In Conversation With Sachin Khurana, Chief People Officer, Happiest Minds Technologies

The role of the People function is transformative, shaping the organization's trajectory by aligning human capital strategies with dynamic industry demands and proactively cultivating a workforce that not only meets but anticipates the challenges of the future says Khurana in this exclusive conversation with Krishnendra Joshi, Editorial Lead, BW People.


Can you describe your experience leading and transforming HR functions to support business growth? Could you provide an example of a specific transformation initiative you led and the impact it had on the organisation?

The paramount significance of individuals within a company, particularly in the dynamic landscape of the IT services industry, cannot be overstated. The role of the People function is pivotal in not only facilitating but also driving the achievement of organizational business objectives. It has transitioned from a mere operational or supportive function to one that is inherently strategic and value-enriching. In an industry where people are the ultimate differentiators in a fiercely competitive environment, the current business dynamics and evolving technology landscape underscore the critical importance of this transformation.

Over the recent years, the Human Resources (HR) function has emerged as a key contributor to the success of our organization. This is evidenced through a multitude of strategic initiatives, particularly in navigating the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The adaptability and resilience demonstrated by the People function across organizations during this period were instrumental in ensuring the continuity of operations while prioritizing the well-being of our workforce.

Furthermore, recognizing the imperative to stay ahead in the ever-evolving tech ecosystem, our organization, among others, invested substantial efforts in upscaling and reskilling programs. These initiatives were designed to guarantee that our employees possess the requisite skills and competencies to remain relevant amidst technological advancements. The proactive stance taken in this regard not only fortified our organizational capabilities but also positioned us at the forefront of industry innovation.

The contribution of the People function extends beyond immediate challenges, actively supporting organizational growth. This is exemplified through strategic investments in people's capability development, the orchestration of large-scale change management initiatives, and the overall establishment of a robust foundation for the next phase of organizational growth.

In essence, the role of the People function is transformative, shaping the organization's trajectory by aligning human capital strategies with dynamic industry demands and proactively cultivating a workforce that not only meets but anticipates the challenges of the future.

Given your expertise in talent acquisition, how do you approach identifying and attracting top talent in the highly competitive IT and technology industry?

Over the years, I've observed a noteworthy evolution in candidates' attitudes toward their employer relationships. The traditional model of a lifelong commitment to a single company has shifted, and today's professionals are more inclined to explore new opportunities even at the slightest sign of disengagement. In the contemporary landscape, candidates are exceptionally well-informed and thoroughly researched, often possessing insights about a company and its people that surpass the knowledge of recruiters.

In response to this dynamic environment, we prioritize tangible, on-the-ground actions that reflect our commitment to fostering an open, transparent, and performance-driven culture within our organization. Our overarching mission centered around "Happiest People, Happiest Customers," guides our approach. Distinguishing us in the fiercely competitive IT industry are our impressive Glassdoor ratings, our esteemed Great Place to Work Rankings, our thought leadership in technology, our remarkable growth journey, and our ambitious vision to achieve the status of a $1 billion company by 2031.

Despite the prevailing macroeconomic challenges, we maintain a distinctive position as one of the few companies actively hiring. We demonstrate our commitment to growth by investing in the expansion of our location facilities, creating an environment ready to welcome new team members. Upholding the highest standards in corporate governance and the broader Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) space, we have set a benchmark for excellence. Our unwavering dedication to these principles sets us apart and underscores our commitment to sustainable success in the industry.

Can you share your strategies for talent development within the IT and ITeS sectors, particularly in the context of rapidly changing technologies and skillsets?

We stand at the brink of a transformative era marked by the advent of generative AI, and organizations that fail to embrace this paradigm shift may confront existential challenges. This transformative wave extends its influence to the talent landscape as well.

Happiest Minds has positioned itself at the forefront of artificial intelligence (AI) by introducing a ground-breaking business unit, Generative AI Business Services (GBS). This pioneering unit is poised to deliver comprehensive generative AI solutions across diverse domains. Demonstrating our commitment to staying at the forefront of technological advancements, we are launching a comprehensive training program for all 5000+ members of Happiest Minds. This training will cover crucial aspects of generative AI, such as code assistance, empowering our workforce to harness this technology across various internal functions. This initiative represents a substantial and holistic transformational program.

In tandem with our AI-focused endeavors, we have initiated i3—Ignite, Inspire, Innovate—an ambitious talent transformation program. At its core, this program embodies the 'build to scale' philosophy, underscoring Happiest Minds' unwavering dedication to nurturing organic growth. By directing our focus inward, the company aspires to cultivate the next generation of leaders across a spectrum of career tracks through this immersive development initiative. This strategic approach not only aligns with our commitment to technological evolution but also emphasizes our dedication to fostering internal talent and leadership for sustained organizational growth.

How have you designed and implemented competitive compensation and benefits packages to attract and retain top talent, especially in IT and infrastructure companies?

While our compensation has consistently remained competitive, what truly distinguishes us is the unparalleled opportunity for professional growth coupled with a diverse array of distinctive benefits. Our sustained market-leading growth over the past years, coupled with a projected double-digit revenue increase for the current year and above-industry average growth in the foreseeable future, positions us as a catalyst for unparalleled career advancement.

At the heart of our appeal lies not only the promise of competitive compensation but a rich bouquet of unique benefits. We take pride in fostering an environment where our members can anticipate exceptional growth opportunities in the years to come. Anchored by our commitment to People Wellness through HappiZest Initiatives, Happiness Evangelism, Flexible Work arrangements, Optional Parental Insurance, the Women in Break Programme, Alumni Engagement, Childbirth Gifts, the Annual Blitz Technology Festival, and our Annual Happiest Minds Run—these programs have become cornerstones of our organizational culture, beloved by our members. They encapsulate our commitment to holistic employee well-being, innovation, diversity, and a vibrant work culture, ensuring that our team not only excels in their professional journey but thrives in a supportive and enriching environment.

As someone passionate about creating inclusive and diverse workplaces, what initiatives have you implemented to foster diversity and equity within your teams or organisations?

Our unwavering commitment is to cultivate a workplace that is both inclusive and diverse, where individuals can authentically be themselves and achieve their best, both professionally and personally. Currently boasting a gender ratio of 28%, we are steadfast in our goal to elevate this to 35% in the coming years. The 'Happiest Minds Diversity Council' is at the forefront of our efforts, dedicated to fostering a robust, diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture within our organization.

Our initiatives span a spectrum, from impactful events such as the D&I Summit and awareness sessions to targeted programs like the Women in Excellence leadership development initiative and the Women in Break Hiring initiatives. Additionally, we are proud to extend medical insurance benefits to same-gender partners, emphasizing our commitment to equality.

As part of our observance of Global Diversity Awareness Month, we are thrilled to introduce our comprehensive D&I Handbook. This resource aims to enhance awareness within our workplace, encouraging us to celebrate our differences and unite in our collective dedication to equality.

It's noteworthy that our endeavors in fostering diversity and inclusion have not gone unnoticed. We take pride in consistently being recognized among the top companies for women and as leaders in the realm of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I). These accolades underscore our commitment to creating an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their best.

In your current role at Happiest Minds Technologies, what are the key HR priorities and initiatives you're focusing on to support the company's growth and success?

Aligned with our ambitious growth plan, the Human Resources (HR) function is poised to undergo continuous reassessment of priorities to effectively meet the expanding needs of our dynamic business landscape. As we look ahead to 2024, our HR priorities are strategically crafted to fortify the pillars of our organization's growth.

One of our primary focuses is on building organizations to scale, ensuring that our structures and processes are agile and responsive to the evolving demands of our expanding operations. Embracing technology, including cutting-edge solutions like Generative AI and analytics, is pivotal to our HR strategy. By leveraging data-driven insights, we aim to enhance the precision and effectiveness of our decision-making processes, fostering a culture of informed and strategic HR practices.

In line with our commitment to a unified organizational identity, we are dedicated to institutionalizing our culture and practices across diverse locations worldwide. This involves creating a cohesive framework that transcends geographical boundaries, ensuring that our organizational ethos remains consistent and resonant across the global spectrum.

What role do data and analytics play in your HR strategy, and how have they helped you make informed decisions and measure HR's impact on the business?

Our commitment to data-driven decision-making is exemplified by our dedicated HR Analytics team, collaborating seamlessly with internal stakeholders, including business teams and Centers of Excellence (CoEs). This collaborative effort aims to provide actionable insights and real-time people data, empowering managers and leaders with the information they need to make more informed decisions.

As part of our continuous evolution, we are currently engaged in a strategic collaboration with our Gen AI Business team. This collaboration focuses on crafting innovative use cases for Generative AI (Gen AI) within the People Function. The objective is to leverage the capabilities of Gen AI to elevate the employee experience and enhance overall productivity within our function. By harnessing the power of advanced technologies, we are poised to bring about transformative changes that not only streamline processes but also contribute to a more dynamic and efficient HR ecosystem.

This collaborative venture underscores our commitment to staying at the forefront of technological advancements, ensuring that our People Function remains adaptive and responsive to the evolving needs of our workforce. Through the integration of HR Analytics and Gen AI, we are actively shaping the future of employee experience and productivity within our organization.

Can you share your approach to building a great employee experience and improving employee engagement in the workplace?

At Happiest Minds, our organizational ethos is built on the foundation of co-creation. Rather than running conventional HR programs, we have fostered a culture of self-nominated, empowered work groups, and councils that spearhead various charters within the organization. Whether it's our Recognition and Rewards (R&R) Council, HappiZest Wellness Team, HappySquad Sports Council, or location governance councils, this approach facilitates seamless adaptation, provides real-time feedback from the ground, enables swift decision-making, and garners exceptional participation and support from our members.

This distinctive method of operation is intrinsic to our commitment to delivering an exceptional employee experience and enhancing engagement across all locations and teams. By empowering our workforce through these councils, we ensure that our organizational decisions are reflective of the diverse perspectives and needs within our community.

In tandem with our innovative approach to governance, our substantial investment in upskilling, reskilling, and overall capability development programs is instrumental in creating a plethora of growth opportunities for our members. This commitment not only keeps our workforce at the cutting edge of industry trends but also fosters a motivated and engaged environment.

A cornerstone of our organizational culture is our zero-tolerance policy towards any form of harassment or breach of integrity. This steadfast commitment ensures that our members feel secure and empowered to express themselves freely, creating a workplace where openness and respect are non-negotiable values.

In essence, our co-creation philosophy, coupled with a robust commitment to skill development and a culture of integrity, defines our unique approach to fostering an exemplary employee experience and sustained engagement across our diverse organization.

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