Unprecedented Crisis Is an Opportunity To Make a New Beginning: Milind Lakkad, TCS

In the recent conversation with BW People, Milind Lakkad, E- VP, and CHRO, TCS shared his valuable insights and initiatives about how gamification helped in engagement; talked on the future of hiring canvas; and how would the role of leaders change in the new normal.


We witnessed trends like virtual hiring, remote working, remote internships, digital reskilling during this pandemic. Do you think these will continue even in the post COVID world?

The present scenario has empowered the world to fast-track digital developments through innovative solutioning in a sustainable manner, and the strong infrastructure for virtual hiring, remote working, remote internships and digital reskilling have been designed. These best practices are certain to become an integral part of hiring and learning in the future, of course with the right tech-touch balance to ensure we don’t lose or dilute the impact & experience. From early March this year, we have gone completely virtual, enabling 290+ remote internships and have been fine-tuning our process and making to more relevant and effective for our stakeholders.

Our major focus has always been campus and fresh talent for which we have specific programs like Codevita, the TCS National Qualifier Test (TNQT), Launchpad 2021, which have gone digital in these unprecedented times.

What is the situation with hiring in this current scenario?

Campus and fresh talent have always been a major focus for TCS. We have just successfully completed the India phase of Codevita Season 9, which saw a 40% increase in registration as compared to the previous year, with an overall registration of 3.4 lakhs. This year, we hosted live simulation of coding practices to nurture and upskill the students through MockVita which saw a record participation of more than 1 lakh students.

We are also planning the TCS National Qualifier Test (TNQT) in the coming months, to identify fresh talent and invite them to be part of the dynamic team at TCS. An exclusive channel Launchpad 2021 has also been designed for 2,35,000+ students from 1500 colleges across India around digital learnings and technology mindshare. To nurture these students, we are organizing webinars, digital podcasts, challenges, and technology mind-shares units.

On the lateral hiring front, we have maneuvered over the pandemic situation by adapting to a completely virtual experience for the candidates. We have adopted a focused hiring strategy to meet our continuous business growth demands and we are ensuring that we continue to be the top brand of choice for the job seekers in the market.

How has a company of your size transitioned into the new normal so quickly? How challenging was it to switch from office to work from anywhere culture within days?

We at TCS embarked on our ‘Enterprise Agile 2020’ strategy three years ago. COVID-19 presented us an opportunity to simply extend the Open-Agile-Collaborative-Workspaces thinking to operate in a ‘Borderless’ environment beyond the office boundaries and thus born our Secure Borderless Workspaces model™. The foundations laid in TCS in the last few years helped us to accelerate the shift to move to SBWS™. As a result, within a matter of weeks, remote working was enabled for 95% of TCSers through the SBWS™ model. We have approached it from 3 different perspectives – providing associates with the right kinds of tools and technical support to connect and collaborate with customers, peers, and managers; mentor them to manage their time effectively when working from home, and provide counseling support to associates in need. The work structures have not changed. There is surely a change in the way people interact with each other – the intensity of digital collaboration has gone up and become a way of life. The support and commitment of every TCSer to maintain business continuity have helped us continue to deliver success.

Given the importance of staying connected during these unprecedented times, how are you ensuring that you are engaging with employees and keeping their morale high?

Our priority has been to safeguard the health and well-being of our associates. In line with this vision, we set up first-line COVID Isolation centers within TCS Premises at 11 cities across the country. We have reimagined the talent ecosystem for learning, talent management, and employee engagement processes. Keeping up the morale of our employees during these times was extremely important. We initiated multiple initiatives in the wellness category which focused on the resilience and adaptability of the associates ensuring their physical and psychological wellbeing. We also have self -help and counseling resources for employees. Additionally, we have set up 900+ Virtual HR Bays that provides a vibrant platform for associates to connect with their HRs. In order to enhance employee connect and collaboration, we launched the OneTCS channel within the company. A slew of sessions such as yoga sessions, live cooking sessions, talk sessions with inspirational leaders, virtual town halls with the leadership takes place on this channel.

We have also reimagined the process of learning and upskilling for employees with the rollout of virtual leadership and soft skills programs, global Virtual Hackathons, virtual breakout rooms, digital whiteboards, Menti-meters, Peer tagging, Simulation, Online Games etc.

How has gamification helped hiring and employee engagement at TCS?

Gamification has always been an integral part of TCS’ hiring fabric – be it the fresher hiring through Codevita and Campus Commune or lateral hiring through hackathons. Hackathons and skill contests are welcomed greatly by the experienced talent who enjoy showcasing their talent in a good competitive environment. TCS has been actively leveraging these channels to spot, engage and hire the best talent. We have used this repository of channels to its fullest potential to engage across courses and achieve skill-based learning and hiring. Our gaming experience has won awards from leading organizations.

Codevita with a multi-round framework is a global coding challenge for young talent and helps us identify top programming talent from across the globe. It provides students an opportunity to battle it out with fellow students and hone their skills simultaneously. This year we have received 3.4 lakh registrations, the volume itself speaks how gamification is redefining hiring.

Campus Commune, a social and professional networking platform for the student community. It is designed keeping young talent in mind and through it, students can participate in multiple challenges, contests, debates, webinars and discussion forums for which they receive badges and bounty points.

You as the leader, what values or skills do you think one must have specially to survive and win in the post-COVID world?

While it has been an unprecedented crisis, it has also been an opportunity to make a ‘New Beginning’. We have embraced these challenging times and looked at what we could learn from this situation and what we can use going forward positively for our organisation, our people and our customers.

It is important to understand that the new work order will be propelled by the establishment of highly distributed, location-independent work models. The emergence of Talent Clouds – a concept that pairs a business’s talent need with people based anywhere in the world paves the way for organizations to derive exponential value through maximizing opportunities and embracing risk.

Reimagining the talent ecosystem to embrace the future of work and building resilient, adaptable, purpose-driven organizations is what will help us thrive in the post COVID world.

What is that one thing that kept you going through these trying times?

Belief in our ability to adapt to the unprecedented times, backed by the confidence we have in our associates and their contextual knowledge is what kept us going through these trying times.

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