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BW Businessworld

'We Look At The Downturn As An Opportunity'

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Cigniti Technologies, engaged in software testing services, is a company of the future that 'gamifies' employee engagements and makes use of social networking platforms where employees are nominated on the basis of performances including special skills and professional achievements. Shashikala Kalaga, HR Head at Cigniti Technologies, believes it was her sensibility along with patience, perseverance and people-friendly attitude that helped her attain her present position in the company.

Kalaga thinks her challenge lies in maintaining a symbiotic relation between the employee and the employer and believes the global downturn has allowed her to choose from a larger pool of talented resources.

Excerpts from the conversation
What made you choose HR as a profession?
The opportunity to work with human capital is a great learning experience. In a sense it is a graceful responsibility to identify, nurture and enhance the visible and latent potential and channel it into growth for the individual as well as the organisation.

What has been the biggest achievement of your career?
At Cigniti we want to be synonymous with software testing. We are proud to say we have built an organisation of career testers. My biggest achievement has been to lead and own the talent management of this specialised set of skilled software testing professionals over a consistent period of time. The other significant achievement has been the development of an integrated people development plan and tracker which maps competencies and career growth of all the employees.

What have been the primary traits/qualities that have helped you attain your present position?
Sensible workers are the important asset to any facet of business. This belief, coupled with patience, perseverance and a people friendly attitude has helped me handle crises, large recruitment drives and to ensure high levels of employee satisfaction.

What are the challenges you are facing in your organisation?
Consistent and proactive employee engagement is the biggest challenge. As an organisation, we need to keep pace with the GenY aspirations,and ensure cost efficiency in overall operations. In a nutshell, the challenge lies in maintaining a symbiotic relation between the employee and the employer.

What are the steps a company should take to develop and motivate future leaders?
For an organisation, it is essential to identify leadership potential from the existing workforce. While competency levels may be treated with proper training, right aptitude and attitude should be identified and recognised consistently.

Apart from training, leadership can be nurtured by providing opportunities to explore innovation without fear of failure.

What is your rate of attrition? How do you prevent it?
At Cigniti, we are deeply committed to become the world’s largest independent software testing services company. We have been able to offer a well diversified professional growth for career testers. We maintain a culture of mutual respect, peer admiration, competitive spirit and an atmosphere of growth. This has helped us retain talent at all levels in this specialised area.

How do you retain talent in your company?
We have a talent management framework designed to help us engage excite and encourage the talent ensuring excellence.

We are committed to create a well defined career path for individuals interested in software testing. We also make significant investments in some of the best infrastructure across emerging technologies. This positions Cigniti as a preferred employer for those who wish to make a mark in software testing industry.

Our belief in a future that is led by IP driven testing has helped us develop smart tools to accelerate customer’s test life cycles and build competencies across 250 different software test tools. This provides a competitive advantage for our employees to stay innovative.

What sets your company apart from other companies as far as work culture goes?
At Cigniti, we develop and maintain an atmosphere of togetherness. We aim to also gamify employee engagement and adopt Enterprise 2.0 to make use of social networking platforms where employees can be nominated on their performances across special skills and professional achievements.

Our thought leaders and subject matter experts identify and mentor early stage leaders to maintain the talent pipeline.

What is the biggest challenge you face when selecting people?
Software testing is a specialised area which calls for the right attitude, aptitude, functional domain knolwedge, technical problem solving skills and ability to think beyond the normal. Finding talent of this nature is always a challenge. Disruption across technologies have resulted in newer ways of software testing. Skilled workforce is always a rare commodity in the emerging areas of software testing and automation for which we are proactively looking for talent.

How do you track employees' satisfaction or dissatisfaction?
We believe in inter personal communication and so we constantly talk to our employees. We have the ‘open door’ culture in our organisation where any employee can walk into any manager’s cabin for discussion. These discussions help us keep track of employee satisfaction levels and lead to policy changes.

How important is HR to the bottom line of a company?
HR identifies right talent, inducts, grooms and develops them for the organisation; It also aids in providing right environment to perform and flourish. This environment enhances productivity of the human assets of the organisation. The productivity reflects in enhanced bottom line as well as the top line.

How has the downturn affected HR?
On the one hand, we have a larger pool of talented resources to choose from when we recruit. On the other hand, we have to deal with increased apprehensions in the minds of marginal resources we are engaged with. However, we look at the downturn as an opportunity to get equipped by investing in the right talent and grooming them for the future.

How should HR be integrated with the core line of business?
HR function has evolved to be more of a strategic business enabler and global brand ambassador. Integrating and involving HR leaders in every touch point of organisation, be it delivery, branding, operations and sales support is what we believe in. This allows the organisation to leverage the best possible perspectives and data regarding the human capital, trends around competencies and market perceptions in achieving the end goals of the company.

A recent survey has questioned HR's actual contribution in an organisation. Would you like to comment on it with particular reference to your organisation?
At Cigniti, HR is treated as a very crucial function to ensure the optimal and long-term engagement of employees. Here, HR’s contribution lies in streamlining the efforts and crucial man hours into effective results which fall into the road map of growth.

If you could change three things about HR practices, what would they be?
1) Increase involvement of scientific methods for identifying talent rather than making decisions based on feedback and appraisals alone.
2) Initiate a scaffold method for grooming future leaders in the organisation.
3) Create a learning organisation and offer scope for multiple specialisations within it

(As told to Poonam Kumar)