When Infosys set out to remake its internal training programme, instructors visited flight schools to see how professional pilots are taught to deal with fast-changing situations. That led India’s outsourcing giant to model classes on flight simulators that teach recruits to work faster, think for themselves and anticipate corporate customers’ needs. They’re put through multiple scenarios, and no two training days are alike..
“It gets trainees excited and removes the fear of the unknown,” says Arpan Patro, who helped design the classes and motivates his students with the aviation aphorism: “Take-offs are optional, landing is mandatory.”
The simulator-style drills piloted this summer reflect new thinking at Infosys as the company tries to move beyond the commoditised work of building and managing corporate computer systems. Much of those processes are now automated, and companies like Goldman Sachs Group and Philips N.V. are hiring Infosys and other tech outsourcers for discrete, short-term projects that help them stay current in a world of accelerating change. Chief information officers want projects to go live in weeks, rather than months, and expect engineers to solve problems on the fly.
Infosys, which recently ousted its chief executive after an internal power struggle and is now searching for his replacement, can’t afford to take customers for granted.
While the company hasn’t lost any major contracts yet, competition is stiffening as rivals big and small snag digital services contracts. Asia’s second-largest IT services company needs to change and fast. “As technologies and the outsourcing market change rapidly, skill sets become very critical,” says Raja Lahiri, a Mumbai-based partner a the India unit of advisory firm Grant Thornton.
The training has to go from coding and programming to design, creativity and customer experience—areas where there’s more money on the table. “There’s a clear lag in skills.” The Infosys campus sits on 337 verdant acres in the palace-dotted city of Mysore, a three-hour drive from Bangalore headquarters. The facility has 160 classrooms, employs 380 instructors and can train as many as 15,000 people at a time. The Mysore campus has 10,000 residential rooms equipped with everything a trainee might need.