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Advice Request
Uday Burra
Uday Burra

Uday Burra

Director People Strategy

Sapient Global Markets


Uday Burra is a member of:

- Expert
Briefly tell me about your company and the HR strategies you have in place.
Sapient is a global services company that helps clients transform in the areas of business, marketing and technology through its three business groups, namely, Sapient Nitro, Sapient Global Markets and Sapient Government Services.
A key part of our HR strategy is to understand what makes people stay in an organization, hence, we focus heavily on retention by creating an environment that helps people to grow from within and realize their true potential. Our strategies also include performance improvement planning, growth planning and coaching.
As part of our culture, we call ourselves PEOPLE SUCCESS and not HR as we do not consider our team members as resources. Also, individuals working at Sapient are termed as PEOPLE and not referred to as employees. This would explain why our HR strategy is heavily determined by our core values and culture. We want to create great experiences for our people and help them build fulfilling careers.Enabling Human Potential is our vision behind every strategic decision related to HR.
What are some of trends you are seeing in HR?
I believe HR as a function is evolving and there is lot more consciousness around being a strategic partner than an administrative expert leading to CXOs giving more value to subject matter expertise of HR heads. Also, there is a growing focus on building specific talent and capability given the shortage of talent globally. One of the most notable changes in the industry is that HR is getting more aligned with business strategy and in many areas HRMs are playing a strong partnership role in achieving the company's business results.
In the era of ever changing business, explain the difficulties in planning the Human Resource?
It has always been a tough decision. With the ever changing business organizations, individuals need to have more flexibility in their approach.In my view, it has to be a good combination of internal Talent Development and selective Talent acquisition.A Sr. level hire takes anywhere between 12-18 months to give results and if not planned properly, this particular period can hit the corresponding business unit very badly.Organizations need to identify future leaders quickly and invest in them ahead of time so that the transition is smooth and business continuity is maintained.
How do you describe the relationship of HR with the CEO’s?
It has changed significantly over the last few years.Today, HRs main job requirement is to keep the CEO informed- not just point out the problems but also provide reasonable solutions.For this, it is also important for the CEO to trust HR completely and for HR to bring in that credibility.HR needs to maintain its reputation as a neutral protagonist and not be seen as the best friend of the CEO.Many times HR heads make the mistake of being too close to the CEO giving an impression that all decisions are taken collaboratively whereas what probably it means is that HR head is just following the diktat than presenting his/her point of view.HR has to wear multiple hats of being a strategic partner, honest adviser or a Coach depending on the situation.
What is your biggest pain point?
Today, the biggest pain point is availability of talent and finding the right talent at the right time.As a growing organization and with ever increasing demand for niche skill sets, it is not sufficient to retain the right talent but also vital to make sure that this talent is ready to take up different roles whenever the need arises.Also, another challenge is that we come across talent that is good at one aspect but is unable to appreciate the power of connected thinking. Additionally, we require talent that has depth in their chosen areas but can flex across adjacent areas.
How do you Motivate Employees with Rewards in your organization?
At Sapient we provide a bouquet of benefits and rewards that explains the Total Reward Philosophy to all people.We have a good mix of base pay, variables, equities and basket of benefits.We understand that every team member at every career stage has different needs and through our reward philosophy, we try and cater to the needs of most of them.
Sapient has a distinct and rich culture of recognition, enabled through a strong practice of formal and informal real time feedback by peers and the leadership.
People at Sapient are motivated through recognition programs that are established across different levels:
•Team Level - You Make a Difference, Supernova, Spot bonuses, vouchers and gifts.

•Office Level - Core Values Awards

•Company level - The Founders Award, The Strategic Context Awards, The Chairmans Award for Excellence in Business Development, The Innovation Everywhere Contest, The Rookie of the Year Award, Recognition for referring new people.
Therefore multiple levels of motivation through rewards and benefits explains the Total Reward Philosophy at Sapient.

When you hire people what are you essentially looking for?
We, here at Sapient believe that our core values are very important so essentially we look for people who can align well with our core values and live up to them.We believe in the old saying,"Hire for Attitude and Train for Skill." Therefore,at entry level we look for a combination of basic knowledge and right attitude.At higher levels, our requirement for knowledge is an important criteria along with understanding of our values and professional attitude. Also, domain expertise and industry experience are key factors of consideration at this level too.
We require talent that has depth in their chosen areas but can flex across.
Brief some of the leadership development programs held and how often? Result obtained from that?
Our goal is to create an environment that allows us to grow people from within. We believe in growing our people organically and the India leadership team comprises of people who have been working with Sapient over a long period and understand the Sapient culture.For example, juniors run our morning team meetings with guidance from our senior staff, giving opportunities for young leaders to develop. We also invest heavily on Performance Management Series, which is focused on growing great managers through training courses such as Managing Expectations and Coaching for Performance.
We have launched our own Dragons Den platform where employees are asked to share their innovative and business-ready ideas with management. The top three ideas are shortlisted based on business potential and social impact and their owners are invited to pitch them to senior leaders in Boston for requisite funding and guidance. Not only does it help jump start new ideas but also works to engage talent effectively.
How do you identify leaders and promote them to the next level?
We constantly look out for people who align well with our core values, are purpose driven and focused and have a zeal for achieving their goals.
We look for qualities like accepting diverse viewpoints, respect and regard for varied cultures and above all, ability to remain focused on the task at hand. One must possess a high degree of patience when it comes to managing people from different backgrounds to achieve a common goal. The leader must be able to encourage people to acclimatize with their mutual differences and channelize their efficiency towards achieving the organizational objectives.
Engaging Gen Y - Leadership and Organization Culture according to you?
We believe Gen Y has natural leadership abilities and organizations need to help them build the right perspective by engaging with them early. This group needs quick results; they understand technology better and have a huge desire to achieve unique things. At times their outlook could be different from an organizations culture but it is important to communicate and be willing to learn mutually.Unlike old times, it is not important to call out values for Gen Y but also imperative to demonstrate how these values help.Today's Leaders need to prove themselves everyday.This generation does not accept a leader just by title but by actions.
Attrition Management: Retaining vs. fresh hiring
It is best to have a healthy mix.Ideally 90% internal movements and 10% fresh hiring is a good mix, as that will keep the balance between keeping culture alive and bringing fresh perspective.Organizations need to have a well defined Talent Management road and succession planning process.These two processes are a must for any organization today as they help to identify potential gaps in the organization so that one can either plan to groom internal talent or hire from outside.
Workplaces are changing. Cultures are evolving. Do you think the average employee today is different from his/her counterpart from a decade ago too? What is lacking and what does he/she need to keep in mind in today’s working scenario?
In the last decade or so, both an average employee and organization have undergone changes.At the time of induction, 12-15 years back people use to get a pen, diary etc., today they carry a laptop, phone. This might change a decade later to virtual offices.Today, an average tenure of an employee has declined in our industry as compared to the last decade. This means an average employee sees 2-3 cultures and workplace within the first five years of his/her career, which confuses him/her as he/she fails to understand the uniqueness of any organization. Hence, it is important for employees to spend the first 90 Days very carefully and plan for it in advance. To achieve this purpose, we, here at Sapient conduct our orientation program for five days and include sessions that are not just introductory but also give a fair view of organization culture, core values, Mission and Purpose.
How to attract good people, retain the better people and advance the best people?
Organizations need to focus on three important traits-Integrity, Energy and Purpose.It needs to articulate and infuse these in all team members regularly.HR has a huge role to play in creating unique frameworks to retain the better people and identify and advance the best people in a timely fashion. A good framework needs to be built around succession planning.It is also important that this becomes the top most agenda of any CXO.
What are your advice/ suggestions to fellow HRs in the industry?
In our quest to become strategic partners at times we forget the reason for our existence. While we solve most of organizational problems strategically, do we think from human relations angle? Do we strive to strike relationships beyond organizational boundaries?While we may argue that our relationship is driven by organizational boundaries but it is extremely important that we win the trust of employees and that they see us as honest, straightforward, caring and practical. So while it is important to partner strategically, we should be more focused on people aspects. We should be the conscious keepers and be able to keep our stakeholders honest in front of their people.
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