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Leadership / Workforce

How to harness the start-up spirit across a global enterprise

As a business grows, there is a risk of becoming less flexible, less agile, less innovative – and less attractive to talent pursuing the dynamism of the start-up space. Hexaware’s Satyendu Mohanty discusses creating a workplace that delivers the best of both worlds.

For those looking to make waves in the technology industry, it can seem you’re faced with a fundamental choice: the stability and brand recognition that comes with joining one of the sector’s established behemoths; or the dynamism, flexibility, fast progression (and associated risk) found in the start-up space.

Of course, the ideal scenario is an enterprise that can provide global scale, while at the same time delivering ambitious business transformation, and intensive talent identification, offering the opportunity to rise through roles and ranks at speed.

Hexaware Technologies aims to offer recruits a balance between the innovative employment culture of a start-up and the stability of a large organisation. (Photo by KeyStock/Shutterstock)

Hexaware, among the world’s fastest-growing next-generation providers of IT, BPO and consulting services, is on a mission to bring out the best in people and technology. Its goal of intensive automation and cloud transition, empowering the human element in an organisation to make better decisions, is hitting home with ever-increasing numbers of organisations, leading the company to grow its own workforce rapidly.

That growth, its leaders stress, should never come at the expense of an ability to innovate and respond to fresh ideas that can take the company forward.

“Some people want to work in larger companies, but also want that start-up culture,” acknowledges Satyendu “Tony” Mohanty, who leads Hexaware’s global competency and digital assurance business unit. “We like to think of ourselves as a billion-dollar start-up company, embracing that culture and embracing innovation.”

A structure for the start-up mindset

Achieving that balance between the innovative employment culture of a start-up and the stability of a large organisation does not happen spontaneously. It requires planning and structure.

“We have specific programmes to work on innovation,” says Mohanty. “We have a clear mandate from the company’s leadership that means it is okay to fail fast, learn and move on. That requires cultural change, something we have been working on for five years now and has become part of all of the functions in our business.”

To create an enterprise that is global in scale, growing rapidly, but still offers an intensive approach to talent identification and opportunities for people to rise rapidly, Hexaware has instituted initiatives tailored to enable creative thinking and growth through learning.

The first of these is its Challenger programme, which gives teams the chance to spend time on their own projects beyond their client engagements, enabling them to create new ideas that can be fed back into the company.

Next is Brainbox, which seeks to leverage crowdsourced innovation.

“Every consultant can think of new ways to bring in automation and process improvement in their respective projects and functions,” says Mohanty. “Management then looks at all of these ideas and picks the best ones, which are rewarded. Every quarter the best ten ideas are recognised, and their originators can meet with senior management. Already we have saved our customers  $136m through specific ideas that have come through Brainbox.”

As well as saving clients money and enhancing standards, it also empowers team members – something also reflected in Hexaware’s commitment to workplace diversity. Another vital programme in this regard is Evolve. This initiative recognises that employees should be able to not only progress vertically through the ranks of the business but also horizontally through the acquisition of new skills, experiences and training.

“Consultants need to look at how to grow, and we believe that horizontal growth is equally important,” Mohanty explains. “That is why we have additional weightage for new skills acquired as a constituent of the appraisal process. It is all part of how we balance stability with rapid growth and a culture of innovation.”

“Our priority is to make sure that we meet our customers’ needs, which means focusing on delivery and onboarding the right skills,” he adds. “But we also have to encourage people to think outside the box and bring in innovation wherever they need to, in order to create an agile mindset. The people working with clients know best how to bring innovation into the delivery model.”

Focused on the future

Hexaware finds itself at a crossroads in its journey. At the start of the year, it already boasted some 20,000 staff across 42 global offices, but the company estimates it will expand its global workforce by more than a third in 2021 alone. Identifying and nurturing talent that can progress fast and be rewarded for innovation is fundamental to its strategy. That is why training and upskilling are built into its DNA.  

“Beyond our internal programmes, another dimension is hiring people from colleges,” says Mohanty. “We engage people very early in their academic career, explain our mindset and get them to understand that even in an organisation as large as ours it is possible to recognise and reward achievement.”

“When we hire new recruits into a large organisation, they are often concerned that they will be stuck in the same programmes for a long time, but we have thought of that, too,” he adds. “We have a rotation policy that gives people the opportunity to shift to work on new and exciting technologies or work on their own projects. Younger people want to add skills and grow, and we give them the chance to do that.”

Hexaware has its eyes fixed firmly on the future, constantly looking for people who want to learn continuously to get ahead of emerging technology trends and understand the changing needs of the company’s clients. Leaders also recognise that career priorities have undergone significant reappraisal following a period of unprecedented upheaval worldwide.

“We always want to be learning and finding ways to do things smarter,” says Mohanty.

For those looking to make waves in the technology industry, there no longer has to be a choice between the stability and brand recognition that comes with joining one of the sector’s established brand names, or the dynamism, flexibility and fast progression associated with the start-up space. Hexaware has set out to prove that, even in a large organisation, people can have the freedom to innovate, create and grow, while leveraging all the advantages that come with scale.