How India’s largest IT firm hires and onboards remote workers

Outside, looking in.
Outside, looking in.
Image: For edit/Danish Siddiqui
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The pandemic didn’t introduce TCS to virtual recruitment, but it has made made the practice critically important.

Historically, representatives from India’s largest IT Services company would visit 300 to 350 top colleges around the country to recruit for entry-level positions. But in 2018, the company layered in online testing.

“Much before the pandemic, we thought that it would be a good idea to basically do a democratization of talent,” says TCS chief human resources officer Milind Lakkad. “Pedigree is important, but knowing full well that there are some really hungry associates in smaller cities who want to do well, they have to be given opportunities.”

That idea led to TCS’ National Qualifier Test, an online assessment that evaluates candidates’ competence on core cognitive processes, industry-specific knowledge and insights, and specialized skills. In 2019, almost 365,000 people from over 2,500 colleges appeared for the test, which is conducted every quarter. Scores are valid for two years.

Before Covid-19, the National Qualifier Test was conducted in TCS’s own centers, or in colleges where it had relationships. Since the pandemic, people have been able to take the test from the comfort of their homes. Lakkad says in the future the company may “do a mix of both [offline and online testing], depending on how this external situation from a pandemic standpoint evolves over the next few months.”

But in a remote-work world, recruitment is only half the battle. The other big challenge for TCS is onboarding.

Virtual onboarding for TCS employees

In the past, new TCS hires would participate in a three-month orientation program in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The 97-acre campus has the capacity to train 15,000 professionals at any given time, and 50,000 each year.

Since the pandemic, the company has doubled down on the virtual onboarding process it launched in 2019. The online training programme called TCS Xplore teaches people what they used to learn in Thiruvananthapuram over three months but in small virtual “capsules” while the new hire is still finishing up their degree courses, Lakkad says. A new hire’s performance in the course determines their signing bonus.

TCS has also been conducting hackathons and helping employees with online upskilling and training. “Gone are the days when people are sitting in classrooms and learning,” Lakkad says. “They want to get onto a 20-minute video call and learn and adopt and apply that learning in their job, and move on to the next one.”

Yet despite this online push, TCS is also one of several Indian IT giants still standing by a giant office campus.

TCS dreams of going back to office

For now, TCS is planning to have just 25% of its workforce in its physical offices at any given time. But when pandemic conditions improve, Lakkad still believes new recruits will need to see a large-scale office to experiences a sense of community.

The company argues that employees have several amenities, from gyms to pools to canteens, at their disposal in a physical workplace—all perks that come with the job. As long as they’re vaccinated, and social distance, there’s no reason not to start creeping back to normal.

“While we have done whatever we have done online reasonably well, at the same time, I feel that it is time for them to come and see our office,” Lakkad says. “It is time for them to feel good being part of such large facilities, which are their second homes now.”