramanujan was not starving or sick or obviously suffering. But he had a gift, a passion, a genius that needed to be recognized and helped – and thankfully it was. Because what Ramanujan then went on to do was to contribute immensely to the mathematical world – and to young, hungry minds.

So one form of helping is direct - one-on-one help, that has a huge and positive impact on the individual. The other is what I call ‘leveraged’ help, which changes underlying conditions and structures, and creates a self-sustaining momentum once it is unleashed.
What am I therefore getting at? That there are obvious needs versus deep, underlying, structural, not-so-obvious needs - and therefore direct help versus leveraged help.

And this is where Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plays such a vital role. What is CSR and what does it mean for us? To put it very simply, it is a way in which we can recognize social needs– and do our part to help. Sometimes these causes are easier to see and therefore easier to address - like the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty or fighting diseases. But sometimes they are for more fundamental and underlying and not necessarily acknowledged as needy - like promoting higher education, pushing for gender equality, or empowering women.

The reality is that these are areas that are in desperate need of help and development - and the need varies depending on a bunch of factors, like geography, industry, culture and so on.  For example, India has the largest population of young people in the world. If this potential talent is armed with the requisite skills, we will be able to create a massive army of knowledge workers and skilled manpower. This, in turn, would augment our economic growth and usher in an era of unprecedented prosperity. At Genpact, we believe we can play an important role in accelerating this process. So we think our role is in the not-so-obvious structural areas, and in leveraged help that has a multiplier impact.

Take our tie-up with Ashoka University – we have created the ‘Genpact Centre for Women’s Leadership (GCWL), which is a unique, first-of-its-kind industry-academia partnership in the area of Corporate Social Responsibility. By creating a cadre of educated, empowered women we achieve two objectives – unleash the multiplier effect and benefit a whole new generation of women; and address the issue of gender imbalance in the workforce. Women need to be encouraged, supported, trained and helped in every way possible to be better at their jobs and better equipped to lead. And as you perhaps know – women’s leadership is a topic very close to my heart, and one I believe in and drive very strongly!! It makes businesses better and has a long term positive structural social impact!

Similarly, we have joined hands with the NASSCOM Foundation and IT-ITeS Sector Skills Council NASSCOM to launch ‘Reach Higher’ – a vocational skill-building program that aims to push the Government of India’s aspiration to train 500 million people by 2022. In my view this is a huge dream and a truly inspirational one. The program will equip aspirants with skills in specialized areas –all fully sponsored and at no cost to the aspirants. This is going to help create jobs and opportunities and effectively address the growing skills gap that is adding to the massive problem of unemployment in India. There are several such initiatives across the 25 countries that we are present in.

This, then, is our vision: to recognize underlying social needs, address them in a meaningful manner, and create a strong and positive social impact. This will, I am convinced, help create a better world for all of us to live in – and be proud of.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Curiosity: At the Core of Life!

In today’s world, if you’re not curious, you’re dead. If you’re not open to new ideas and aren’t able to change as rapidly as the world around you is changing, you will quickly become obsolete. And what is the one thing that enables one to adapt and apply… again and again.. to match the pace of change around us? Hunger to learn, driven by curiosity. And so, I would say that curiosity to learn through life is at the core of life itself!!
For the last couple of years, we’ve been going to the top 20 B-schools in the world to hire about 20 people into what we called the ‘Sales Development Program’.  They then undergo the right kind of training to emerge as sales leaders for the organization. It’s an investment that’s paid off well and we hope to increase the number soon.
In all my interactions with this group and in reviews with the teams that hire them, the one thing that stands out is the hunger to learn in each of them. They are hungry, very passionate, very motivated to learn and eager to contribute. I’m no authority on the subject but to me that isn’t intuitive to some of the traits that often this generation of Millennials is accused of – narcissistic, privileged, arrogant and so on.
As I mentioned in a NY Times article on the same topic, this is true for people we hire (or seek to hire) across different roles and regions. We place a lot of importance on energy, passion to learn rather than ‘do you know this specific aspect of the business.’ Because if one is energetic and eager to learn – picking up specific skills is never a challenge. We look for people who have an open mind and are curious. Because if you are curious you ask questions. If you ask questions, you will get a set of answers. And if you are reasonably clever, you will process those answers and come up with a relevant solution.
In my experience, if you demonstrate a hunger to learn, a capability to learn and a desire to learn – you are going to be successful. And often, I think that is better than someone saying that I know that thing really well. Because the reality is that, what they know is going to be worthless a year later as it will all change. Then the real question is that are they going to learn the new thing, grab the new opportunity and make it work for them. Does one have the self-confidence to accept the fact that what they knew is no longer important and that they are ignorant about the new thing. And it is okay to be ignorant for a short while till one learns the new thing!
It doesn’t really matter whether we are recruiting in US, India or Japan. The fact that we are looking for qualities of energy, passion and curiosity has to be brought out in the interview process. We bring the cultural nuance at the forefront of the recruiting process. And typically people with these set of qualities usually stand out in all cultures and it’s easy to recognize them.  
And I have had conversations with some of these people within one month of their joining. What they tell me is that the reason why they joined us is that they were looking for the kind of organization that feeds their hunger, that doesn’t curb curiosity, and that stretches and supports them to take on big challenges which you don’t find it easily. So then it’s a good match!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

In a global world, do cultural differences really matter?

Most of you will disagree with what I’m about to say… but hear me out !!

I think we have to be careful about making the assumption that cultural nuances are so important that they negate business logic and rationality and a systematic way of doing things. So I would actually argue that this cultural conversation … in the geographic sense of culture and nationality vs. organizational culture… has become a bit too much.

If you walk into any one of our offices across the various regions globally , meet our people who are local people in the US, India, Japan, UK or Guatemala to name a few – you will realize that they all talk the same language , behave the same way in a range of situations , deal with clients the same way ….. Fundamentally have the same core VALUES !! . So you would probably scratch your head and say where are the cultural nuances?

Reality is that corporations and culture of corporations which are strong and well-ingrained cut across geographic cultural differences. Similarly, if the business value proposition and the solutions that we offer are strong and unique, they will cut across the cultural nuances. This is normally different from what we would expect to hear or believe or are taught via cross cultural models.

Having said that, there are certain cultural nuances that we need to keep in mind when conducting business in certain countries. For instance, we measure client satisfaction through the Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology which is basically asking clients to rate our performance, the value we drive etc. on a scale of 1 to 10 where a score of 9 - 10 means you’re a promoter, 8 means you like me but are not ready to promote me yet, and a score of 6 or less means you are a detractor.

Talking about a specific instance in Germany – we saw a score of 6 (a detractor) and asked our client why she didn’t like our service. So the client's response was– “No! We love you guys and its great service! And that’s why I gave a score of 6!!” So we don’t easily get a score of more than 6 in Germany. Same story in Japan.

So I would say that while certain cultural nuances are important, but saying that a strong business value proposition doesn’t work across cultures is not correct. So we have to be careful that we don’t get overtaken by an excuse that something doesn’t work in a culture.

In the new world , with the combination of technology, social media , the hyper connected world , media , telecommunications and global travel – we cannot expect cultures to remain so distinct or in silos. There is significant inter-mingling particularly in the business world for sure and the language of business transformation and change is the same language.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Gender Diversity – Not just a tick in the box!!

If someone was to draw up a list of the top 5 priorities that companies are expected to focus on… I guarantee you that somewhere in the middle, right after ‘meet financial commitments’ and possibly before ‘data privacy & compliance’, we would see the words ‘gender diversity’.

It’s one of those things that organizations are supposed to solve for. We train for unconscious bias, strive for inclusive leadership, run sponsorship programs, set up diversity councils, track promotion and recruitment targets (while treading the thin line between ‘tracking’ and ‘quotas’!!) and finally write blogs on this topic J As cynical as my tone may sound right now, I do believe all of that is important.

But there is something else… that’s even more important than being focused on gender diversity. And that’s understanding why it is important to be focused on gender diversity. Sure it’s the correct and fair thing to do and plays a big role in being an equal opportunity employer. But as the CEO of the company, those are not the only drivers I consider when crafting company priorities.

Fact of the matter is that having women in leadership positions makes better business sense. Data proves that that gender diversity improves financial and talent performance.

Research from The Catalyst and NCWIT shows that companies with the most women board directors outperformed those with the least on return on sales by 16% and return on invested capital by 26%. Companies with the highest representation of women in their senior management teams had a 35% higher return to shareholders. On talent performance parameters, women outperformed men on 12 of 16 measures of outstanding leadership competencies as rated by managers, peers and direct reports. Also, a better diversity climate is related to lower attrition rates for both women and men.

At Genpact, our data shows that business verticals with more than 10% women in leadership roles grew significantly faster than those with the least women. On talent retention parameters, businesses verticals with a higher percentage of women in leadership roles did a better job of retaining other women compared to businesses with a fewer number of women.

And for these reasons as well as other reasons including the fact that clients are interested in how diverse we are, diversity is connected positively with innovation and an increase in women has been linked to a group’s effectiveness in solving difficult problems, we drive gender diversity even harder as a business-critical mission vs. a “nice-to-do”.

Our recruitment teams have aggressive goals of ensuring balanced representation of women in the talent funnel, our leadership development programs target at least 40% representation from women and our promotion data shows that we promoted twice the number of women vs men as a % of their populations/overall last year… obviously driven by pure merit but tracked to see how we’re doing. And finally, our operating teams drive our robust family-friendly policies like flexi-timings, work from home, day care facility, security measures and stork parking to make life easier for women which helps them focus on what’s important.

The results of these efforts are encouraging but far from where we want to be – 16% of our leadership (VP+) are women while representation is at 38% for the VP and below … while these numbers are on the higher side in certain geographies, globally we still have a long way to go. But it’s a fantastic indicator that we’re on the right path to creating a more powerful team that helps us meet our business goals.

And really – at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about. Not that there are any public naysayers out there… but this should be an eye opener for the closet skeptics who think driving gender diversity is a just a tick in the box.