Here is a company that practices everything that it preaches. Recently MindTree was in the news for its lecture series and ‘Ping Me’ helpdesk on some of the burning topics in IT. The moment you enter MindTree office, you feel the difference.
We met with the General Manager - People Function, Puneet Jetli and Raj Datta, GM- Knowledge Management, MindTree Consulting, to get to know about their ideas in people management.
Q: Have you found any better way of increasing the hit ratio of finding talent during recruitment?
A: We recruit across the skillets spectrum, and not just look for technical skills. We follow the philosophy of a three-legged competence component: knowledge, skills and attitude. Knowledge is considered as a default setting, either you have it or you don’t have it. People can acquire technical skills but not attitude. So we lay a lot of emphasis on the right attitude.
Though we have clearly defined the job roles, when we recruit, we recruit a person and not a role. We focus on the career and not the job. A person should see a career and not a project assignment.
Q: Is there an issue about blending team players and the individual creative genius?
A: We have to look at it in two different ways: project delivery and career aspirations. If an individual is part of a team, focusing on a solution for a customer, then you have to work with the team. Since the end goal is customer satisfaction, the team takes precedence. But we do understand that there are people who say, “I want to be a technical architect but not a people manager.” We have to recognize that and define their career path that allows individuality. But the value that a person brings in should be significantly higher. You have to be ahead of the technology curve and as you mature the output value should also increase.
We do have mechanisms in place to send soft signals that teamwork is quite important. The 360o feedback gives a lot of importance on what your peers think about you. Also, one should have the ability to integrate others’ ideas and be humble enough to accept others’ feedback as an important need. By using techniques like the ‘Six Thinking Hats’, we try to bring out the hidden creativity in everybody.
Q: What are the various tools of performance appraisal used in your organisation? Any ideas to reduce individual bias?
A: We don’t call it performance appraisal since we believe that performance should not be critiqued; appraisal is more a backward looking review. We look at it in a holistic manner and try to do a performance management. The idea is to look back on what a person’s achievements are and what are the areas to improve. We not only look at objectives versus achievements, but also look at behavior before and after the project.
It’s not wrong to aspire to be a manager, but we have to make sure that the person is mature enough to handle that.
Common values like sharing of knowledge are also considered. Only 60 per cent weightage is given to the set objectives and 40 per cent is about your potential and future value addition to the company. To reduce the individual bias, we have a review mechanism of normalization exercise, where each appraisal is reviewed by a panel that looks for consistent rating.
Q: Do you feel the aspiring manager synrome is an issue?
A: Yes, that is surely an issue, but there is the opposite side of it where people do not want to lead a team. Our ‘Ping Me’ program has revealed many such instances where seniors have been forced into taking management roles when they prefer to be an individual contributor. Since we are in a people intensive industry, a team lead responsibility comes quite early.
It’s not wrong to aspire to be a manager, but we have to make sure that the person is mature enough to handle that. When a person moves into a managerial role, there is an emphasis on soft skills apart from technical skills. The ability to introspect on the feedback and humility to accept it is crucial, which is taught in our leadership training program. I feel there is a difference in attitude across the geography; while in India people have a leadership focus, in the US people focus on getting deep into a technical career.
Q: What triggers the drive to innovate: external stimuli or inner motivation or is it volition?
A: Environment and an individual are not separate entities. The environment reinforces the beliefs in you and you in turn create the environment. But an idea spark can transform an entire organisation or the world. Proper testing through pilot projects can help try out the half-baked ideas and finally adopt it when it is mature. ‘Extreme programming’ is one such radical idea, which is now gaining prominence. So the environment is affected by those ideas, but it’s crucial to know how those ideas propagate or get killed.
Any individual should be able to bring up any question to the top most executive. So whether we allow an eccentric idea or not, it has to be properly checked for its merit. All said and done, there is no magic mantra for nurturing innovation. We invite diverse set of people to come here and talk about their experiences. Innovation need not be radical, it can also be incremental. Small suggestions on improving productivity within the teams itself enable innovation.
Q: Do you prefer diversity in your recruitment process?
A: Our single largest source of finding talent is through referrals that are around 35 per cent. Another source is campus interviews that bring in 20-25 per cent and the rest from direct recruiting. One of the things we celebrate at MindTree is the employee diversity. A heterogeneous group of people with different educational and cultural backgrounds thinks differently and responds differently to situations. We have people from nine different nationalities and we want to welcome people as they are. For instance, some people are left brain oriented and some are right brain. The problem with homogeneity is that we would think alike and in a knowledge industry, we want different viewpoints.
Q: Are engineers looking for a global career these days?
A: Though we focus on Indian business in a big way, IT industry itself is a global market. So by default, an IT professional is a global citizen. There was lot of onsite development and maintenance work happening in the past decade. But now slowly offshoring is becoming mainstream and even customers are sending large chunks of jobs over here than have people work onsite. So you could be working on a global project, but operate from Bangalore. India’s talent potential is already proven and the jobs will continue to flow inwards.
Issue BG41 Aug04