Interview: Tech Mahindra’s Chief People Officer Richard Lobo

Tech Mahindra’s recently appointed Chief People Officer, Richard Lobo, talks DEI, flexible working, talent mobility and Leveraging AI in the HR function

When it comes to creating a people-first culture, Richard Lobo knows his stuff.

With a career in HR spanning 23 years, serving as Head of HR at Infosys for seven years, Richard is widely credited for his people-first approach to organisational culture and passion for nurturing young leaders. 

Recently joining Tech Mahindra as Chief People Officer, Richard is now driving talent strategy and workforce innovation for the 146,000 employees across 90 countries at the Indian IT major.

The mission? To optimise the tech company’s human capital potential based on human-first principles.

Speaking to Sustainability Magazine just six weeks into his new role, Richard says he is poised to leverage his insights and expertise to foster sustainable growth and cultivate a resilient, future-ready workforce.

“Tech Mahindra’s unwavering dedication to pioneering innovation, championing sustainability, and nurturing a people-centric culture profoundly resonates with my professional values and ethos,” he says. 

“My journey has been exciting, and I am eager to chart new territories, driving Tech Mahindra towards unprecedented heights in the industry.”

Rise of the Chief People Officer

Serving as a cornerstone within the business, the Chief People Officer role is a vital conduit that interlinks human potential with tangible business outcomes, Richard tells us.

It’s a position that is instrumental in ensuring an organisation’s human resources are not merely a support function but a dynamic driving force in a company’s relentless pursuit of market leadership and making a lasting, positive impact on a global scale. 

“CPOs must balance the complex needs of business and the needs and aspirations of the talent they are responsible for.”

In describing the key qualities needed to be an effective CPO, Richard points to strong leadership, strategic thinking, interpersonal skills, and emotional intelligence – the latter crucial in managing international relationships with “empathy and insight”. 

They should also excel in change management, and in spearheading cultural transformations to meet evolving market demands – as well as be able to leverage technology to deliver on people initiatives.

At the core of Richard’s duties as Tech Mahindra CPO lies the strategic alignment of the HR function with broader business objectives, ensuring that every people-focused initiative and programme is integrated into overarching goals.

“This holistic approach to integrating human capital with business strategy is what makes this role exceptionally attractive and indispensable to the business,” Richard says. 

“A significant portion of my role involves cultivating a progressive culture that champions innovation, encourages continuous learning, and fosters an environment of inclusivity and diversity.”

Richard Lobo Recently Joined Tech Mahindra as Chief People Officer

Inclusive Culture Spurs Innovation and Competitive Advantage

Richard argues that for any organisation, it is essential to remember that people create sustainable competitive advantage – and adopting a people-first approach is crucial to attracting the best talent, developing, and retaining it, and leveraging it for the long term.

“The role of HR has evolved to be a strategic partner to business and central to fostering exceptional leadership and operational excellence,” he says. “Organisations that align their actions with core values, focusing on purpose, work ethics, and investments, enhance stakeholder relations and business outcomes.”

Committed to DEI across all levels, Tech Mahindra has policies promoting gender equality, supporting LGBTQ+ rights, and facilitating accessibility for differently abled employees along with employee resource groups – and further delivers regular diversity workshops ensuring “everyone feels valued and empowered to contribute”. 

Increasingly leveraging AI and ML in the HR function, Tech Mahindra is innovating in the creation of high-tech tools to help its employees succeed. Among these is the company’s Integrated Command Centre – a cloud and AI-enabled platform that monitors the health and wellbeing of employees.

“We also use AI to promote mental health awareness and to support through a voice-enabled facial recognition system to a physical wellness Bot that converses with people about their mental wellbeing,” explains Richard. 

Flexible Working Boosting Gender Equity

In supporting employee wellbeing, Tech Mahindra believes flexibility plays a key role in the workplace of the future and is taking a balanced approach between in-person and remote work while meeting employee needs, client requirements, and productivity.

“We have implemented hybrid work policies that not only allow flexibility for our employees, but also ensure business continuity and growth for our customers,” he says.

“To this day, we have opted for a hybrid model with the majority of the workforce still working from home and employ hundreds of interaction specialists. Our very effective work-from-home solutions run on a platform that is extremely secure and makes use of Mahindra's operational procedures and techniques to make sure that best in class standards are being followed.”

The offer of flexible working is crucial given Tech Mahindra’s deep commitment to fostering gender equity at its core. 

“We stand out as a women-centric organisation,” declares Richard. “We have implemented a comprehensive framework to ensure an inclusive work environment, where female talent thrives.” 

Among initiatives, Richard points to platforms for leadership development, skill enhancement, and networking, which cater specifically to the needs and growth of the female workforce. While the company’s policies on maternity leave, flexible working hours, and anti-harassment are progressive, underlining a commitment to creating a supportive ecosystem.

“We are an ‘Intentionally Diverse and Globally Inclusive’ organisation because we believe that if you do not intentionally include, you unintentionally exclude. Being ‘globally inclusive’ refers to our workforce consisting of individuals from across 90 countries as we prioritise local talent. 

“We appreciate differences based on age, ethnicity, race, lifestyle, and social status and have designed a series of programs, policies, and initiatives to promote cultural diversity.”

Through TechMHRNxt, a core strategy incorporating wellness programmes, D&I policies, and personalised experiences, Tech Mahindra cultivates a culture of learning, growth, and innovation. Like the #lovetobeTechM initiative, which encourages sharing of experiences, fostering a sense of community and preparedness for future challenges.

Tech Mahindra Nurtures a People-Centric Culture

Leveraging AI in Talent Management

Talent mobility is a crucial aspect of Tech Mahindra’s growth strategy – and the company believes passionately in providing opportunities for employees to develop their skills and advance their careers.

This not only benefits the individual, but also strengthens the overall talent pool, Richard says. 

To boost internal talent mobility and development, Tech Mahindra has implemented various initiatives such as job rotations, leadership development programmes, skills training, and mentorship programmes.

What’s more, employees are encouraged to take on new challenges and roles, with support and resources provided to help them succeed.

By investing in employees' development and providing opportunities for growth, the organisation can retain top talent and ensure it remains competitive in the industry. This is especially true when it comes to tech skills, with swiftly changing technological advancements necessitating new and quickly adaptable skills to keep up with these significant shifts. 

Richard points to AI upskilling as a case in point. 

“We believe that AI is pervasive, and it is progressing at a blistering pace. Realising its tremendous potential, we are exploring ways to infuse AI and Gen AI into every element of our projects and processes to amplify it for our own and customers’ businesses. 

“We are quickly training and upskilling our practitioners on a large scale so that they can embrace technological changes and contribute to organisational success.”

Among challenges, Richard says the push for rapid technical innovation and digital transformation complicates the task of pinpointing and addressing both current and future skill shortages.

Not just that, but evolving employee expectations increasingly affect how to engage and motivate employees within organisations. 

To enable the learning ecosystem, Tech Mahindra has an #UaaS (Upskilling-as-a-Service) platform which acts as a skill marketplace. Powered by AI, the platform provides interactive, on-demand, contextual and personalised upskilling to employees in self-service mode. 

On top of that, Tech Mahindra has built crowdsourcing platform Populii that enables gig workers to collaborate with leading organisations through micro jobs. This creates flexible opportunities for gig workers while equipping businesses with reliable data from trained and qualified candidates to build competitive AI algorithms.

“We believe Populii will become the go-to platform for both gig workers and enterprises, fuelling innovation and fostering AI success,” says Richard.

“Populii will serve as the best-in-class community for job seekers to find gig jobs that fit their schedule, enable upskilling, and ensure on-time payments. “On the other hand, for enterprises, the platform will provide rich and accurate data that aligns with their business objectives.”

Looking to the Future – 2024 and Beyond

In 2024 and beyond, Tech Mahindra will embark on further innovative strategies that leverage AI and modern technologies to redefine its HR initiatives and operations. 

“Our HR strategies include deploying AI-driven tools for personalised learning and development paths, enhancing employee engagement through data analytics, and implementing cutting-edge recruitment technologies to attract top talent,” says Richard. 

“These initiatives are part of our broader mission to foster an environment where innovation thrives, and our employees are empowered to achieve their full potential.

“Moreover, we are setting ambitious targets to harness the power of generative AI, aiming to boost productivity by 50-60%. This leap in efficiency is expected to transform our project delivery models, enabling us to provide unparalleled value to our customers.”

As we navigate an ever-evolving landscape of technology and societal changes, the workplace of tomorrow must be flexible, innovative, and resilient. It is not merely a matter of keeping up with the times; it’s about leading the way in a rapidly changing world. 

Richard says he views the workplace of the future as one that values its workforce as its most precious asset and recognises that an investment in its growth and wellbeing is an investment in the organisation’s own prosperity. 

“It is pivotal for every organisation to align its strategies to create a workplace that not only adapts to future challenges but thrives,” he says. “From embracing cutting-edge technologies to fostering a culture of inclusivity and adaptability, organisations need to identify the key elements that will shape future workplaces. 

“Companies with innovative, resilient, and conducive work policies that promote employee wellbeing and organisational success will be the ones to gain a competitive edge.”

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