The CEO of 100,000 Person Genpact on How to Lead in the New Normal
Tiger Tyagarajan is the CEO of Genpact, a global professional services firm with 100,000 employees that drives digital-led innovation and digitally-enabled intelligent operations for organizations around the world.
Prior to Genpact, Tiger worked for several well-known companies such as Unilever, Citibank, and GE. He was actually one of the industry leaders who pioneered a new global business model and transformed a division of GE into Genpact back in 2005.
Tiger serves on the Board of Catalyst, a global non-profit organization working with some of the world’s most powerful CEOs to help build workplaces that work for women. He also was one of the founding supporters of the U.S. chapter of the 30% Club, which is committed to gender balance on boards of directors and in senior management. He is an active member of the Fortune CEO Initiative, a forum for corporate leaders committed to addressing major social problems as part of their core business strategies.
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Just like organizations all over the world, Genpact has had to adjust to the new normal that we are facing with Covid-19. And with a team of 100,000 people all around the world, it is not a simple thing to do. As Tiger shares, when they first learned of Covid-19 there wasn’t a playbook that they could just look at and act on. Tiger and his team knew they had to do something and that time was of the essence, so perfection was not what they were aiming for. They knew they had to build something quickly, start using it, and then allow the team to improve it over time.
While the experience was stressful, there are a couple things that Tiger shares, that made a difference in the way Genpact reacted.
Leaders need to have North Stars
A practice that Tiger has put in place for himself, and one that he highly suggests for all leaders, is having a few North Stars in place that help guide you as a leader when making tough decisions. These are the values and the culture of your organization that you need to base all decisions on. And it is important for everyone in the organization to know what those values are, know what those North Stars are, so that everyone is on the same page.
Tiger says, “As long as you are clear about that, as long as everyone is clear about that, you have first of all an alignment, where everyone says — that’s the North Star, those are our values, that’s our culture. And that therefore makes decision making easier and with speed. And second, you do your best to deliver whatever North Star you defined. So for us, the North Star for us was, we always pride ourselves on incredibly great service to our customers. And we think that’s what makes us different. And that’s what gets us new business and growth. And we also pride ourselves on being a great place to work for our employees. So therefore, right out of the gate, we said, we want to achieve two design principles in every decision. Number one, do the right thing for our employees — protect their safety, and wellness — and two make sure that we continue to find a way to deliver service to our clients because we quickly realized that a lot of the services we deliver, if you stopped delivering, our clients would suffer significantly, and the economy would suffer significantly. Whichever economy it serves. So we had to balance, in every decision, these two things, but it allowed us to take decisions that basically said, these are the two important things, everything else doesn’t matter.”
So what are your North Stars? What are the values inside your organization, what is the purpose or the mission of your company, and what culture are you trying to create? Figure these out and making decisions will be a lot easier.
What will work look like post Covid-19?
Right now the way we work looks a lot different than it did even just 6 months ago. The question is, once we get past this, which will hopefully be sooner rather than later, but once we get past Covid-19 what will work look like? Will it be changed forever or will some things go back to normal.
One thing that a lot of people are speculating about is that the office will be a thing of the past and that everyone will be working from home. Tiger doesn’t agree. While he does agree that some things will never go back to what it was before, he believes that offices will come back, at least in some form.
Tiger says that assuming that 50% or more of the work going forward will be done from home is too simple, it is more nuanced than that. There may be some roles that make more sense to do from home, for example inside of Genpact there are some employees who at certain times of the year have to work for five days straight without a break, sometimes into the midnight hours. For that type of work it would make sense to be in the comfort of your own home while working long hours.
But there are a lot of roles where it would not make sense to work from home long term and there are a lot of people who are excited and just itching to go back into the office. Some people thrive on that person to person interaction and collaboration, which is missing right now.
Tiger believes that post Covid there will be more flexibility in the way we work, maybe at certain times of the year or certain days of the week people will be able to work from home, but there will be times when the office is necessary. He also suggested the idea of companies possibly acquiring more office space than they have now. Instead of having one office building with 10,000 people, maybe it makes more sense to have 10 offices with 1,000 people in each one. This could bring offices closer to people, bring down commute times, and potentially cut down on air pollution.
The current situation is also impacting the speed at which organizations go through digital transformation. Some companies who have just talked about digital transformation for years, have been forced into acting on it quickly. Companies who were resisting change in the past, can no longer wait, even if they wanted to.
Tiger says, “What COVID-19 has done is created a couple of constraints that have forced innovation and experimentation. It’s the single biggest experiment, people are calling it as the biggest experiment that humans have done considering the time frame. And, and I wonder whether other intractable problems in the world are actually solvable, by actually deliberately putting constraints on.”
Could problems like climate change be solved if we put our own constraints on it and forced ourselves to solve the problem now? Tiger thinks it is possible, but just like Covid is affecting everyone in the world, in order to solve climate change it would require everyone coming together. It couldn’t just be a small group of people.
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Two things leaders must focus on in the new normal
Our current events have shaped the way our leaders need to lead. Not only have they had to make tough decisions about layoffs, closing offices, and trying to figure out how to keep business coming in, they also have had to assist employees in moving from working in the office to working from home in a very short period of time.
There are two things that Tiger and his team have pinpointed as changes they had to make to adjust to these times. One was the frequency of communication with employees. In the past, during normal times, Genpact leaders held town hall meetings once a quarter. Now they are holding town hall meetings once a month and they are sending out video blogs once a week.
When they would hold town hall meetings once a quarter around 5,000 to 7,000 people would show up, but now that they are virtual and held more frequently there are around 20,000 people joining.
The other important aspect that Tiger and his team have focused on is empathy, which is important in all times, but it is much harder when everything is virtual. Leaders have to understand the difference in leading an in-person meeting and leading a virtual one. With virtual, you can’t read body language as well. It also is easier in a virtual meeting to have everyone sign in and just start the meeting, skipping the usual banter and check-ins that happen when you meet in person. This is something that Tiger is really focused on fixing, because it is important to keep that casual conversation, to let employees know that you care about their well being and to judge how people are feeling. Are they stressed, are they depressed, are they excited? These are important things for leaders to know about their people.
In our new virtual world leaders have to go above and beyond the old ways to make sure they stay in touch with employees and empathize with them.
How Genpact is addressing diversity and inclusion
More than 15 years ago Tiger and his team at Genpact set out to address gender diversity inside of their organization. They realized not enough women were represented in leadership, and they knew that had to change. Over the past 15 years they have made significant progress, going from one woman on the leadership team to five and from zero women on the board to four women on the board now. He admits there is still a long way to go, but in a short amount of time they have made good strides forward.
In light of the current events around the world that are shedding light on racial inequality, Tiger and his team knew they again had to make some changes. But they knew time was of the essence and they didn’t want to talk about actions to take for months and months. They wanted to act immediately. They had a meeting on a Monday morning at 9am and by 10am a decision was taken and by that evening they announced their decision publicly. They added racial equality as a pillar of their D&I strategy. And they announced that they were putting Hope Cooper, one of the rising African American leaders in the company, in charge of the initiative.
Tiger released an open letter addressing the situation and how the company would react. The company also hosted six open listening sessions across the US so people in the African American, Black American population could share their experiences, their fears, and their ideas. Tiger and Genpact took those thoughts and created an agenda with defined metrics and initiatives with impact.
Since then Genpact has also partnered with organizations such as the NAACP to start a dialogue on how the company can bring its unique skills and support to the table to form a meaningful and mutually beneficial relationship.
Tiger and his team are definitely not just about talking about change, when they see a problem that needs to be addressed, they are all in. They take the steps needed to immediately start the process of change. And that is so important for leaders to remember. You can’t just talk about changing for the better or impacting your community, you have to take action. That is the only way our organizations and our leaders are going to positively impact employees, communities, and the world.
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