COVID-19: How Are Leading IT Companies Tackling Talent Management Risk?

Ajmal Varikkodan

Even as the business environment is up-ended by COVID-19 disruption, organizations are ensuring business continuity to keep their operations running smoothly. The pandemic has put talent management into the arc lights for HR professionals. Managing people of all levels and taking care of people can be a herculean exercise. When the going gets tough, little matters more to successful companies than nurturing an agile, motivated workforce that feels supported through difficult times. Due to COVID-19, disruptions in the workforce are prompting HR, talent acquisition and learning leaders to wonder how they will maintain business continuity and operations if their employees can’t travel or even come into offices. 

Leaders from three companies – Ernst & Young (EY), CIGNEX Datamatics & Tech Mahindra – explain how they are dealing with the talent management crisis.


Two approaches have helped EY during the COVID-19 crisis. 

  1. How must the company provide the exceptional EY experience to the stakeholders – college graduates, interns, the lateral hires, employees and alumni network? It is the responsibility of all these stakeholders to build and own that experience. 
  2. The exceptional EY leadership. Leaders are responsible for providing the exceptional EY experience to the community. EY has come up with a concept called the transformative leadership (as against transactional leadership). Transformative leadership is driven by purpose and follows a ‘lead to win’ approach. Transactional leadership is ‘lead not to lose.’  

EY is monitoring the productivity, creativity and innovation of remote employees in this difficult time. The recent in-house qualitative and quantitative survey shows that despite minor productivity losses, in a certain area, productivity is better.

EY has onboarded many employees virtually in India. They made arrangements for the laptops to get delivered to the home of newly hired staff or enabled virtual desktop, wherever individual delivery is not possible. For those leaving the company, a provisional relieving letter is issued until they return the hardware back to the organization at the nearest possible opportunity. In the Pre-COVID period itself, 30% of EY employees were working from home at any given time. 

The pre-vaccination period is very risky. Social distancing, temperature check, mask, traveling and everything needs to be managed and monitored carefully. Technology will also come into play. You are responsible not only for health but also for that of your family members’ colleagues’. All companies must teach these micro habits to their employees.

At CIGNEX Datamatics

A new perspective was adopted by HR folks with respect to managing talent and getting new talent. Suddenly, the company was forced to move to a survival mode – with a focus on how to handle the situation and manage the talent currently in the system. Once the strategy was set, the company moved to a continuity mode.

The primary model is business continuity and the health and wellness of employees. During the survival mode, the company supported the employees to resolve their concerns. Thus, from survival mode, the organization beautifully and successfully managed to move to continuity mode. In the current productivity mode, the leaders are connecting with each employee to check if they are able to perform fruitfully. 

At Tech Mahindra

Initially, associate engagement was the primary focus. One of the risks was sending people to various geographies, another was customers revisiting their overall IT plans. Because of COVID-19, there is a high chance and scope for AI and digital grid enhancement. Likewise, there are many concerns and apprehensions. Till such time things got a little settled down, the company invested as much as possible in on the workforce.

Tech Mahindra started certain theme-based learning such as how to develop empathy in remote working; virtual working collaboration; how to conduct design thinking workshops remotely, etc. That was the need of the hour in the first few weeks of WFH.

Secondly, the company launched ‘work from home one-on-one’. It was a comprehensive one-on-one module that discussed security, infrastructure, policies, daily work management practices one needs to follow, and how one can continue to upskill themselves. Though people are working from home, it is not 100% WFH, especially in the BPO field.

Thirdly, the company launched ‘learning from home’ for the people who are waiting for the new engagement after the completion of their previous engagement.

This was collated from the panel discussion conducted by Jigsaw Academy on April 29, 2020, in which Dr. Ankita Singh, Senior VP & Global Head-HR at CIGNEX Datamatics; Vaishali Phatak, Global Head – Technical Learning, Diversity and Inclusion at Tech Mahindra; and Sreekanth K. Arimanithya, Global Talent and Enablement Service Leader at EY Global Delivery Services talked about ‘Talent Building at a Distance.’ The discussion was moderated by Bhaskaran Srinivasan, Director-Academics at Manipal Global Education Services.

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