Companies sign up for in-house networking

Last Updated: Sun, Nov 13, 2011 19:22 hrs

Strengthen their networking platforms to reach out to young employees.

Divya Bajaj, a behavioural soft-skill trainer at Infosys and a karaoke singer, would have missed the Karaoke World Championship in September this year. But, a colleague in the US posted details of the championship being held in Ireland on Bajaj’s InfyBubble page — Infosys’ recently launched social networking platform.

“I was just in time to be part of the live chat that was happening among karaoke singers across the world,” says Bajaj. Since Infosys launched Bubble, it has helped Bajaj and several of 141,822 employees put face to names and connect with employees across geographies and offices.

At Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), India’s largest IT services firm with 200,000 employees, since the launch of @TCS, communication has become much more broad-based and has allowed employees to connect better.

For instance, Biswabijoy, an assistant consultant and project manager at TCS’ Kolkata centre, has just returned from Australia after cutting a music album with an Australian band. The band, comprising colleagues from TCS, receives financial and infrastructure support from the company on a regular basis.

These social networking platforms are going beyond the need to merely increase connectivity among employees and are allowing a much wider room for communication and feedback between senior management (even the CEO) and employees.

Ramesh Nagarajan, CIO, Wipro Technologies, agrees and says that younger colleagues want to interact more with the management.

“In one of the discussions, a young co-worker told me they would like to see a two-way communication with the management, especially when new policies are announced,” Nagarajan says. Employees, he learnt, wanted to express their opinion on issues ranging from corporate newsletters to policies.

An ex-Wipro employee, Vandana Pant, now on a sabbatical, notes, “My Wipro World and Channel W, both were tools through which employees expressed openly.”

They could comment on a senior manager’s blog posts or chat with team leaders on the chat forum, engage with colleagues posted in other geographies and tell HR their views on policies, among other things. “It was one big social network for us,” she adds.

Nagarajan brought in My Wipro World in 2010 with 40,000 users, in addition to the existing intranet. Today, it has 100,000 registered users and 2,900 communities and has become an online forum for collaboration, networking, ideation and innovation.

“We have a young employee base, with the average age of 28-29 years. These individuals like to network, chat and share views online and our channel is just that,” explains Nagarajan. In fact, when young Wipro employees relocate for work, they use the portal’s classified section to sell bikes and rent homes. The classifieds’ section of My Wipro World has 56,000 listings.

Gaurav Kumar, a senior project manager at Infosys for 11 years, confesses that with the introduction of Bubble, communication between his team members — spread across three centres — has improved. Earlier, they had only e-mail but it was difficult to connect with all.

“Now there’s a community where we all have daily status update of projects, share information or give tech tips. More important, I am connected with my team on a personal level as well,” he says. Currently there are 82,000 employees registered on InfyBubble, with 392,051 connections established across the world and 98,160 average page views a day.

According to AC Nielsen published reports, three of the world’s most popular brands online are social-media related (Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia) and the world now spends 110 billion minutes a month on social networks and blog sites. In India, of the 100 million internet subscribers, nearly 71 per cent use the internet for social networking, reports the recent IMRB study. Social networking and chatting are most popular in the age group of 18-30 years.

@TCS’ – launched a few months ago – looks like a Facebook page, and shows the softer side of the $8.2-billion firm. “The idea to connect the huge base of employee in a casual way gels with our overall theme of ‘realising your potential’. The thought behind it is to bring forth the talent, be it music, writing, dancing, trekking anything and want others to follow,” says Pradipta Bagchi, VP and Head global communications, TCS.

Sukumar Rajagopal, CIO and head of innovation, Cognizant, says increasing globalisation, socially aware enterprise and emergence of millennials were the triggers that convinced the company for a Cognizant 2.0 platform.

Rajagopal believes Cognizant 2.0 has helped them win deals, increase client stickiness, communicate widely on a common platform, and also help in improving employee retention.

What in-house social networking platforms are attempting to do is control attrition, since salary increases and HR pep-talks haven’t worked in the IT sector. But experts like Jessie Paul, CEO, Paul Writer, says, “Though companies would like to believe that an active internal social networking forum translates into faithful employees, for younger employees engagement tools are just another medium to express opinion and see how the company values them.” Paul lists some successful social networks in companies like Wipro, Aricent and so on that are popular. But states that despite these, companies continue to battle high attrition rates.

Not all agree. Rajagopal the company conducted several studies about the impact that Cognizant 2.0 has had on business.

In one conducted along with Babson College, Boston, it was established using of the platform were more engaged with the company and this translated into lower attrition rates. Over 80,000 employees are using this platform globally.

More, the study showed that projects used Cognizant 2.0 performed better than those that did not. In 2010, some of the key findings of the analysis showed 15 per cent improvement in productivity in projects using C2.0 effectively over the average value of productivity across projects; eight per cent improvement in the ability to deliver projects on time; and an improvement of seven per cent in the ability to deliver on-budget.

Within the next few months, Nagarajan and his team aim to integrate both Twitter and Facebook with My Wipro World, with some content filters to ensure security.

“We are going to enable access of our social networks on employees’ mobile devices (including tablet PCs) as we have a ‘Bring Your Own’ device policy and would like to connect with employees on every device level,” says Nagarajan.

HCL Technologies’ social network called U&I allows employees to interact with CEO and express themselves on online communities The company has another social networking system, called My Blueprint, that allows managers to share plans for specific business areas and get feedback from other HCLT managers across locations.

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