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Tech Companies Geared Up For Serious Succession Planning At CXO Level

In today's dynamic world where exits are frequent and often sudden, it has becoming imperative for companies to maintain a strong leadership pipeline

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Technology companies are embarking on serious leadership succession planning to ensure they have a pipeline of able leaders to steer the company when the predecessor leaves. When a leader at the CXO level exits, companies often have to hunt for talent outside their organisations which typically take much longer to close in. According to talent assessment company Mettl, the average time period to find a successor is around six months. The challenge is further heightened when the leader decides to exit abruptly without enough notice.

India's third largest IT services company Wipro follows a structured talent review and planning process every year, which helps them build a pipeline of talent for succession to key roles. "While undertaking this exercise, we bear in mind aspects such as the strengths, areas of development as well as the aspirations of members of our leadership teams across the organisation and then categorise them as 'ready now', 'ready in 1-2 years or 2-3 years' time frame for key roles," says Sunita Cherian, Senior Vice President - Human Resources, Wipro.

At any given point in time, Wipro has two successors identified for each role at a CXO level. "This may include external candidates for certain roles," Cherian says.

In an increasingly changing environment, the past performance of an employee can hardly be a metric to gauge his future performance. Therefore, at mid-sized IT company Hexaware Technologies, all leaders have measurable KPIs that are system driven. "This makes the identification of a leadership pipeline objective and performance based. In addition, periodic evaluation is done based on the behavioural and functional competency requirements for their successive roles," says Amberin Memon, Chief People Officer, Hexaware. "We believe mentoring works best in polishing the skills of the potential leaders. There are also training programs organised and suggested for the potential candidates."

Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS) identifies potential leaders through periodic insights and inputs from their geographically-diverse board, says Anthony Joseph, Executive Vice President (Global) HR at HGS. This year, they have also engaged with a leadership assessment and development training program for their employees. "In the first phase, we have covered 15 people including the CEO and his direct reportees while in the second phase, we will cover the next 100 people."

L&T Technology Services has a structured program to identify and develop potential successors for key positions, through a systematic evaluation process and training. "In line with the best industry practices, we have moved from calendar programs to competency-based programs by career stages. We have a well formulated strategy to train first time as well as mid-level managers and groom senior leaders for the top positions either new or replacement," says Paneesh Rao, Chief Human Resources Officer at L&T Technology Services. "Thus, in case of any unforeseen exits, we have a robust second rung of leadership in place, who can take over the reins promptly and effectively without losing time."

Nurturing The Technocrats
IT companies also face a situation where they have coders or technical experts in their domain who either do not want to take up managerial roles or are not equipped with the right people skills. To address this challenge, Wipro has a program called "The Distinguished Member of Technical Staff (DMTS)" which is an initiative aimed at providing career advancement opportunities for them without compromising on their career growth.

"It helps build a cadre of expert technologists who work on cutting-edge technologies and provides an aspirational career ladder for experienced technologists," Cherian says.

HGS, provider of business process management (BPM) solutions, also believes in nurturing their technical talent. "We call them subject matter experts and we encourage their growth by creating a career path that is equally rewarding," says Joseph.

Similarly, L&T Technology Services has introduced a dual stream for career development spread across technology and managerial. Their training program cuts across roles and levels.

While all coders may not be leaders, Hexaware believes great coders will crave for an opportunity to lead. "Hexaware feeds that need through sustained job rotation and accelerators even if it goes against traditional career pathing and seniority norms," Memon says.

Hexaware's internal university, Hexavarsity also facilitates tailor-made leadership programs for their development which helps in graduating them from "IQ (Intelligence quotient) to EQ (Emotional Quotient)" which refers to the transition from technical experts to people experts.