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HCL has always used bold and revo-lutionary ideas when it comes to people

management. For a start, the company has an inverted pyramid structure. Says
DK Srivastava, Head of Corporate Human Resources, “At the time when we first
coined the ‘Employee First’ mantra, it was an almost unthinkable concept. We
believed and continue to believe that if your employees are happy, then they will
provide the best possible service to your customers. We have a program called
‘Destroy the CEO office’ -- articulating the idea that employees need to act like
they do not need a CEO.” These are the extremes to which the company wants
to promote employee empowerment. The concept of empowerment is the basis
for talent identification and grooming at HCL.

Empowering people is engrained in the HCL culture and is attached to

responsibility and accountability. “We empower our employees at all levels as
we feel that empowerment is an intrinsic way of identifying leaders and
developing their capabilities,” says DK Srivastava.

Take the example of current CEO, Vineet Nayar. Vineet joined HCL in 1985 from
XLRI as a management trainee and joined the sales team and was a star
performer year after year. Even then he was restless; he thought that his
capabilities were not utilized at full capacity. He could see and conceptualize
where the future was going in the area of networking and how the overall
concept of connectivity will change completely in the coming years. He had an
idea and the passion to make it successful. HCL supported him in starting a
company that is today the infrastructure service division of HCL. He became the
CEO of that company with only 5 and a half years of working experience; he was
thinking ahead of his time and HCL supported him in achieving those dreams.
“That is what leadership identification is all about: spotting the right talent and
giving full empowerment with responsibility and accountability”, says D.K.

“From the 80s we have nurtured a culture where you can be a leader at any time
if you have an idea and you have the passion. The organization is a total merit
based hierarchy.”
At HCL, there is a process of identifying talent using information from different
sources. Performance on the job is a key input and so is participation in various
initiatives that happen across the company. The company uses 360-degree
assessment and assessment panels to arrive at a final list that it calls the “O2

The O2 League is an exclusive league that recognizes the achievements of

extraordinary individuals who have been outstanding performers and have
potential for leadership. The members of O2 League are employees who have
made an impact on the organization, have focused on results, have
demonstrated good work ethos, have shown the willingness to go the extra mile,
and have been rated ‘Outstanding’ for 2 consecutive years.

Employees who are identified as part of this group are given the empowerment
to choose their career options. Again this is not driven by the management but
mostly by the individual. The organization only facilitates this process by
providing access to opportunities, information, training and mentoring to aid in
achieving the employee’s objective at a faster rate. The O2 League has around
2300 employees at any given time, from different levels.

Says DK Srivastava, “These people are challenged continuously to deserve being

in that league. From this talent base of the O2 league, we look for people with
demonstrable thought leadership for our ‘blue ocean initiatives’ -- setting up new
business verticals or venture in business areas that nobody has ventured before.
We push this elite group to drive the change. These are the real leaders, those
that are able to drive thought leadership and not because someone managing a
team of x number of people.

These people are normally employees that have an uncommon approach to a

common problem and/or portray normal behaviour in an abnormal condition. We
look for people who think differently. The 18 months during the downturn, for
instance, has helped us identify people who are able to convert threats into

The process of identifying these leaders is as follows:

1. Consistency and continuity over time, based on observation of behaviours over

time and not just incident driven.
2. Information from the performance management process and from the 360
degree feedback is also used to add a different perspective into the assessment
3. Different interactions, formal or informal also help in identifying potential and
put some people under the scanner.

To provide learning opportunities, HCL has created what they call the ‘The Top
Gun Next Generation Leadership Academy’ whose vision is to create world class
leaders at HCL and build and support its leadership pipeline. The Academy has a
number of approaches to leadership development, from the classical ‘intellectual
construct’ -- traditional classroom-based instruction guided by academics with a
research and teaching orientation to the modern action-oriented experiential
learning mechanisms.

HCL focuses on getting the best qualities out of people, by providing them the
bigger picture and facilitating people to find the energy from within. Leaders are
mentored from a distance and encouraged to take their own decisions.

As DK Srivastava puts it, “Programs are easy to run, initiatives can be followed
as task lists but what matters is the philosophy behind the curtain. We believe
that leaders need to be spotted from the groups and then groomed and given
exposure to grow. You cannot create leaders by sending them to top business
schools. You first spot leaders and then send them to top business schools to
get the right exposure.”