Learning is understandably a high priority for this leading
company in the knowledge-based services industry. You could
consider it the key to growth, retention, and prosperity.
Like many technology service companies emerging from the recession,
Bangalore, Indiabased Wipro Technologies faced two formidable
challenges in 2009. It was under pressure by its customers to
deliver more for lessto reduce the delivery cost of its IT services
and to improve the quality of those services. To help address those
issues, it turned to its learning function.
Wipro Technologies, the technology and consulting services division
of Indian conglomerate Wipro Ltd., manages some 3,000 projects for
500 global customers. Manpower represents 74 percent of the costs
of that delivery.
To lower that figure, the company decided to increase the
composition of less expensive recruits as a percentage of billable
manpower from 16 percent to 19 percent. The learning function
needed to quickly create and deliver training that could transition
new graduates from the classroom to the integrated world of
It revised orientation training to include three additional weeks
of on-the-job indoctrination called the Real Life Lab. The lab is
an intense learning experience about computer programming, problem
solving, and the development of analytical skills and other tasks
that needed to be honed on actual development projects.
Meanwhile, Wipro also set out to improve the capabilities of the
delivery management solution. The learning function created a new
Delivery Management Academy (DMA) to increase the proficiency of
the individual mid-level executives who typically manage 10 client
projects apiece. It examined the work loads, defined frequencies,
and looked at gaps.
Both learning projects were enormously successful, says Selvan
Dorairaj, senior vice president of talent transformation. The 97
percent rate of repeat business is a testament to the quality of
our delivery, Dorairaj adds.
He says Wipro Technologiess talent transformation function launched
several other important initiatives last year and measured solid
progress on others. One new initiative revised the management of
high growth accounts. It targeted 66 accounts for a new elite
category of Client Engagement Managers and appointed high-potential
individuals to the position. They were given CEO-like authority
over the prized profit centers including sales, delivery, quality,
The new empowerment model with its increased autonomy represents an
important cultural shift for the company, Dorairaj says. The
designated individuals are the face of the organization for their
customer and a single point of contact. The benefits of this new
alignment are profound. It is not only an important growth
opportunity for managers, its a great retention tool for the
company, he explains.
Naturally, the transformation of sales-oriented account managers
into de facto CEOs also requires a hefty training component. A
comprehensive developmental program involving a leading business
school and a new Wipro learning initiative called the Program
Management Academy were launched. Leading industry consultants also
were engaged to help design and develop the executive grooming
Dorairaj considers Wipro Technologiess most innovative learning
initiative of 2010 to be its response to the companys chronic need
for young and fully prepared engineers. It hires about 7,500 fresh
engineering graduates from electrical, electronics, and computer
science streams each year.
But these recruits are typically educated within a single-stream
approach, he says. They lack the understanding of engineering
subjects in an integrated and interconnected fashion. If they are
studying microprocessors, they are only taught microprocessors, he
says. To bridge that gap, Wipro spends approximately $10 million
annually conducting 50-plus days of preparatory training.
A team from its learning organization studied the challenges of
training new hires as well as the education they receive. Then it
developed an innovative tool called a Unified Learning Kit (ULK),
an advanced programmable platform that integrates the latest
hardware and software from leading technology vendors. It includes
the subjects taught in college in an integrated fashion designed to
develop industry-ready skills. The so-called lab in a box enables
students to experiment in all relevant engineering subjects, and
see how the processes work seamlessly together.
A single portable, laptop-sized ULK can teach more than 10
different technical subjects in both hardware and software across
three years of a students engineering education. Dorairaj considers
it the ideal platform to bridge the needs of academia and business.
Wipro is making it available to engineering colleges so they can
produce better prepared graduates who have refined their career
Relationships with academic institutions are a high priority for
Wipro. For example, it operates a corporate university in
collaboration with Indias BITS University to help aspiring
employees obtain masters degrees in engineering. At any given time,
5,000 of the companys 72,000 employees pursue degrees under an earn
and learn program that is totally reimbursed by the learning
Formally known as the WASE (Wipro Academy of Software Excellence)
Program, it is made available to staffers with no employment
strings attached following completion of the program. Nonetheless,
Wipro maintains an attrition rate of less than 1 percent among
WASEians, says Sambuddha Deb, executive vice president and chief
global delivery officer.
Another innovative program launched last year was designed to
extend the reach of learning throughout the enterprise. A group of
five instructors was appointed to select 500 subject matter experts
from a variety of departments to become part-time certified
trainers. Following indoctrination, the individuals were assigned
to train almost 10,000 employees on vital subjects based on a
curriculum that highlights each trainers personal expertise.
They conducted 618 sessions last year on selected topics from 11
subjects in technical, behavioral, and managerial areas. The
program represents a dramatic extension of the learning
organizations reach that is accomplished without outsourcing, but
instead reinvests in the business, Dorairaj explains. The SMEs are
rewarded for their efforts with high visibility within the company,
including articles in the employee newsletter and interaction with
corporate leaders at certification events.
The learning organization is able to meet these and other diverse
challenges because of an optimal organizational structure and the
high priority placed on learning within the company (employees are
required to spend 5 percent of their time on learning).
Wipros learning function is a three-tiered organization that
includes a team of consultants who interface with business units, a
content delivery organization, and a services and support function.
Strict lines of demarcation separate each activity. The structure
ensures that delivery is insulated from the vagaries of the
business and can focus entirely on quality, Dorairaj explains.
Part of the delivery team creates capability-building programs
aligned to the various roles in the business such as rookie
training and the academies, while another group focuses on programs
to improve the customer experience. The latter includes quality
issues, technical skills, customer management, and similar topics.
In addition, learning design strategies are targeted to specific
generations in the workforce. But given an average employee age of
29 years, technology-based learning receives the most attention.
Such attention to detail, says Dorairaj, is why Wipro Technologiess
learning organization operates at the highest level it possibly