18 Jul 2015 19:03 IST

Why Wipro looks to hire those with learning agility

Young managers should be able to manage change; skills can be picked up along the way

Author, columnist and management consultant, Abhijit Bhaduri wears many hats. An XLRI alumnus, Bhaduri is currently Chief Learning Officer for the Wipro group, and has almost three decades of experience in HR. He has a number of best sellers to his name, including Married But Available, Mediocre But Arrogant, and Don't Hire the Best. Bhaduri recently spoke with BLonCampus about what Wipro looks for in freshly minted graduates and more. Excerpts:

What are the skills or qualities Wipro looks for while hiring from B-Schools?

When hiring from B-schools, the first thing we look for is technical competence. By technical, I don't mean coding competence but subject expertise. For instance, if you are a Finance person, we look for your ability to understand Finance well. You should know it better than anyone else — possessing skills in (the) functional space. Beyond that, we seek out people who are at an early stage of their career, and an ability to work collaboratively across different parts of the business.

Third is one’s ability to learn quickly, especially stuff you don't know. Not just learning ability but learning agility. Learning ability everyone has but learning agility is when you get into a scenario that you are not familiar with and you are still able to navigate your way through it, pick up what is needed and succeed in that. You are able to manage change, and quickly acquire the skills you require.

What kind of experience should business school graduates look forward to when they come to Wipro?

One of our differentiators is the environment for learning and experimentation. The ability of people to try out what they don't know is an important element. It is about thinking ‘when I am spending a year with a company, my skills should improve, and I should become more marketable as I spend time in the organisation’. Other usual employee engagement activities in the workplace have become hygiene factors now.

What is more important — job description or people's potential?

If the nature of the job doesn't change for a while or you don't expect it to change, it is easier to write a job description (JD). In the field of technology, JDs are becoming increasingly redundant. The ability of people to adapt to change, learn and respond is an important part of the job. JDs work well when a candidate has experience, when the past is a good predictor of success.

Things are changing fast; in start-ups you are pretty much supposed to do everything. Also, people who like their work write their own job description.

Many organisations face a leadership dilemma nowadays — to get a leader from within the company or to source leadership from outside. Why is it difficult to find a leader from within?

That can happen for multiple reasons. If you look at companies that largely have a history of consciously investing in people development, the bulk of the leadership will come from within. When you do that, you are actually creating a succession bench.

There are two reasons why you may want to bring somebody from outside into the organisation — one, it’s a new technology, so you bring in a person who knows about it. Here, instead of growing your talent, you buy it. The other reason could be when you want to drive change, or bring in a new ideology.

Why have companies increased the use of analytics in hiring?

Very few organisations do structured teaching of people on a continuous basis to improve their hiring skills. If you don't train people for hiring, biases come in the way and it becomes very difficult to hire objectively.

It is not hiring through an algorithm but leveraging the algorithm to iron out the biases.

In your book Don’t Hire the Best you emphasise 'hiring the right fit' and not always 'the best'….

Hiring usually takes place based on two factors. First, educational qualifications and experience. The educational qualification is not a proxy for proficiency. The second aspect is less talked about, where you may be able to do something but you don't like doing it much. There are loads and loads of people who are forced to take up a career which they often don’t like.

So, if you are trying to find a fit for the role and the culture, it means you are not only good at that role but you enjoy the role as well. You may know how to do a number of things but you may want to do this one particular thing. The sweet spot in your career lies between what you can do, what you are happy doing, and whether there is a job market for that.

Recommended for you