IN LATE 2011, IT industry veteran Ashok Soota announced a new technology services company, Happiest Minds, his second venture after Mindtree. His vision was to build a digital native company which would clock $100 million revenue in five years and give top priority to employee wellness. A decade later, Happiest Minds came out with an initial public offering. As of December 2023, it had grown to 5,246 employees, with 28% of them being women. But more interestingly, workforce is 84.5% millennials and over 10.3% Gen Zs. After listing in October 2021, it laid out Vision 2031 with a goal of becoming a billion-dollar company. Operating revenues were $146.1 million in first nine months of FY24.

Sachin Khurana, senior vice president & chief people officer, says people-centricity at the company has evolved in phases. With nearly 95% employees in their 30s and 40s, understanding the mindset of younger demographics such as millennials and GenZ has become a must, he says. “The most important factor for them is environment. How open is the space? Does it have restrictions? Or how hierarchical the company is, as they don’t like hierarchy at all?,” he says.

Being a digital company, Happiest Minds has embedded technology into processes, including predictive analytics to screen candidates for hiring. It also uses AI tools for screening resumes and video tools for interviewing Tier-II city-based candidates, apart from digital onboarding platforms. Also, campus recruitment is 100% digital. “We work closely with our Gen AI services business to create use cases in people functions such as verification of candidates,” says Khurana.

Covid made IT services firms focus on mental well-being of employees. Happiest Minds employees undergo mindfulness training, which involves mental activities to lower stress, improve interpersonal relationships, increase productivity and improve work-life balance. Also, there is greater focus on listening to employees. For instance, it has a portal where employees can post questions to executive board or functional heads; even anonymous questions are answered. “It has become so insightful that we are becoming proactive in communication in some cases,” says Khurana. Similarly, on Yammer/Viva Engage, an integrated social communication tool, employees can ask questions, provide feedback and hold town halls with senior leadership. Instances of sexual harassment or discrimination can be reported directly to the chief people officer.

Since roughly 46% new campus hires are women, the Diversity & Inclusion (D&A) Council is critical for implementing D&I policies and programmes. As part of the company’s progressive agenda, each business unit works to achieve its D&I targets through hiring drives. The talent acquisition team is mandated to consider diversity even while hiring leaders. That is why Happiest Minds had 100% record of women joining back after maternity in previous year. It has improved its referral system by announcing an additional 5% fee to the referrer if a woman joins the team. HappiZest, a wellness team, runs a month-long campaign especially for women.

In order to support career growth of employees, the company has been encouraging multi-skilling and cross-skilling along with personal development plans; nearly 70% employees have participated in these initiatives. Last year, Happiest Minds launched its I3 (Ignite, Inspire, Innovate) Program for nurturing future leadership. The programme has targeted initiatives such as Shift Program for business analysts, Lead Program for department managers, Global Leadership program for CXO and senior leaders and Architect Program to cover all critical positions under succession planning within next three years. The mentorship programme is playing a role in grooming the next line of leaders as part of the goal of having at least 60% leadership from within the company. Top six presidents directly mentor five people under them.

In an industry where people are the biggest cost as well as assets, employee satisfaction, reflecting its voluntary attrition rate, can decide a company’s future. Smaller firms which are increasing their footprint, will have to adopt a different strategy for retaining talent, says Sachin Khurana. The company’s attrition, which peaked at 22.7 % in FY22, has stabilised around 14% in last two quarters (Q2 and Q3 of FY24).

“We have drastically increased communication with locations such as Madurai, Coimbatore, Pune and Bhubaneswar. Our leadership not just visits but works out of those locations for a few days.” As Happiest Minds has clocked 10.8% growth in nine months of the fiscal, it is confident of not just retaining its best talent but also attract younger and better talent to the company.

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