I have been personally involved in and driven an engagement by tier 2 leadership during my tenure at Tech Mahindra in Mumbai. The Chandivali office near Powai, fully owned by Tech Mahindra has a capacity to house around 2000 software professionals. With a huge campus at Hinjewadi, Pune with a capacity of 10,000 and more expansion being planned, juicier projects were being moved to that location. Hiring in Mumbai was not happening as much and clearly it was a fiscal decision that any prudent management would make. However, morale was dipping amongst the troops at Mumbai. Rumours were floating thick and fast that Mumbai would be closed down and everyone would either have to move to Hinjewadi or leave.
The fact that the IT services industry was facing a slow down around that time did not help either. Salary raises were either not generous or nonexistent in some cases. Liberal perks were being re-examined and amended downwards where feasible. All decisions that any prudent management would take when you are focussed on the market and building shareholder value.
So in a nutshell we had a bunch of some 2000 associates who believed that they were being done in by the “management”!!
It was in this scenario that we constituted the Mumbai Center Council of handpicked leaders from within the Mumbai office. It was a cross section comprising young and experienced and from across functions and projects. Almost everyone in the Council subscribed to and believed in a set of views and values that are outlined below.
- We don’t require external stimuli to be happy
- We have within and amongst us sufficient empowerment to make a positive change in the environment we work in and amongst the people who work for / with us.
- We will continuously seek out and highlight the positives amongst us and our immediate environment
- We will through our genuine and personal positive behaviour attempt to infect others positively
- We will do whatever is necessary to encourage activity, communication and participation amongst associates to foster a positive culture.
Something along the above lines was created as an unofficial charter of the Mumbai Center Council which was constantly reinforced in every meeting during the initial days. I along with some of my colleagues played an active role in ensuring ongoing reinforcements. When a positive vortex of energy like this is created, it does enlarge and takes within its fold more and more people and soon the positivity tends to spread.
One of my all time favourite lines has been, “YOU ARE ALWAYS HAPPY IN THE ABSOLUTE AND MISERABLE IN COMPARISON”. (We are not Gods and at times the comparison demon does rear its ugly head to bite us) What this in essence means is that we in the IT industry are relatively well off compared to our brethren in other industries. In absolute terms we should be and are happy. It is only when we compare with our neighbours, friends and colleagues that the unhappiness starts to seep in. Having said that each individual is made differently and his / her circumstances are different. So without generalizing much, we can safely say that if we have our health and if we have our job there is every reason to be happy.
And if we operate from this state of happiness that is fairly unconditional we will be able to transmit and infect others with it; which is what the Mumbai Center Council at Tech Mahindra did. We re-energized the JOSH team (the in-house fun and games group) and soon there were a slew of activities across the office. We instituted several new forums around bringing external speakers into the office (Chai & Why), encouraging book reading (Book Reading Club), ensuring that every employee gets to know more about the company (Virtual Sales Force) etc.
The Council ensured that employees were encouraged to attend external partner meets and IT summits by using a series of invitations that were landing up in senior leaders’ mailboxes but not being used. Practices to Catch People Doing right were introduced by encouraging second line managers to use up awards instituted by HR but not being given away for lack of time and effort.
The Council also did regular web based chats with all employees to understand issues related to administration, facilities, premises etc and fixed it. During these chats and also during All Hands meets we took questions about the location viability and answered honestly and sincerely. All of this was regularly communicated via mailers and intranet portal based updates to all.
At the end of the day it is impossible to make everyone happy and positive in a group of 2000 people. But by any standards we succeeded wildly in our efforts and over 6 months we could see a perceptible shift in attitude and spirit of the Mumbai associates at Tech Mahindra.
That year Tech Mahindra Mumbai won the award for the Best Center Council – to me just a by product!!
Anyway, coming back, to me the Center Council was a subset of the tier 2 core team that the top leadership should create and nurture to be able to reach out to the masses and create the high touch that is so necessary in a people oriented business such as the IT services business. It is the responsibility of the leadership to infuse this core team with the belief and the passion for onward transmission to the larger mass.
I have not said anything very different or special from what we all know anyway, but just provided some examples from my own experience to illustrate that it does work if the intent is genuine and the efforts are well directed.