Infosys Limited aims to achieve what it calls “zero distance” among its employees and clients.
It is a ground-up approach to ensure that every employee is at zero distance to the end-user or to the underlying technology, for instance, and, ultimately, to a positive experience with the Infosys brand.
The approach focuses on the principle that whether working side-by-side with the customer’s customer or thousands of miles apart, each employee must close the psychological distance and become personally invested and empowered to find the right problems and even better solutions that foster innovation.
Essentially, this means that its 200,000 workers can effectively collaborate regardless of their physical proximity to each another. It also means that the organization can move talent to where it’s needed most in the organization any time.
That’s no small feat for a multinational company of this size, but the India-based consulting, IT, and outsourcing services provider has a clear-cut plan to accomplish its goal.
And, like many plans to implement significant change, this undertaking was borne of necessity, says Richard Lobo, executive vice president and head of HR at Infosys Ltd.
“About five years ago, we realized we needed to look at talent in a different way. We recognized that what made us successful before would not necessarily hold for the future,” says Lobo.
For example, there were substantial external shifts occurring in the industry, the marketplace, and the global economy that would force Infosys to reinvent the way it deploys talent.
In the past, the company’s talent was primarily based in India and deployed globally as needed. Changes in how countries viewed immigration, however, presented barriers to moving employees easily to different parts of the world.
Infosys also saw a gap in tech workers’ proficiency in terms of certain skills such as experience with artificial intelligence, analytics, and big data, that were increasingly in demand. Consumer behavior had evolved as well, with technology changing how quickly organizations must react to meet customer needs.
In the wake of all of this, the organization’s goal was to create an internal talent market that enabled access to and the smooth transfer of, critical knowledge and talent throughout Infosys. This process, Lobo says, is ongoing and very fluid.
Past research by the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) underscores the value and importance of creating an environment in which talent, information, and ideas flow freely.
Consider i4cp’s Talent Mobility Matters study, which found that high-performance organizations are much more focused on fostering formal cultures of talent mobility, which i4cp defines as “rapidly and strategically identifying, developing, and deploying talent to meet the needs of the business, customer requirements, and the aspirations of employees.” These organizations are two times more likely to prioritize the movement of talent, and almost half (47%) of them have a clearly articulated process for talent mobility.
More recently, i4cp’s study on agility, The Three A’s of Organizational Agility: Reinvention Through Disruption , reinforces the importance of talent mobility. For example, we identified fluidity of talent and knowledge across the enterprise to address areas of emerging need and opportunity as one of the five traits of agile leaders and organizations to emerge from this research.
Infosys is well on its way to developing this type of mobile, internal talent market. Talent segmentation has been and will remain a key piece of the puzzle.
Identifying the influencers
In recent years, Infosys made significant strides to better understand its talent community—various skill sets, professional experience, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds, for instance—and recognized that different employee populations have diverse goals and needs.
A crucial first step was the decision to look within the organization’s internal network to find a core group of influencers who would enable the open sharing and exchange of ideas. These influencers would also help Infosys create a more collaborative, connected workforce.
Infosys encourages employees to connect and share insights via several internal social platforms such as Yammer, TV, Lex—the learning hub. The HR team sought to identify approximately 2,000 employees who, based on the contributions they made and the behaviors they demonstrated in the internal social sphere, would serve as key opinion leaders and vital resources for their peers via social channels.
The organization wasn’t simply searching for employees with the most friends or followers. Influencers were chosen based on the behaviors they demonstrated in internal social network interactions—how they expressed opinions and provided feedback or input on projects or topics—and how their peers viewed them.
“We went and asked employees who their influencers were within Infosys,” says Nanjappa B.S., vice president and head of employee relations at Infosys. “We conducted a survey asking employees who they thought the key influencers were within the organization; individuals who were experts on a particular technology, skill, or subject, for example. We then ran an algorithm through an internal tool to identify these influencers.”
Infosys was also careful to define influencer clearly for employees, adds Nanjappa.
“We wanted to make sure people understood that it could be an opinion or thought leader, or it could be a high performer,” he says. “Or it could just be someone who is really good at things outside of work and brought that passion to Infosys. We took all of that into consideration and asked employees who the influencers are in their world, both within their location and within their business unit.”
Preparing today’s workers for tomorrow’s roles
These key thought leaders within the organization are helping to shape the organization’s always on learning agenda, which is designed to spur continuous improvement and innovation through building and transferring digital skills, expertise, and ideas within the Infosys talent ecosystem.
That agenda includes reskilling and upskilling employees to ensure they have the capabilities needed to deliver on client needs now and in the future. With this goal in mind, the HR team has built a list of skills and capabilities that will be required for every role in the organization over the next three to five years. The core philosophy is to democratize innovation through zero distance by getting every employee invested in it and help them to navigate to their next.
The team has also created learning paths that enable employees to acquire the skills needed for their position in the near future, as well as other internal jobs that might be of interest to them now or sometime down the road.
Naturally, one of the primary aims of this effort is to strengthen the aforementioned talent ecosystem, creating a network in which employees can share their insights and innovative ideas as a way to help their peers solve problems in their jobs. But it’s also a way for the HR team to identify where competency and knowledge gaps exist within the organization, and help employees acquire the skills needed for their roles now and in the future.
Ultimately, Infosys wants to create a holistic view of the employee experience, and to ensure that workers understand what it takes to achieve their aspirations—finding opportunities within the organization and knowing what’s required to seize them, says Nanjappa.
“Our employee value proposition is straightforward. We want employees to know that we’re invested in their emotional, career, and financial well-being,” he says. “We believe we’ve created a kind of revolution in the organization, and we have created many new-age talent engagement models. It’s important to create a next generation that our people want to be part of, and we want to be a great place to work in all the geographies we work in.”
Achieving Zero Distance
Infosys wanted to create a work environment in which its 200,000 employees could easily and effectively collaborate and freely share ideas and knowledge throughout the organization regardless of their proximity. The organization took a few key steps to accomplish what it calls “zero distance” to its clients.
Find influencers and opinion leaders
The Infosys HR team conducted an in-depth scan of its internal social network, identifying key influencers to serve as thought leaders who would enable the open sharing of ideas. These influencers were selected based on the behaviors they demonstrated in internal social network interactions—how they expressed opinions and provided feedback or input on projects or topics, and, importantly, how their peers viewed them.
Put data to work
Relying on the data gleaned during its search for influencers, the HR team conducted an analysis of its internal social network. Based on what they found, this group subsequently built lists of skills and capabilities that will be required for each role within the organization over the next three to five years.
Navigate your next move
Aligned to the organization strategy, the HR team has also created learning paths that enable employees to acquire the skills needed for their position in the near future, as well as other internal jobs that might be of interest to them now or sometime down the road. The goal of this effort was to create a network in which employees can share their insights and innovative ideas to help their peers solve problems in their jobs. But it also enabled Infosys to identify where competency and knowledge gaps exist within the organization, and help employees acquire the skills needed for their roles now and in the future.
Get leaders on board
Leader support and buy-in to experiment has been critical to succeeding in this effort, of course. Gaining access to and a strong relationship with the IT function is important as well, as is access to digital internal data. This is all helpful in creating the skills inventory as well as mining internal social networks for employee sentiment as well as updated skills—which might be found via a LinkedIn profile, for example. essentially, use skills and talents in a borderless fashion.