While India certainly has a few world-class universities (especially in technology), its overall educational system is, to say the least, limited.
Despite these limitations, Indian and Western IT services firms have managed to build a million-person IT services industry that is the envy of the world—rapidly progressing from providing basic, low-cost services, to delivering not only world-class development capabilities, but also sophisticated business consulting and process reengineering skills.
How were these companies able to shape such a limited supply of human resources into a world-class talent development machine? By directly assisting engineering institutions and business schools and, especially, by taking over many of the educational tasks that are typically handled by educational institutions.
Although all of the major firms—both Indian and Western—are assuming similar roles, Infosys is clearly one of the leaders, both in how it partners with educational institutions and in its own employee development program.
Infosys’ employee development process begins well before it actually hires a person. In some cases, the process can track back to its corporate philanthropy programs, as with programs such as SPARK (one-day introductory experiences for high-school engineering students, hosted at Infosys development centers) and Catch Them Young (a two-week program in which 9th-grade students learn the basics of information technology). Through these programs, which have touched more than 320,000 students in the last 3 years, Infosys has also donated technology, including almost 1,000 PCs, to schools.
The company’s primary work with educators and students, however, focuses on colleges and universities. Its CampusConnect program, for example, helps Indian colleges develop and adapt courses and curricula that teach more “industry-relevant” skills. The company develops curricula, courseware and methodologies which are published on its CampusConnect portal. The program trains faculty to deliver these courses through activities including:
- Bringing college student and faculty groups to Infosys centers for training and exposure to Infosys practices and technologies;
- Funding train-the-trainer programs and two-to-three-month faculty sabbaticals on an Infosys campus; and
- Sponsoring regional meetings and monthly Webinars to inform faculty of new developments and provide opportunities for them to communicate and establish communities among themselves.
Students who don’t have access to the program through their colleges and universities can access the CampusConnect portal themselves, where they can download and work through Infosys courses on their own. Since its launch in 2004, the program has worked with more than 6,500 faculty members in more than 500 colleges and universities, reaching more than 135,000 students.
Although the vast majority of the company’s campus outreach efforts are targeted at engineering institutions, it has smaller, more focused programs intended to reach those in other disciplines. B-school Connect, for example, is intended to help business schools create bridges between theory and actual business needs and particularly to show the critical roles that IT plays in management, such as by helping them create topics in business analysis. Project Genesis, meanwhile, is intended to help science, commerce and liberal arts majors develop analytical and communication skills required for careers in Business Process Outsourcing.
All of these university programs, not to speak of the company’s own in-house programs, also have a critical sub-theme and objective—to help students and employees develop confidence in their own abilities and to improve their ability to make contributions to their employers.
These campus programs are not specifically tuned to teaching skills that will benefit Infosys or to directly promote Infosys as an employer. This being said, however, they do provide visibility into the company and, through its engagement with institutions, helps the company attract promising students. They can also lead to internships, both domestically and internationally through the company’s InStep program. These internships often lead to full-time jobs.
The company, in fact, typically relies on its 500 CampusConnect partners for up to half its new recruits. These partner schools however, are primarily second- and third-tier colleges and universities. After all, the tier-one schools, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology, with which we have become so familiar, don’t really need all that much help. Moreover, their graduates are more likely to go to graduate school, than they are to seek direct employment.
Learning the Infosys Way
Infosys begins its formal employee education process as soon as it hires a new graduate.
Each new engineer is enrolled in the company’s 23-week residential program (there is a separate, shorter program for new BPO recruits) at the company’s Mysore Development Center. All go through a basic software engineering course before being assigned to deep dives. Software engineers, for example, will typically focus on a particular application (particularly SAP, Oracle or Microsoft) or technology (Java, Mainframes, cloud, mobility and so forth). New business analysts, meanwhile, will go deep into a particular cross-industry domain (such as finance, human resources or procurement) while project managers focus on project management techniques and Infosys processes.
This, however, is only the first step in a career-long continuous education process. Roughly 95% of those who successfully complete the Mysore program are then assigned to specific groups where they begin to learn how to apply these skills to the needs of Infosys’ clients. Each employee gets regular reviews and options for different career paths. They are also required to take continuing education courses and meet defined certification criteria.
The company currently offers 1,500 such courses in each of the technologies and business domains on which the company focuses, plus a growing number of courses in soft skills, such as communications and presentations. But while most initial training focuses on technology and soft skills, they become increasingly exposed to iness-based courses, in areas such as business value and specific functional and industry processes, in their later years with the company.
In fact, each employee must meet all the milestones and complete all of the certifications required for their current roles before they can be considered eligible for a promotion. These promotions can be either vertical (more responsible positions in their current role) or lateral (such as from software engineering into consulting or technology architecture).
As expected, Infosys provides selected fast-track employees with special attention. Identified leaders are enrolled in the Infosys Leadership Institute, which provides highly customized assessment, personal development and mentoring programs. This program, however, covers only about 850 of the company’s 130,000 employees and is limited to three tiers of employees:
- Tier One, who currently lead departments;
- Tier Two, who are likely to lead departments in three to five years; and
- Tier Three, who are likely to become Tier 2 employees in three to five years.
All employees, meanwhile, are encouraged to provide some contribution to India’s educational system. SPARK classes, for example, are taught by more than 10,000 Infosys volunteers in a given year. Volunteers also play key roles in Catch Them Young and other programs conducted at Infosys Development Centers. The company also helps employees who would like to make deeper commitments, as by paying 50 percent salary to those who dedicate their sabbaticals to teaching at educational institutions or working at non-profits.
As expected, the vast majority of Infosys’ efforts are dedicated directly to working with Indian schools and Indian employees. But, as I discuss in my next blog, it is expanding a number of these programs to other countries. It is also partnering with non-profit institutions and other companies to scale its programs, both in India and around the world.