Infosys has been getting a lot of bad press recently and sure there are probably a lot of things wrong with the company but there are also a lot of great things about it that don’t get spoken about enough. I want to talk, in this post, about some of the things about Infosys that make me respect the organization and happy that I worked there for 5 years.
Respect for Internal Free Speech
An internal blog post by an HR manager in the company received over 2000 comments. Most of these comments expressed strong negative opinions about the company. It was great for me to see that even though there was no system of anonymous commenting and all comments were identifiable to the employees who wrote them, this did not deter people from being upfront and blunt about their opinions. They were sure that doing this would not harm them in any way. The way the company responded to the incident was also worthy of respect. It never took down the post or the comments. Even when I was quitting the company many months later, the post and comments could still be accessed on the Intranet. What was more; I was part of management council meetings where the issues that employees had raised were taken up with the seriousness that they deserved.
Respect for Youth
Infosys has a culture of respecting youth. As a young software engineer with barely 2-3 years of experience, I had opportunities to talk to and question the CEO and various board members of the company. These sessions were not in town halls but in a conference room with less than 30 people. These leaders took my question as seriously the questions from some of my very senior colleagues in the room.
In 2009, I managed to sit in on some meetings in the annual strategy and planning meet at Infosys. This is a meeting where the board members and a couple of hundred top leaders of the company discuss the strategy for the coming year. My being in the room along with these senior folks was not seen as anything out of the ordinary. In fact, the company invites into these meetings, a few Infoscions below the age of 30 every year.
Every unit now has an initiative that brings people below 30 into its management councils. My friends who sit on some of these management councils have vigorous debates with people many levels of hierarchy above them, on policy matters that affect entire units and even the organization.
At Infosys, there is a strong culture of ‘be the change you wish to see’. In my time there, I often reached out to leaders in the organization and spoke to them about things that I thought the organization should do. I was often told, sure, if you take it up, we will provide you all the support we can. I often did take these things up. This never went unrecognized; I was given more and more chances to participate in the organizational decision making.
In 2009 when the effects of the recession began to hit the IT industry, hiring slowed down. Many companies that had made offers to students graduating that year had to withdraw the offers because demand had taken a nose dive and utilization levels in all companies were falling. How did Infosys respond to this situation? Our senior management decided that we will honour every one of the 20 thousand+ offers we had made to graduating students. We would bear the additional cost that it represents now that they won’t be productive immediately in bringing revenue to the company. Not only that, the company extended the training program for new hires by 3 months. (Full pay).
Leaders who give you the time
In my time there, I reached out to many senior leaders in the organization for help on projects or on initiatives that I was a part of in the organization. What still amazes me is the fact that these people, who had insanely busy schedules, took out the time to talk to me/ my team on very short notice. This was not the case with just one or two people; it was almost a cultural thing with people who had been in the organization for long enough.
Leaders who care for the country, not just the company and money
I feel proud of the fact that Nandan Nilekani went out and is today creating what to my mind is a revolutionary platform with Adhaar. It is something that will have a large and systemic impact on many of the issues we face as a country. I love that Mohandas Pai today works with SEBI and on other government of India projects. I love that Narayan Murthy wrote a book called ‘A Better India, A Better World’ and Nandan wrote ‘Imagining India’ where most corporate czars write books about their management styles or stories. These are people who worked not just for the good of the company but who are working towards a better India.
Now I am sure the company has a lot of problems and I personally disagreed with many of the policies in place while I was there but I think there is a lot about the organization that deserves respect.