5 ways a global IT giant adapted for work at home

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, India-based Tata Consultancy Services has found new ways to reach, unite and engage its worldwide staff, including 40,000 in the U.S.

tata remote workers

Wondering how to reach your employees in a time of isolation and working from home?

Tata Consultancy Services, one of the world’s largest IT services and consulting firms, is deploying a broad range of channels and content to train, inspire and engage its 446,000 employees.

Content includes presentations by astronauts and celebrity chefs, an employee-hosted hobby channel, and advice on child activities for working parents, says Ben Trounson, global markets chief communications officer and head of North American marketing. Employees are also gaining new skills through mini-courses.

Most of its employees were working from TCS offices and client sites, including tech campuses ranging from 1,000 employees in Cincinnati to 30,000 employees in India.

“Within three weeks, we shifted 85%—and it’s now over 90%—of our employees to work at home,” Trounson says.

Here’s how TCS did that:

1. Get employees the resources they need.

TCS created a “COVID-19 Corner” on its intranet, containing company directives on its new Secure Borderless Workspaces approach to ensure home safety and customer business continuity. It also informed employees about policies, office closings, benefits and new channels. Communications and human resources staff worked closely with global and local leaders to spread the word and offer support and engagement of all employees, Trounson says.

Whenever people didn’t have the equipment they needed, TCS provided it. For example, for some who had worked from desktop computers and didn’t have laptops at home, TCS provided them. The company helped upgrade Wi-Fi for those who didn’t have an adequate connection at home.

The company is pushing ahead with its “25 by 25” business plan, which states that by 2025, only 25% of its workforce would have to be in office on a given day. These employees would be required to work from the office only 25% of their total time. This is because the company has seen the benefits of working from home.

“It has accelerated, almost by force of nature, with the pandemic,” Trounson says.

2. Use Microsoft Teams to unite.

TCS formed a LINK Together community on Microsoft Teams for its 40,000 employees in the United States. Communications and HR worked together to make sure people stayed fully informed about corporate policies, Trounson says.

Part of the purpose was to help employees switch off from work—to allow them to be with their family, self-reflect and work on mental health. Within a week, people began creating live sessions offering cooking, hobby tutorials, fitness tips, live events and suggestions for keeping the kids occupied during a conference call.

“Our Indian colleagues were giving Indian dish recipes and cooking instructions on video to Americans,” he says. “And in return, they were sharing American recipes with their Indian colleagues.”

The company is also using Teams, the intranet, newsletters and other channels to promote employee stories. One staffer in New Jersey became a volunteer ambulance driver in his spare time, and another in Ohio is using 3D-printing technology to make face masks.

3. Unite globally.

Worldwide, the company launched another TCS Channel on MS Teams Live, featuring advice from an astronaut, celebrity chefs, economists and others. The brainchild of the chief marketing officer, the channel enables TCS to provide content that helps staffers through extended isolation.

Trounson interviewed Ron Garan—an underwater explorer and former astronaut and fighter pilot—about the challenge of living in confinement and maintaining one’s physical and mental state. Garan also offered tips on recognizing when a teammate is stressed out and needs help.

“He made it very relatable, and if I may use the pun, he brought his perspectives back down to earth,” Trounson says.

Another speaker was Viswanathan Anand, a two-time global chess grand master from India.

4. Enable self-improvement.

Encouraging education, TCS has pushed its workforce to use an app that trains them in digital technologies through 15-minute mini-sessions. An entire course might take seven hours, so people work in increments when they have a few minutes. Some 420,000 employees have been trained in digital technologies that TCS deploys on behalf of customers.

With employees working from home, TCS issued a 50,000-hour learning challenge in the United States, and colleagues pushed one another to participate. The company donated to the Red Cross for every hour completed, providing an extra incentive.

The result? Less than three weeks into the challenge, the U.S. staff has logged 80,000 hours of training.

5. Share company expertise with students and teachers.

TCS revised its STEM education programs, goIT and Ignite My Future, to be completely virtual, offering instruction and mentoring for teachers and students, particularly in underprivileged communities. The company recognized the need for computer science skills, particularly given that many teachers are intimidated by their students’ digital savvy.

Some 17,000 TCS employees in North America have been part of these two programs, working physically in the classroom as trained mentors. With the pandemic, the company has made all programs virtual.

“Communications gets involved in all these areas in helping to conceptualize and bring it to life,” he says. “It’s been an interesting time in the last few years and, obviously, in the last five, six weeks in particular.”

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