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Wipro's abhijit bhaduri on preparing talent for tomorrow's challengest
Wipro's abhijit bhaduri on preparing talent for tomorrow's challengest
Wipro's abhijit bhaduri on preparing talent for tomorrow's challengest
Wipro's abhijit bhaduri on preparing talent for tomorrow's challengest
Wipro's abhijit bhaduri on preparing talent for tomorrow's challengest
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Wipro's abhijit bhaduri on preparing talent for tomorrow's challengest


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"Today's ""learning organization"" focuses on much more than skills …

"Today's ""learning organization"" focuses on much more than skills
development. It looks at empowering employees to work in multiple locations and cultural settings and to apply insights across different industry verticals"

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  • 1. Wipros Abhijit Bhaduri on Preparing Talent for Tomorrows Challenges: India Knowledge@Wharton( Abhijit Bhaduri on Preparing Talent for Tomorrows ChallengesPublished : November 18, 2010 in India Knowledge@WhartonTodays "learning organization" focuses on much more than skillsdevelopment. It looks at empowering employees to work in multiple locationsand cultural settings and to apply insights across different industry verticals,says Abhijit Bhaduri, chief learning officer at IT services firm Wipro inBangalore. In a conversation with India Knowledge@Wharton and Ravi Aron,senior fellow at Whartons Mack Center for Technological Innovation, Bhaduridiscusses the relationship between Wipros corporate strategy and corporatelearning initiatives and shares his ideas on how managers can help employeesfind a larger relevance for their work.An edited version of the conversation follows:India Knowledge@Wharton: Abhijit, thank you so much for joining ustoday. The question I would love to explore with you is the relationshipbetween Wipros corporate strategy and corporate learning initiatives. This is a single/personal use copy of India Knowledge@Wharton. For multiple copies, custom reprints, e-prints, postersAbhijit Bhaduri: All learning strategies try and address three [sets of] or plaques, please contact PARS International: P.questions. One is what is going to be the shape of the business in a (212) 221-9595 x407.three-year or four-year timeframe? What is going to change? What aregoing to be the [areas] in which we will play? The second question is: If that is really what businessis going to look like, what will it take to succeed? If you have answered one and two then your thirdlogical question is: If this is what people need to learn in order to succeed, how do we make surethat they are able to have that? How do we make them learn these skills?India Knowledge@Wharton: Could you give me some specific examples of how this works atWipro?Bhaduri: One of the ways in which we are going expand is to go with a localized talent pool in somemarkets, which means we are going to have to work very hard to assimilate people into the Wiproway of working and yet draw on the advantage of what you get when you get a lot of people comingin from the outside.The second [aspect] is in the technology as it is emerging. There is a fair bit of change that happensbecause we work with a variety of partners [and] a variety of clients. How do we get people to keep theirtechnical skills completely up-to-date? [We have] a huge engine which works on increasing the technicalcompetency of people at all levels. We have a huge focus on developing project management skillsbecause that is the crux of what we do. We have looked at creating a multifunction, multi-geography, andmulti-business approach towards developing our leaders. One of the ways in which the leaders role isgoing to change is to work with a multi-generational workforce, and thats not a skill that is taught in mostplaces. How do you work with people who are substantially younger or older than you? That is going todetermine success or failure, because as we are getting into different markets, the profile of the workforceis very, very different.India Knowledge@Wharton: As you have gone about implementing your learning strategies, haveyou found any particular aspect of it that has worked beyond your expectations and performedextremely well? What lessons have you learned through that experience?Bhaduri: Leadership development is something we have been doing for the past many years. Theproof of that is we have grown our own leaders. If you look at the average tenure of people at thetop, we do have people who have been there for 15, 20 and 25 years. I think it has worked very well   All materials copyright of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.                    Page 1 of 5 
  • 2. Wipros Abhijit Bhaduri on Preparing Talent for Tomorrows Challenges: India Knowledge@Wharton(, we do have people who have been there for 15, 20 and 25 years. I think it has worked very wellfor us. But strategically at senior levels, we also bring in people from the outside -- either because itis [about] technology we havent worked with or it is a skill we dont have in-house. Or, sometimesconsciously you want to get in somebody with a different mindset.But historically one of the things that we have done well is we have given people leadershipresponsibilities when they have been 65% ready -- the [remaining] 35% the person will pick up on thejob as you try out different things and you hone and shape your own leadership style. That approach hasworked well.Going forward we would also need to have people who can [ask]: "Where can you shorten thedevelopment cycle?" You dont have the luxury of change happening over three, four, five or six years soyou give people enough time to evolve and change their leadership styles. But you have to consciouslyshape it and work with them to make sure that they are ready as the need arises.India Knowledge@Wharton: To what degree do you use technology as part of your learninginitiatives? Where do you think technology is the most effective? Which problems have you foundthat technology cant really solve?Bhaduri: When you look at building peoples technical competencies or project management skills,clearly technology can sharpen that skill development dramatically. You can stream a real-lifeproblem that somebody is trying to solve in some part of the world and have a bunch of peoplelearn about that. When there are geographically dispersed populations and they are not largeenough in number, it is easier to do it on the web and yet have people stay current. Places where wehave not really been able to leverage technology a huge amount but we use that as a blendedapproach is [around] leadership development where we think people learn as they watch leaders.So thats a place where we have used the philosophy of leaders build leaders. We do have oursenior leaders coming in and talking about their own experiences, the choices that they were facedwith, and they debate that.Ravi Aron: You have a lot of experience in corporate India spanning a wide range of industriesfrom consumer goods to product technology companies such as Microsoft and now as thepre-eminent services firm in India. You have a window on how Indian managers learn and some oftheir deficiencies. It has been often noted that Indian companies do not invest sufficiently intraining their senior and upper-level managers. What are your thoughts? What are thedeficiencies? What are some observations that you would like to make?Bhaduri: We have different cultures that are predominantly geared toward a certain style oflearning. In India we use the story-telling method a lot more [than other methods]. Therefore,people tend to learn better when they are told a story rather than be given a book, which they readup and come into a classroom.When you look at the opportunities today, you have to use technology because we have people from 55nationalities. You cannot gear your learning strategy only to address one particular nationality because itis not going to work. We have diverse customers. We have diverse problems. We have diversenationalities of employees to work with.As we are bringing in more people, we are trying to experiment a lot more with technology and withmuch more structured learning approaches than we have done in the past. No one method works wellregardless of nationality, which means that we spend a lot of time on mentoring people or a lot of timegiving feedback. Feedback is one of the best ways [to] shorten the development curve.Ravi Aron: If you take a company like Wipro and some of its peers, about seven years ago it wasabout training Indians to understand European and American business context and culture. Buttoday your client engagement managers are drawn from a widely diverse pool -- from Europe,Australia, America and India. So there is also some of that reverse learning of folks that are not ofIndian origin learning about the huge delivery capability that resides in India. How does that work?Bhaduri: As the world becomes smaller and you look at a common pool of employees drawn from adiverse set of countries and experiences, it is less about just the inputs; it is also about creating   All materials copyright of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.                    Page 2 of 5 
  • 3. Wipros Abhijit Bhaduri on Preparing Talent for Tomorrows Challenges: India Knowledge@Wharton( in which these different styles are allowed to interplay with each other and people learnfrom each other. If you look at all social learning theories, they say people learn as much fromlooking at somebody else doing the right thing as they learn from a text book. We think that this isreally what has changed.So when people come in from Western countries and work with Indians, they learn how to work with a lotmore ambiguity and a lot less structure. When Indians work with people in many other countries that area lot more structured and sequential, they learn the value of putting structure down in their own work, intheir planning, their delivery and their articulation.Ravi Aron: You mentioned those two styles, which lead me to a thought about strategy. All the bigIndian service providers increasingly find the need to swim upstream, cross-sell and up-sell, andintervene at a more strategic level with a client because the IBMs and Accentures are comingdownstream and hugely increasing their supply footprint in India. So what are the challenges for acompany like Wipro? How does learning play into meeting those challenges? How does learningplay into helping Wipro intervene at a higher strategic level and up-sell and cross-sell services andtake it beyond labor arbitrage?Bhaduri: I think that is a terrific question. The opportunity really lies in first of all looking at theconsumerization of technology, which basically means that that there is no such thing asbusiness-to-business selling any more. Eventually there is a customer, a consumer, somewhere atthe end. So the quicker you are able to visualize that, the more your technology is going to becomeconsumer friendly and, therefore, easier to sell.Business is no longer going to lie in silos. Lets say you are talking about healthcare or mobile technologyor entertainment. The moment you start thinking of an intersection of all three, you have a hugeopportunity for a new kind of a business. What it also means is [that] we as service providers need to beable to understand that unmet need of the consumer we can address. It is important to understand what ishappening in all the adjacent technologies surrounding your system. How can something which ishappening in automobiles give me a better insight in terms of developing something for a client inconsumer electronics?Ravi Aron: What you said just now is about drawing insights from best practices in anotherindustry -- absorbing it deeply and then applying it back to strategy formulation in your companyscontext. It has often been said that managers whose focus has been principally on operation andexecution metrics tend to limit their learning to information acquisition and tangible skillacquisition. [However,] what you said are about insight, synthesis and deep understanding oftrends that you can reformulate for your own industry. What has been your experience in movingpeople away or beyond just the acquisition of skills and information towards developing insightthrough reflection and other issues that may be relevant here?Bhaduri: The managerial job at the end of the day is also about getting stuff done. So there is nodoubt that execution is always going to be at a premium. However, when you look at what am Igoing to execute against -- that strategy requires reflection. So the manager or the leader or anemployee at any level in the organization has to have the ability to get alternative ideas and toreflect on them, because without that reflection no change actually happens; you dont get insights.The more you are able to look at sharper details and the more you are able to look at patterns, youthen turn back and... find a business opportunity.Sometimes that kind of insight can be either serendipitously arrived at or it could be structured so thatpeople are trained to look for certain things. The whole notion of leadership development is going tomove beyond tangible pieces which people know and get enough training in. [It will move] into theintangible space, which is reflection, creating meaning, coaching people, developing talent -- all of whichis really around observing, giving feedback, sharing ideas and not jumping in with answers. The role ofthe leader is really about asking questions. So that is a shift. A lot of managers are really good at givingthe answers. How do we teach them to ask different questions?India Knowledge@Wharton: To take that point a little further, in a global market when you havepeople from a lot of different cultures who are interacting, how do you tailor your corporate   All materials copyright of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.                    Page 3 of 5 
  • 4. Wipros Abhijit Bhaduri on Preparing Talent for Tomorrows Challenges: India Knowledge@Wharton( efforts in ways that culture doesnt become an impediment? Do you find that certaincultures, for example, are more collaborative or more teamwork oriented and some are much morecompetitive? And, if thats the case, how do you manage the relationship between culture andlearning?Bhaduri: It is not something where we have been able to make huge headway. Going forward,[there are] two things we will need to tap into. One is around multi-geography. How can weleverage the nationality differential to build differential approaches, and [for] learning anddevelopment? The other piece is... how do we leverage a multi-generational workforce to look atdifferent styles of learning and what is it that we can do better through technology, throughexposure? Is there a matrix one can create to say that if nationality equals this and the age cohort isequal to this -- [will] this work well? We havent really found one. But as we do more and morework trying out alternatives, it is going to throw open patterns. Its still very elementary days andvery early days. We havent really reached any insight I can share.Ravi Aron: A recent report by a management consulting firm said about 25% of Indias engineersare probably employable in a premier services delivery company and the rest are not. They [weresaid to be] lacking in many skills. Wipro has been progressive in actually identifying intelligentpeople with a flair and aptitude for thinking and analytical skills even though they may not beengineers and in creating an in-house training and learning program of between one and four years-- to create your own skilled workforce. Tell us a little bit about the thinking behind that and whereyou see that going forward.Bhaduri: Look at the share of the GDP that gets spent on education in India. It is about 4%. To doa reasonable job, that ought to be about 6%. Clearly, this gap has to be bridged by the privatesector. The other piece is that having schools in itself is not enough because a number of thegovernment schools in India are notorious for their shoddy education output.We have been trying to intervene at multiple levels. We [have] a learn-and-earn program for four yearsduring which time [students] get their degree in engineering from one of the premier institutes. So whatyou are trying to do is to increase the employability of the pool in which you are fishing. The secondthing that we are trying to do through the [Azim Premji] Foundation is to develop the curriculum [and]coach teachers into being more effective. We do work in a large number of schools in the larger urbanareas, but over a span of time we want to take it to [other] areas.The third piece... is we have started [a] pilot in two states of India where we work with people who have acertain amount of skills. We not only bolster their technical skills but we also give them soft skillstraining. How do you attend and respond to an interview scenario? How do you articulate your ideasbetter? How do you come across as a confident person the employer feels [surer] about taking a bet on?To make sure we are doing a good job of that we make a commitment to [employ] 25% of the people weare educating. That keeps the pressure on within our system to ensure that we are delivering qualitybecause this is the set of people who are going to come back and work for us.Ravi Aron: You have made a pretty strong case for why training [workers] and giving them anengineering degree pays off. But very often in Indian companies somebody from the CFOs office, ifnot the CFO himself, will ask somebody from human resources, What is the return on investmenton learning? Show me the money. How should a chief learning officer respond?Bhaduri: Some of the tangible measures of learning are really the unimportant ones. Its a lot easierto measure those when you are talking [about] skills. The moment you talk about a philosophy --leadership is a philosophy with which you look at people, the organization and the society in whichyou operate - that philosophy is always going to be difficult to measure. But it is really thatphilosophy that helps people ultimately to find meaning in work. Or not find meaning in work. Thereason why somebody comes into work is because work is an opportunity for us to really fulfill ourdreams, to sharpen our own skills, to grow as human beings, and to try out and get exposure to aworld, which one has not seen before.Leadership is a method by which this happens. Therefore, each time that you interact with somebody inthe organization, that experience can be either meaningful or not meaningful. The purpose of leadership   All materials copyright of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.                    Page 4 of 5 
  • 5. Wipros Abhijit Bhaduri on Preparing Talent for Tomorrows Challenges: India Knowledge@Wharton( organization, that experience can be either meaningful or not meaningful. The purpose of leadershipdevelopment is to create a much higher purpose, which is to see... an economic purpose of theorganization, which is important, but beyond that there is a social purpose and there is an impact on thecommunity in which we operate. Thats ultimately going to be the differentiator between what is a goodorganization and what is not going to be a good organization because everybody is going to pay you asalary in return for work. There is no great insight in that.But the one way you are able to go beyond that completely tangible output into the intangible is to lookat... how it is making a difference in the community in which we operate. Those are really going to be themeasures that will be sustained over a span of time. Its going to be something that has to last beyond thequarterly results or the annual results. If I ask you for any firm, what [are] the quarterly results of that firmin 1990? You are not going to be able to tell me the answer. But did it make a difference in the world bydoing something, which really made a shift? Im sure everyone will know. And I think thats really whatone is talking about. Its not just CSR (corporate social responsibility) -- but its being able to give... eachindividual employee a canvas to make a difference. And thats tough. But that is really the role of theleader.India Knowledge@Wharton: I understand that Wipro has an interesting initiative based onconsortium-based learning. Could you explain what that is and how well it has worked for thecompany?Bhaduri: Sure. We have five or six companies with whom we partner. We have one consortiumwhich works at the international level and we have a domestic consortium as well. These are allfrom different industries so you have companies as diverse as Rio Tinto or Schneider Electric.When our executives and these senior leaders come together, they get common inputs. That cangive them a huge perspective because they get to see information and concepts not just from theirown worldview but in that consortium somebody may have already used that same strategy. Ifthere is information around how to do a product launch you would have completely differentexperiences of launching a pharmaceutical product [and] a cosmetics launch as compared toindustrial products.India Knowledge@Wharton: Abhijit, thank you so much for joining us today.Bhaduri: Thank you very much for having me.This is a single/personal use copy of India Knowledge@Wharton. For multiple copies, custom reprints, e-prints, posters or plaques, pleasecontact PARS International: P. (212) 221-9595 x407.   All materials copyright of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.                    Page 5 of 5