Abhijit Bhaduri, chief learning officer for the India-based multinational, describes how assessment is helping Wipro accelerate the development of its high potentials.
Abhijit Bhaduri, chief learning officer, Wipro
It would be difficult to find an organization anywhere in the world with a more diverse portfolio of businesses than Wipro. The Bangalore, India-based multinational has a presence in everything from personal care and baby products, to IT products and services, to hydraulic systems for trucks and heavy machinery, to end-to-end solutions for water and wastewater treatment plants. Its footprint stretches to more than 60 countries, and it employs 145,000 people.
For Abhijit Bhaduri, Wipro’s chief learning officer, the challenges that accompany this diverse range of businesses are secondary to the challenges that define the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) environment and what it means for Wipro.
“Right now we’re facing one of those scenarios where pretty much everything changes on an onward basis all the time. It’s a fairly complex, ambiguous, volatile scenario. VUCA is very applicable to today.”
Bhaduri and Wipro, however, are facing these challenges head-on by thinking big-picture and strategically, especially when it comes to the organization’s leaders. “One of the responsibilities that I have is to ensure that we stay competitive,” he says. “There are three questions I continuously need to answer and deliver on: Do I have a good understanding of what it is our business must do in the next 18 to 24 months? What competencies are needed to succeed here in this environment? And, what is the most cost-effective way to enable leaders to learn from each other? That last question is all about developing a culture that promotes curiosity, which in turn promotes innovation and agility in the workplace.”
The primacy of these questions to Bhaduri’s view of his role and, in turn, to Wipro’s approach to talent management, is helping drive Wipro’s integrated assessment and development processes for its high-potential leaders.
Building a Global Mindset
While Wipro has for many years been committed to developing its leadership talent (one of its programs for developing senior leaders has been in place for nearly two decades), the VUCA environment in which its wide range of businesses operates is driving a critical need to accelerate the development of its high-potential leaders. A major aim of this development is to transform these leaders, who already have 12 to 15 years of work experience, into exceptional global leaders. As Bhaduri points out, becoming a global leader is a multi-faceted goal.
“Our leaders must have the ability to work with a global mindset. They must be able to span multiple contexts, multiple people, many venues and environments.”
Additionally, Bhaduri points out that Wipro’s high-potential leaders, who are based around the world, including the UK, the U.S., Middle East, and Australia, need to be “extremely learning agile” and possess the ability to see what’s around the next corner—and lead people there.
Of course, knowing what your leaders need to do and become, and understanding what they are currently capable of doing are two different things. To bridge this gap and pave the way for optimally efficient and effective development, Wipro partnered with DDI to assess its high-potential leaders in alignment with Wipro’s competencies, and capitalize on the assessment data to help guide individual and group-level development.
Bhaduri says that while Wipro recognized, in broad terms, where its leaders needed to improve, the assessment data, considered alongside job performance data and 360 feedback, brought those needs into sharper focus.
“Operational excellence was something people tended to be particularly strong in. But one need we saw confirmed is the ability to work with and influence a variety of stakeholders. The other thing is the leader’s ability to groom the leaders who report to them in a far more mindful way.”
Getting Leaders to Take Action
Bhaduri says that there were individual feedback conversations with the leaders, so they would understand the purpose of the assessment and also understand what the results meant and what they needed to do with them. Wipro’s HR team also worked with each leader to create an individual development plan.
“A lot of them actually needed help in doing that,” Bhaduri says. “For a lot of people, we first identified a 100-day plan. We would then take one aspect of the plan, say, coaching your direct reports, for example, and make it a lot more granular and structured in order to give people some of the skills, show them how to do it, and put the process in place to ensure that they are getting it right.”
In addition to the individual development plans, Wipro also referred to development data, which helped to identify opportunities to address development needs programmatically that existed across the entire high-potential population.
The company has employed multiple options to make development happen, including formal training workshops, coaching, bringing in external speakers, presentation opportunities, videos, and e-learning. Also in the mix are immersion experiences, in which leaders gain exposure to other industries to see what kind of ideas and learning they could take away and apply within their own business.
“There are multiple ways to make sure that we partner with them and show them how to address their development gaps,” Bhaduri says. “We’ve worked out individual development plans and talked to them about influence, leveraging social media, and how to build a personal brand around it. There have been a bunch of different things.”
While short-term development plans were created for the leaders after they were assessed, some development needs required a longer-term focus.
In addition, Bhaduri acknowledges that job assignments are probably the most valuable development option, but Wipro does not place a leader in a job for development purposes only. Those placement decisions, he says, are dictated by business needs.
“When we talk about challenging assignments, it could be an assignment related to a new service, a new product, or a new market,” says Dr. Vishal Shah, general manager/corporate human resources director.
Supporting and Instilling the Culture
Seeing the many advantages of having better data about its leadership talent, Wipro is planning to take assessment “very deep into the organization.” Bhaduri says assessment is enabling Wipro to grow a stronger talent pipeline.
“Assessment allows us to make more choices around talent. It enables us to benchmark globally and then identify what is valuable in terms of development. The opportunity to respond with that type of granularity is really the biggest thing.”