Vishal Sikka-led Infosys Writes A Fresh Code Of Culture
Vishal Sikka has just completed a year as Infosys CEO. He is yet to convince everybody that the company is on a path to becoming the IT bellwether again. But culturally, he’s transformed the organization, and Infosys today looks much like a new-age, youthful, agile company, very different from the traditional Indian IT services firms.
One of the early signs came when Sikka told employees they could stop wearing ties. Since then, all formals have been junked, jeans and T-shirts are in. A variety of processes have been drastically simplified. A maternity-leave extension requires a mere mail to the manager, not embarrassing verbal explanations. A transfer to a different location because of parents or spouse, if possible, does not have to go through complex procedures. Family events, including carnivals for employees’ children, have been institutionalized.
Employees are encouraged to participate in decision-making at many levels. And Sikka is a constant communicator — communicating frequently through blogs, town halls, InfyRadio, InfyTV, and responding promptly to employee issues expressed on Yammer or on mail.
“Infosys needed a dressing down,” says an Infoscion, partly in jest and with reference to the casual dressing policy.
Infosys employee Shruthi Bopaiah notes that Sikka is very active on Yammer, the enterprise communication platform. “He participates in conversations, and joins groups of his interest. And we are encouraged to learn from each other,” she says.
The mood in Infosys’ campus is very different from what Sikka inherited. A year ago, HR was in disarray, thanks to a spate of senior-level exits, investor concerns, high attrition and low employee morale. Today, Infosys’ attrition has dropped to 14.2% (June quarter) from 23.4% in the same time last year.
One of Sikka’s first major moves at Infosys was directed at improving employee engagement. He launched an initiative called Murmuration, aimed at crowd-sourcing ideas from employees. Over two weeks, 26,000 employees participated and shared 2,650 ideas. Employees voted on the ideas that they felt were most relevant, and ten ideas were shortlisted for execution.
Sikka also quickly realized that the company had trained engineers to solve problems, but they hadn’t been trained to find problems. The task cut out was to reposition Infosys from an order-taking firm into a strategic partner to clients, and he teamed up with the Institute of Design at Stanford to transform his employees into innovative thinkers. “Vishal has shared a simple template that anyone — from any function, however junior or senior — can use to bring in innovation to anything he/she does. Suddenly, innovation is no big deal. It feels great to know that we are in some way part of a great renaissance at Infosys. From being simple 9-to-5ers, we’ve become people on a mission,” says Infosys employee Harini Babu.
UB Pravin Rao, COO of Infosys, says Sikka has led from the front and has been able to engage and inspire employees, elevate conversations with clients and provide stakeholders a clear vision of how the team plans to achieve business goals and fulfill expectations.
“It’s a real `get on the train or you know where the next stop is’ attitude,” says Phil Fersht, CEO of US-based HfS Research. “Executives and staff have been left in no doubt that Vishal is in charge and his determination to instill his design thinking culture is well in play.”
Ray Wang, CEO of Constellation Research, says when organizations are in transition, they need strong leaders who can show what is possible and how one can get there. “Vishal’s arrival brought hope that Infosys could make the transition into the digital age and move from a `has been’ to a `relevant’ player,” he says.