Recruitment isn’t necessarily something learning leaders are directly involved with, but training recruited employees is. As the culture of the recruitment game changes, so will how those employees are developed.
I recently interviewed Prithvi Shergill, chief human resources officer at global IT services firm HCL Technologies, and his company did something innovative earlier this year. It launched what it bills as the first ever global Twitter recruitment campaign titled #COOLESTINTERVIEWEVER. Recruiters conducted a series of ‘interviews’ exclusively over Twitter, offering the winning candidate an opportunity to work on a yearlong strategic project with the company’s top management.Cool, right? Below is an edited transcript of my interview with Shergill, in which he details on #COOLESTINTERVIEWEVER and the leadership development opportunities HCL has in place.
Give me an overview of things you’ve done around millennial recruiting. What benefits have you seen from this? What kind of hires have you had as a result?
Shergill: We leverage online channels to drive awareness and consideration of HCL Technologies as an employer of choice by the employees of choice. We follow a well-defined strategy suited for different segments within which we hire. For us, our recruitment process is built on identifying innovators and building relationships based on a distinctive experience.
As is known, Generation Y — also known as the “digital generation” — now represents more than a quarter of the working population in the U.S. In this aspect, practicing demand-led, just-in-time hiring has enabled us to on-board the right people, with the right skills, at the right place, time and cost. Tapping the social sphere by targeting the millennials has helped us acquire the right capacity and ability we need. We have been able to recruit talent that understands and is able to adapt to emerging technology, while simultaneously understanding how to leverage social collaboration, mobility and cloud platforms as well apply analytics to deliver value in the form of insight from information.
The major benefits we have experienced from using the social media platforms as a part of our overall hiring strategy have been the ability to target talent segments of choice, being able to tap into a large passive talent pool and, more importantly, engage with a large candidate base through various activities which are not easy in traditional modes of hiring. Social media’s utility is seen when organizations realize improved employer awareness and branding through social conversations and reduced dependency on search firms for hiring purposes.
Hiring from social media is not just cost effective, as compared to traditional hiring methods, but also saves time. It has helped us locate that segment of the Gen Y who have industry relevant experience, understand how to deliver value to customers and, more importantly, bring in disruptive thinking, which fits into our entrepreneurial culture.
Is this sort of campaign specific to millennials? A lot of Gen Xers and boomers are Web savvy. Could they also be interviewed this way?
Shergill: The ubiquitous nature of the Internet and social media has undoubtedly had a strong influence on all generations and has heightened their interestin on-the-spot, instant feedback and decision. Hence though this sort of campaign would appeal instantly to the millennials, it is definitely of interest and purpose to the Web savvy Gen Xers and Baby boomers too. We find that building a strong connect through transparency with our candidates is immensely more effective with social media brought into the picture.
A recent case in point is our global, perhaps world’s first ever end-to-end recruitment campaign on Twitter called #COOLESTINTERVIEWEVER, launched in February 2014. We conducted a series of interviews exclusively over Twitter, offering the winning candidate an opportunity to work on a yearlong strategic project with the company’s top management. This campaign had no strict age-oriented target audience and was a huge success, purely because of its ability to establish a direct dialogue with potential talent, for different kinds of skills and profiles fit for varied positions and functions.
We also use social networking sites to map, validate, and do a reference check on key candidates — though it depends upon the context and profile of the role and the individual. The first thing a manager needs to do is to use the technology platforms its multigenerational workforce is using — from social networking forums to mobile apps and devices. Once there is synchronization between the various technologies of communication at play, an efficient platform that is ready to be used to identify talent belonging to all generations comes alive.
What about millennial leadership? Once millennials are hired, are you doing anything specific to develop them?
Shergill: At HCL, we are focused on creating a sustainable leadership pipeline. We have introduced targeted initiatives targeted at young business school graduates/the Gen Y who are looking to further pursue their careers for leadership positions. These programs offer the graduates comprehensive learning, personal development, and challenging avenues to perform and to lead from the front:
Headstart, our summer internship program,is a flagship intern hiring process at HCL technologies. It is a structured program designed to nurture and identify future talent and to provide hands on experience for the management students to understand the corporate world. We hire management interns across all levels of different departments.
GEM Programis a part of the transformational journey that puts emphasis on identifying potential future leaders. The roles assigned are conceptualized to develop these future global leaders. Hiring in this role is restricted to top business schools across the globe. GEMs are mentored in India and at various other global locations by senior leaders and are deployed to work with them in both associate business development and associate engagement management roles.
Senior Management Traineeship is a program with the intention of recruiting senior management trainees in HCL. The objective is to nurture their growth from within. When shown the right career path and mentored appropriately, management trainees take on new and exciting challenges of an ever-expanding organization at a mid-management level initially and at the senior management level down the line. They are hired to perform sales, presales, delivery, marketing and domain specialist roles.
As corporate citizens, we see an important role progressive organizations need to take in investing in the community and enabling employability and employment by growing the skills of young leaders MAD LTD (Make a Difference, Lead the Difference) is a distinctive program with the goal to nurture young leaders all over India, by giving them a platform to showcase and implement their best ideas that create a social impact. Its ambition far exceeds the confines of any organization. The initiative is known for building future leaders who are passionate about specific causes and want to create a community of likeminded people.
The Gen Y leans towards a creative business approach. Members of Generation Y tend to challenge conventional ways of thinking. The Gen Y leadership style is not different from the Gen X leadership for achieving business goals. However there are some slight distinctions in the way they approach work. For instance, Gen Y leadership values ideas and guidance more on the grounds of merit and has less regard for historic performance or organizational titles. Gen X leadership on the other hand, values ideas and suggestions both on the grounds of merit as well as the demonstrated worth of the individual in terms of past performance and work experience.
At HCL, talent planning is a process of identifying and building potential talent in an organization as successors for key roles in the future within the organization. We strive to provide an integrated and comprehensive professional learning strategy to drive key business outcomes. The team creates and delivers role-focused learning programs and business aligned learning opportunities to strengthen business competencies, thus maximizing strategic thinking and decision-making.
Grooming employees into globally competitive leaders requires an environment that puts Employees First. We believe in improving the leadership skills demonstrated by all people with potential. The onus of empowering, engaging and enabling employees to reach their true potential is the responsibility we expect managers to own within the organization.
HCL looks at the entire leadership programs in three different parts:
- Developing leadership skills and competency for transitioning leaders.
- Developing competencies for tenured leaders.
- Developing high potential leaders in the organization.
HCL Certified Leader is one of the programs aimed at building competencies and skills for leaders who are transitioning into new roles. A program that spans over five months is designed around Dr. Michael Watkins’ “First 90 Days” principle. During the program, leaders learn to diagnose the situations in an efficient manner, apply skills and competencies developed through real time experiences.
The Advanced Leadership Program is meant for potential leaders who are likely to step into roles with higher levels of responsibility in the future. A customized HCL program is delivered to the participants by expert faculty. A blend of residential retreats and virtual learning, the ALP (Advanced Leadership Program) spans over a seven-month period. This provides an opportunity for leaders to network and apply the acquired skills real time.
Top Gun Program provides an opportunity for high potential participants to undergo a journey to evolve as future leaders by working on real business situations with the senior leadership team. The participants get a chance to introspect on their present competencies and unlock skills needed for the future using interventions that help them discover their abilities through dialogue (including access to various psychometric instruments) and work to meet their personal aspirations
At HCL Technologies, talent summits are hosted which provide the facts, the views and insight to identify people for key positions and plan for succession. At different levels, more than a 1,000 positions have a named successor.
Organizations need to recognize that the aspirations of Gen Y have evolved according to their context, culture and competencies. We see that Gen Y prefers a workplace that is democratic in nature, a place where their creativity is encouraged; feedback is constructive and available via media of their choice to enable their personal growth.
Again, what kind of results have you seen?
Shergill: We see the best emerging from people in terms of proficiency and performance in teams which provide individuals the autonomy to define the nature of work, access to opportunities to build mastery in the skills needed to deliver to the goals, and a sense of purpose to add value to the clients they work with and the communities in which they live. The culture of effective communication created as a result of the programs mentioned above have enabled confidence, courage and competency within our workforce. As a result of the transparent environment we harbor that builds trust at the workplace, we see diverse employees, of different generations, nationalities, and locations, truly connecting with each other and feeling included in the HCL family.
This campaign and type of development is unique, and it’s driven by the millennial talent. Is it something you’ll be doing more of in the future?
Shergill: Today we see an increasing number of companies adopting such campaigns to encourage, engage and empower millennial talent. It is truly unique how social media has transformed the way we look at not only recruitment and hiring, but also viewpoints of different generations at work.
It is now much easier and effective to learn about a candidate’s interests, skill sets and personality via the social sphere. There is also greater surety of coming across legitimate information — for instance, correct qualifications, tenure with the previous employer, work experience and so on. Over the last few years, social media has certainly grown from being a novelty to one of the most powerful recruiting tools available for our hiring managers. It is evident that trend is not a short lived one and HCL, as well as the industry, will continue to innovate and extract the maximum utility from such mediums and campaigns in the future. Case in point: we began using the social media platforms in 2007 and today, it is one of the top traffic drivers to HCL’s sites where active job openings are made available and we see a conversion rate higher than traditional recruiting channels.
Therefore, managers can loosen or even take off their proverbial ties and still get lots accomplished. It is clear that the millennials are already a powerful generation of workers, and that the ones with the right skills will be in great demand. The sooner an organization adapts to this subtle shift in trend, the more able will it be to face complex business challenges that lie ahead.