A challenging economy is the right test of an organisation’s character

Times like these are good to focus on learning and competency building. For, when you are not riding a wave, it is best to invest in yourself so that you are fully equipped to ride the next wave. This has helped open up avenues to redeploy the relevant talent. Exuding confidence is no more about knowing all the answers or being oblivious to difficult problems, but about communicating through words and actions that best articulate the drive to resolve issues at hand.

Endowing people with information can be inconsequential if they cannot leverage that information for quick and seamless decision making. How can a good idea be made great? How can we ensure we make a dumb mistake just once and not several times? How can we bring the very best ideas to specific client problems again and again? It’s through a culture of teamwork and collaboration.

To enhance this, Cognizant have developed a unified global platform known as Cognizant 2.0 to transform knowledge sharing, workforce collaboration and project management across highly complex and globally spread projects. Its real success in finding completely new work environments and platforms has been bottom up instead of top down. By supporting the way people in their 20s and 30s like to interact with technology and computing, Cognizant 2.0 has incorporated social media in a work context and witnessed phenomenal adoption.

At Cognizant, they always believe talent cannot be attracted, motivated and retained through compensation alone. Their focus has also been on the intangible offerings that we can take to employees, including everything from greater depth and diversity of roles, to a growth driven organisational culture.

This focus has cultivated a mindset of “total employee experience” in the minds of managers and their teams. It is during times of uncertainty that top talent recognises and appreciates the true merits of an organisation’s culture with its focus shifting ever more sharply to non-monetary parameters of job satisfaction.

It has been empirically proven that recessions catalyse innovation. Additionally, the best innovations can come from the most unusual places in the organisation. But that can only happen when people feel empowered, when they will be fully engaged regardless of role, location or incentive system.

In empowering people by creating an open, non-hierarchical structure that encourages responsibility, commitment, sharing and excellence across all layers of the organisation have been able to reinforce a sense of participation in our associates by giving them a free hand to push the limits of imagination in doing what they think is right for the customer and for the organisation. When everybody is afraid of being fired, the culture is that of politics and not innovation. But when associates feel empowered, tough times can serve to further catalyse their commitment and innovation.

At the heart of ability to work through the vagaries of business cycles is their well-differentiated business model, which has allowed them to integrate people practices with business requirements. This gives room to evolve despite market conditions. Faced with the need to manage profitability in the face of falling sales forecasts, professional services firms often tend to scrutinise their “bench”.

This starts a terrible rumor mill and triggers off all sorts of aberrant behavior because people are afraid of being fired. Taking a different approach they use this opportunity to re-train teams. Interestingly, they have even introduced a web-based learning initiative to productively engage would-be employees free of cost and equip them with diverse skills to enhance their job preparedness.

Be it training employees, investing heavily on leadership and customer focus, or sprucing up processes and systems, people management during a downturn is more about getting ready for the time when the markets look up again. A challenging economy is the truest test of an organisation’s character and that character is not something that can be fixed overnight.