This week, India’s second largest information technology (IT) services company, Infosys, let go of a rather rigid sartorial regulation.
On June 01, the company decided to allow all employees to wear denims and casual clothes to work throughout the week. While this may be normal for several technology companies in the US and elsewhere, it is a first for the more traditional Indian IT services sector.
Infosys’ competitors like Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro, along with most smaller companies in the industry, allow employees to wear casuals only on Fridays.
The relaxed dress code—yet another initiative by chief executive officer Vishal Sikka—could bring about a significant cultural change and boost employees’ morale. The 48-year-old Sikka is mostly seen in a round-neck T-shirt and a jacket at public events.
With his global experience, the former top executive of German software major SAP AG has been defying the norms of the Indian IT services sector. Here’s a look at some such reforms that Sikka has brought about in his ten months at Infosys.
Sikka, the first non-founding CEO of Infosys, allowed employees to access social networking websites such as Facebook or Twitter in office—a huge cultural shift for a company that till recently closely monitored the number of work hours an employee put in daily. The only condition set by Sikka for employees before using social networks was to “get the job done.” The initiative, which is pretty unconventional for an industry that bills clients by the hour, went down well with the employees.
“It’s not like we can sit and browse social networking websites all day because the bosses are watching, after all. But it’s a lot better than a lot of other IT companies that confiscate mobile phones before you enter the office,” an Infosys employee told Quartz, requesting anonymity. “My friends were actually quite jealous after Infosys made this announcement because their employers have strict restriction on using social networking websites at work.”
Sikka is perhaps the first Indian IT CEO who has a personal blog, which can be publicly accessed. From his vision for Infosys to rain drops in Tokyo, Sikka shares his thoughts on a wide range of subjects, often talking about his wife or mother. He is also very active on Infosys’ internal blog and even shares video messages with employees.
Soon after joining Infosys, Sikka launched ‘Murmuration’—an initiative to crowd-source ideas from employees. The programme received over 2,650 ideas from its workers. Infosys shortlisted 10 ideas from the pool, and invited feedback on those from other employees. Several employees that Quartz spoke to said this programme made them feel that someone was willing to hear them and consider their ideas.
For a sector that has been set in its fixed processes and practices for decades, Sikka has time and again asked Infosys’ employees to ask questions and challenge the norms. As a New Year’s greeting to 160,000 Infosys workers, Sikka wrote a post on the company’s internal blog and asked each one of them to “speak up” and be “curious.”
Such comments by Sikka have often made his observers feel that he is trying to create developers who think and innovate, instead of coders who just simply write programs.
Last year, Sikka had relaxed an old requirement that made it mandatory for employees to wear a tie to work. The decision was taken after several employees requested Sikka to discard the rule. Earlier, Infosys used to fine employees for not wearing ties on certain days.
“There was a monetary fine, which wasn’t too high, but it was to instil fear for violating dress code,” said another Infosys employee, requesting anonymity.
Team lunches have become frequent at Infosys over the past several months, as the company looks to engage staff and control its high attrition rate, which was at 18.9% between January and March 2015. Additionally, Sikka frequently sends emails to teams. Employees are also solicited for new business ideas, and location transfer requests are being processed more smoothly than earlier.
In December, Sikka gifted iPhone 6s to 3,000 top performers at Infosys. In an email accompanying the iPhones, Sikka said: “Everyone around you looks up to you and it is this approach to work that will help us evolve into the next-generation IT services company that we aspire to be—with you at the heart and centre of it.”
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