Feb 14, 2021

Workplace transformation: before and after COVID-19

Georgia Wilson
5 min
Ramkumar Chandrasekaran, HR Director at TCS UK & Ireland speaks to Business Chief on global workplace transformation following the impact of COVID-19
Ramkumar Chandrasekaran, HR Director at TCS UK & Ireland speaks to Business Chief on global workplace transformation following the impact of COVID-19...

Already one month into 2021, it is certainly clear that discussions centred around employee experience and digital tools have increased and intensified in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 back in March 2020. 

Discussions have moved “beyond attracting and retaining talent to enabling and supporting a fully remote workforce with capabilities and technologies that are now deemed mission-critical. Organisations that succeed in the new remote workplace will plan for the entire workplace ecosystem and equip employees to support business operations,” comments KPMG.

With this in mind, Business Chief asks Ramkumar Chandrasekaran, HR Director at TCS UK & Ireland six questions on the topic of global workplace transformation following the impact of COVID-19.

The workplace environment before the outbreak of COVID-19

What was the working environment like prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020?

Before the pandemic, TCS – like most businesses – mainly operated from offices all across the world.

Over the years, TCS has functioned on a Location Independent Agile methodology which enables work to be carried out in approved facilities anywhere in the world. We have therefore been investing in becoming increasingly agile for some time now.

That being said, the vast majority of our work was carried out on-site, either at our own or our customers’ – particularly when it comes to our FCA-regulated customers who have strict regulations when it comes to equipment being taken off-site.

What were the core focuses for HR functions when it came to their workplace strategy?

One of our important strategic priorities has been digital transformation. We have been focusing on building digital competencies and roles, adapting a new mindset across our 450,000 strong employees worldwide. We have been helping our employees to not only acquire new skills but also leverage their existing deep contextual knowledge of our customers and industry domain. 

What were the top three emerging trends for the workplace environment prior to COVID-19?

● Increasingly agile

● Campus-based but Location Independent Agile

● Led by technology

How the workplace environment has transformed since the outbreak of COVID-19

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, how has the working environment changed in 2021 compared to 2020?

As you’d expect, our key priority has been keeping our staff safe while ensuring our global customer base continues to receive the service they have come to expect and the tools they need to adapt.

With the rise in the working from home trend, workplaces have had to rapidly adapt to life from home. Here at TCS we have so far enabled remote working for 95 per cent of our global workforce and established cloud-based governance of over 23,000 projects, enabling high volumes of digital collaboration – 35,000 online meetings, 406,000 calls, and over three million messages. 

This was made possible by the Secure Borderless Workspaces model which enables remote access for employees, sets up a suitable cybersecurity framework and all project management practices and systems needed to ensure that work allocation, monitoring and reporting continues as normal. In this way, the SBWS model ensured that neither the quality nor the timeliness of client deliveries was ever compromised.

All of our employees are under different pressures while they are working from home and that is something that all businesses need to be mindful of. Protecting our staff’s mental and physical health is a real priority for TCS – and is of course particularly important at the moment. We have put extensive guidance in place to support balancing childcare and have even regularly run virtual events for children to tune into, such as art and fitness sessions. 

All of the initiatives to benefit physical and mental health have been offered not just to our employees but also to their families. Our employee networks have also done an incredible job in providing community support and further fostering our culture of helping one another.

Fundamentally, it is really important to ensure staff have an awareness of and access to the appropriate channels to seek the support they need. Pastoral care and support must, and does, continue in our remote working model.

How have workplace strategies evolved since the outbreak of COVID-19, how have their focuses shifted?

As we look to the future, we will continue to make the most of this new hybrid way of working with our 25 by 25 model. Whereby only 25 per cent of TCS workforce will work out of TCS facilities at any time, with associates spending only 25 per cent of their time in the office. And within project teams, only 25 per cent of employees can be co-located.

One clear benefit of this move will be the 25 per cent increase in velocity throughput that is expected to result from it. But there are clear longer-term benefits as well, such as the ability of organizations to provide more equitable job opportunities – which will not only make a positive impact on the company, but also on the wider society. It also provides employees with a choice on how to craft their workplace.

We also now have access to a global ‘talent cloud’, beyond the boundaries defined by the brick and mortar offices. As workplaces are getting reimagined, our global employees can work from anywhere and deliver services to any client. We already have cohesive teams working in 20 different locations delivering one project.

The working environment will continue to embrace agility, with employees spending increasingly less time in the office as they have adapted to new ways of working.

What are the top three trends that you see gaining traction in 2021?

Last month we carried out extensive research into what areas businesses were looking to focus their budgets on following the fallout from the pandemic. Interestingly, despite budgets shrinking across the board, investment in digital transformation is growing as companies seek to support their employees working remotely. 

Within that budget, the top three areas of spend are:

● Collaborative technology

● Cybersecurity 

● Cloud native technologies

It is clear that enabling employees to work effectively and securely from home is becoming increasingly important and companies are making long lasting changes to support that. 

Coronavirus will have a lasting impact on business in many ways meaning we must continue to adapt and redefine the meaning of the workplace with more agility, resilience and flexibility to create opportunities and a brighter future.

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Jun 6, 2021

Business Chief Legend: Former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi

Kate Birch
4 min
As the first and only female CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi smashed corporate America’s glass ceiling and transformed the performance and purpose of PepsiCo

At a recent Asia Pacific-focused event, organised by P&G and UN Women, the former CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, shared why enabling a diverse and inclusive workforce can directly impact the bottom line.

“If 80% of our products are bought by women because they were the gatekeepers at home, or make all the purchases, why don’t we have a large number of women represented in our ranks,” she told a virtual global crowd of thousands. 

Such business advice may seem rather obvious today, but in 2006, when Nooyi put this business philosophy into practice at PepsiCo, it was both pioneering and progressive. Because not only did the performance of PepsiCo transform under Nooyi’s 12-year tenure as CEO, but so did its purpose and people, with Nooyi widely praised for transforming the firm’s diversity and inclusion agenda.

And who better to do so than someone who had herself smashed the corporate American glass ceiling. Because, when Nooyi became CEO in 2006, following 12 years as Chief Strategist, not only was she among just a handful of female CEOs leading Fortune 500 firms, and one of very few foreign-born executives, she was both the first female CEO to lead PepsiCo, and the first person of colour. Not to mention also being a wife and mother.

Proving performance and purpose can co-exist

And she more than got the job done, growing PepsiCo revenues by 80%, making the firm more global than it had ever been, so that by the time she stepped down in 2018, nearly 20% of net revenues came from MENA, Asia and Latin America, and expanding the business significantly with key acquisitions (Tropicana) and mergers (Quaker Oats).

But it was Nooyi’s strategic redirection of PepsiCo, transforming both its purpose and people, that really made an impact. As chief architect of PepsiCo’s pledge, Performance with Purpose, unveiled in 2006 and a precursor to the modern sustainability movement, Nooyi repositioned the firm to focus on what is best for the world and for its people, from sustainability and social responsibility to diversity and diet.

She transformed the firm’s D&I agenda, created a culture where workers were encouraged to stay with the company, moved corporate spending away from junk food and into healthier alternatives, redesigned packaging to reduce waste, and switched to renewable energy sources and recycling.

As she told Forbes in 2017, “I wanted to make sure that PepsiCo was not only delivering top-tier financial returns but doing so in a way that was responsive to the needs of the world around us.”

Indra Nooyi talking with US President Biden (then Vice President) in 2014

Smashing corporate America's glass ceiling

And it was this ability to realise a world in which business is both practiced and recognised as a force for good that has earned Nooyi a place in CEO history books and landed her numerous accolades, including 11 honorary degrees, the Hero of Conscious Capitalism award at 2017’s CEO Summit, consistent inclusion in the world’s 100 most powerful women (including #1 by Forbes in 2009/10) and most recently, induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Not bad for a girl from Chennai, India, who was expected to lead a conventional life as a wife and mother, but by her own admission was a bit of a “rebel”, with a passion for playing cricket and lead guitarist in a band. In the late 70s, she relocated to the US, earning herself a Master’s in management from Yale, and beginning a four decade-long strategy-focused career that was born at BCG in 1980 where she spent six years and ended in 2018 following 24 impactful years at PepsiCo.

And while she has now retired from corporate life, Nooyi continues to wield the influence that so positively changed the direction of one of the world’s largest companies. As well as serving on the board for ecommerce giant Amazon, she speaks at summits close to her heart, and has recently penned her memoir, advising corporates on better integrating work and family.

And while she has now retired from corporate life, Nooyi continues to wield the influence that so positively changed the direction of one of the world’s largest companies. As well as serving on the board for ecommerce giant Amazon, she speaks at summits close to her heart, and has recently penned her memoir, advising corporates on better integrating work and family. 

Indra Nooyi's memoir will be available from September 28, 2021, and can be pre-ordered. 

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