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HCL Technologies is headquartered in the world’s largest democracy, so it’s quite fitting that the New Delhi-based company is attempting a radical experiment in workplace democracy. CEO Vineet Nayar is committed to creating a company where the job of company leaders is to enable people to find their own destiny by gravitating to their strengths. As we discussed in the chapter opener, one thing that Nayar has done is to pioneer a culture in which employees are first. What has he done to put employees first? Part of the cultural initiative dealt with the organization’s structure. HCL inverted its organizational structure and placed more power in the hands of frontline employees, especially those in direct contact with customers and clients. It increased its investment in employee development and improved communication through greater transparency.
Employees were encouraged to communicate directly with Nayar. Through a forum called U&I (You and I), Nayar fielded more than 100 questions from employees every week. “I threw open the door and invited criticism,” he said. However, the signature piece of the company’s cultural mission is probably what HCL called “trust pay.” In contrast to the industry standard in which the average employee’s pay is 30 percent variable, HCL decided to pay higher fixed salaries and reduce the variable component. Does the unique “employees first” culture at HCL Technologies attract unique employees? Rajeev Sawhney, HCL’s European president, would say it does.
He uses Slumdog Millionaire, the movie that won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2009, as a parallel. “It (the movie) is a reflection of the Indian race. It shows the adversity that creates the desire in people to reach out and create…. With each adversity they face, there is a greater desire to reach out and do something more.” Sawhney says that entrepreneurialism is a key value of the HCL culture. “You can still tell an HCL person from a mile off. I think there is a particular DNA for an HCL person. It includes a very high need for achievement and very persuasive skills. HCL people are very energetic; they want to do lots of things and to take risks on behalf of the company.”
1. What is your impression of an “employee first” culture? Would this work in other organizations? Why or why not? What would it take to make it work?
2. How might an understanding of organizational behavior help CEO Vineet Nayar lead his company? Be specific. How about first-line company supervisors? Again, be specific.
3. What aspects of personality do you see in this story about HCL? How have the personality traits of HCL employees contributed to make what HCL what it is?
4. Design an employee attitude survey for HCL’s employees. Compare your ideas with what our “real” manager suggested