File image of Wipro Chairman Rishad Premji.
Companies that win the war for talent will be the winners amid the rising demand for technology professionals and as demand outstrips supply, said Rishad Premji, executive chairman, Wipro.
Speaking at the Microsoft Future Ready event on Tuesday, Premji said, “The number one challenge companies have right now is talent. So any company that can win the war for talent will be the winner.”
His remarks come amid the huge talent shortage companies face even as demand continues to rise. “At some level, there is such a huge mismatch today between demand and just availability of supply,” Premji said.
To meet the demand, Wipro is doubling down on its fresher hiring and is looking to add 17,000 new hires in FY22, up from 9,000 the previous year.
Its peers in the information technology sector have also increased their talent intake. The top four IT firms together have doubled fresher hiring to 1.6 lakh in FY22 from 82,000 in the previous year. Companies are also facing severe attrition, resulting in wage inflation.
“So there’s a lot of effort being put at multiple different levels and we were spending an inordinate amount of time and money trying to reskill and upskill people,” Premji said.
The company is also making a huge effort to retain employees. “People don’t only leave for better opportunities, people leave when they don’t feel a sense of connectedness with the organisation,” Premji pointed out. A sense of connectedness is important for retaining the workforce, he said.
Premji recounted how one of its clients connected with the employees.
“I remember talking to a customer who said this to me. ‘In these COVID times, I spend every two or three weeks reaching out to each of my team members, and I spent five minutes with each of them. I have 15 direct reports and I spend 75 minutes every two or three weeks saying, ‘Look, I have no agenda, I’m just calling to say hi, I’m just calling to see how you’re doing, I’m just going to see if I can be helpful in any way and if the organisation can be helpful in any way.’ It’s remarkable how much connectedness that drove,” Premji shared.
What this also points to is the need for connection and he believes that it can only happen by coming to the office. Since the pandemic, close to 60,000 people have joined the company, all of them virtually, and these people have interacted only with their leaders.
“But I think fundamentally, it is important that people do come back some of the time. I’m a big believer that people connect for two reasons: one is culture and the other innovation,” he said.
He explained that organisations can grow only when people gossip about them when they connect over the water cooler or coffee machines to talk about what’s happening, what’s changing, and what’s not happening inside the organisation, and for the organisation to learn from it. “I think it’s incredibly critical for that to happen. And it doesn’t happen in this transactional medium of being virtual,” Premji said.
Innovation is never linear, where a solution strikes when you are chitchatting, or sitting in a conference room discussing a problem. This will not happen virtually, which is a controlled medium, according to Premji.
The pandemic is also changing the talent base. Currently close to 35-40 percent of the workforce is working out of their hometowns, and many people continue to want that option. There are women who want to work on a permanent basis from home. There are others who would like to come back to offices yet with the flexibility to work from anywhere.
This is creating a paradox and striking a balance is challenge companies need to work on, he added.