Importance of Continuous Learning during Covid-19

Locked down but not locked out from learning. Amidst certain aspects of convenience that a work-from-home model offers, the employees are getting connected with the digital learning platforms enabled by the employer. While the infection curve is yet to show signs of flattening out, the learning curve is on a new high!If the download rates of virtual collaboration tools are any indicator, virtual learning has indeed breached past the barriers of social distancing. IT service providers who are dexterous enough to take advantage of their digital skilling frameworks do so for the advancement of employees. Amid a pandemic and the ensuing harsh economic headwinds, employees are enhancing their employability through continuous learning.

Upside of a Downturn

A positive side to the downturn of our times is visible during remote working conditions. This downturn reflects the truthabout ateam’scollaboration, productivity, and efficiency. When the economic engines decelerate, it indeed is a bad time. But amidst the challenges it also offers an opportunity for professionals to recalibrate themselvesfor the emerging technological requirements. Irrespective of market conditions, continuous skilling is the byword by which professionals live to stay relevant and employable. The difference now is that COVID-19 has cast the focus on diversifying and deepening of skills. Obviously, those with deep technical or domain skills are always sought after and canmeet the challenges of job market due to economic slowdown.

Importance of Skilling

Honing one’s skills across new-age technologies has come as a saving grace for employees caught in the thick of the interim phase. Employees who had to spend approximately 1 to 3 hours of commute daily can redeploy the extra hours and energy in areas of self-development. On the one hand, the unstable economic scenario has witnessed employees signing up for training programs to stay competitive; on the other hand, those who already are on a robust skilling plan are the focus of top management. At a time when organizations are treading cautiously about costs, new investments and additional hiring, employers are looking to do more with less. Employees who are agile, flexible, and quick learners are much sought after. Those who are willing to seize learning opportunities and implement what they learn are assets for the organization.

Online Learning Opportunities

Learning for the purpose of achieving personal goals or professional advancement never ceases. The digital workplaces of today offer a myriad of continuous online learning avenues. The Learning & Development function has risen to the fluctuating demands of clients; they have their task cut out in bridging the skills gap. Learning Management Systems are utilizing best practices such as online learning opportunities through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), micro modules, university programs, online certifications, and bite-sized courses. Thanks to new-age skilling frameworks, homes and workspaces have become like training labs for employees to sign up and skill up based on their convenience or their demanding projects.

Spotlight on Productivity

In an evolving technological landscape, witnessing changing client demands, the wheels of continuous learning are grinding swiftly, but the question remains as to what’s the net impact of it. A common pet peeve aired by project managers is, “Don’t tell me you’re on a nonstop learning journey but tell me how you’ve translated that learning for the benefit of the client.”

Impact of learning wanes unless it has a practical application. Employers overlook employees who are content with what they learned yesterday in favor of those abreast with technological developments. With the availability of many learning opportunities, employers raise concerns about course completion rates as well as the practical significance of learning during this downturn. Employees must think beyond earning certificates and apply concepts such as AI, automation, and analytics.The proof of the pudding, therefore, is in the eating. The future of work demands that IT professionals display their productivity by applying their newly learned skills in projects.

The Big Picture

Long periods of confinement have demanded a high degree of discipline from professionals who have extra time on hand. Between household chores and professional responsibilities, employees find themselves pulled in different directions. On the bright side, being at home with family and relatives offers solace to the homesick workaholics who otherwise glue themselves to their desks in a different city. On the brighter side, prolonged days of confinement mandate a systematic approach to learning new skills. Employees need to make everyday count to be on a par with the speed of change. Irrespective of crisis or normalcy, learning must be a perpetual enriching experience full of practical implications. The maxim “…Learn as if you were to live forever,” rings true.

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5‌ ‌things‌ ‌lockdown‌ ‌has‌ ‌taught‌ ‌to‌ ‌IT‌ ‌professionals‌ ‌and‌ ‌IT‌ ‌companies

1. Shift to the New Normal
The way the IT industry works will never be the same, and the shift to the new normal has not been an easy feat for many. Invaluable takeaway from the crisis is the swift migration to a high percentage of virtual work, and the increasing use of digital collaboration tools. The industry is thinking about redrafting job templates to include remote work options in the post-pandemic phase; a significant portion of the workforce is likely to work from remote.

2. Bolster Wherewithal
Another key lesson from the crisis is the need for enterprise resilience; tempestuous seas have revealed skillful sailors who can transition unchartered waters. The IT industry is taking this learning to accelerate their customer experience. Enterprises are thinking beyond core capabilities; they are strategising around emerging and future capabilities to future-proof their business. Toughening operational resilience is on the to-do list of industry’s top brass.

3. Invest Strategically
In line with what I said earlier, a vital lesson from the crisis is to invest in best practices, solutions, and industry standards. XaaS (cloud, consumption-based pricing), digital innovation, extreme remote work, employee reskilling, and rapid response frameworks are a few examples. The industry has learned to make quick decisions and accelerate digital transformation.

4. Amplify Customer Experience
The industry learned to handle the significant spike in demand for customer support. IT professionals realised that an organizations’ display of assurance, continuity, and engagement during a downturn will be indelibly imprinted in the minds of customers. The IT fraternity has learned that when the stakes are high, customers do not care how much we know until they know how much we care. The crisis is the catalyst to transform the customer engagement model.

5. Ramp up Employee Experience
The last but essential takeaway for the industry is that employees need emotional succor. IT professionals have had demanding schedules and they have stretched themselves to ensure business continuity for customers. Prolonged confinement, gloomy news, and fragile job situations have brought IT professionals’ mental health problems into focus. The industry has taken this seriously and intensified their programs on psychotherapy, self-help, virtual engagement, and counselling. The industry has learned to be more empathetic and appreciative so that employees have a deep sense of belongingness and satisfaction in what they do.

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International Women in Engineering Day: Diverse Workforce is the Way Forward

It’s the year 2020, and thanks to technology, the world is witnessing a change at an unprecedented pace. Unlike days of the past, women are being encouraged to take charge and be a part of the ongoing transformation. The field of engineering especially is opening up new opportunities for women who are now challenging stereotypes and discrimination. On this International Women in Engineering Day, women leaders share their thoughts with us on what has changed for women in the field of technology, and how their respective organizations are ensuring a diverse workforce

The IT industry in FY’18 had 34% of women working across the sector and set to grow. The industry has seen the value women bring to the table and their endless possibilities. Organizations are already creating initiatives like work-life policies, employee-friendly needs, space in top management circles to promote a healthy mix of a talented workforce. Going forward, they should provide diverse work environments with opportunities to help them pursue career goals, like ones set up by the IDC and CIO Executive Council. With the industry now open, there’s nothing stopping women in accomplishing what they need. Every challenge presents an innate opportunity for innovation. So don’t limit yourself, celebrate every small achievement, and look forward to more. The WFH model has given the freedom to women who can balance their work-life environment, upskill themselves, and be more productive. It gives them a platform to assess priorities and step up boldly into a world that was earlier dominated by men. The future looks bright!

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CSS Corp Working on AI and IoT based Solutions to provide better IT services

The solutions would help with streamlining customer data, extract insights to identify customer propensities and offer context

-driven support with a human-like interaction. Also, the company is investing in SDN Services and Solutions i.e. Software Defined Networking Solutions (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV automation services) to improve the efficiency of its services

Global technology company CSS Corp is working on new solutions which would be integrating capabilities of artificial intelligence, machine intelligence, analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) thereby helping the company provide better IT services and technical support to its clientele.

The company is responsible for supporting 30 out of 50 telecom companies in the world.

In an interaction with ET Telecom, the company’s CEO Manish Tandon told about the five new solutions that the company is working on namely Auraa, Active Insights, Cognitive Customer Experience Platform, Premium Tech Support, and Cloud Transformation suite.

The solutions would help with streamlining customer data, extract insights to identify customer propensities and offer context-driven support with a human-like interaction. Also, the company is investing in SDN Services and Solutions i.e. Software Defined Networking Solutions (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV automation services) to improve the efficiency of its services.

The company is based out of Chennai and Bangalore and has a head-count of 5500 technology professionals in 16 of its global centers across the world.

We recently recruited 30+ Data Scientists and Data Engineers in India to augment our platform capabilities as a part of the Digital COE. This team is instrumental in building AI, Machine Learning and automation solutions,” said Tandon.

We are seeing significant acceptance for our digital services like Insights as a Service and Conversational AI among our customers in the telecom sector,” added Tandon.

CSS Corp recently collaborated with BITS Pilani to launch the ‘Earn as You Learn’ which is a specialized M.Tech work integrated learning program.

Preview: ETCIO

HR leaders anchoring the transformation in the age of new normal

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the entire economy to the back foot. These extreme uncertainties have caused ripples in the business models and, challenged some of the most well established workplaces policies and processes. The duration and the impact of this crisis is nearly impossible to calibrate, but still amid these rough times many organisations are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to ensuring employees’ well- being.

According to a recent TimesJobs survey titled ‘Indian workplaces response to COVID-19’, diversity was the flagpole for all hiring activities during the COVID-19 lockdown. This survey received responses from 1,145 HR professionals working across diverse industry verticals.

The survey highlights the various work regimes and that India Inc. adopted has been the top priorities for the companies amid the COVID-19 lockdown time.

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Demystifying the Digital Workplace

Digital is playing a significant role in disrupting workplaces.

What does the word ‘Workplace’ mean? The word has different meanings, for the baby boomer generation it is the traditional office set-up – meeting rooms, office desks and office phones. For  today’s generation, particularly the millennial, expected response would be centered around digital touch points, virtual personal assistants, tablets, SaaS based productivity tools, unified communication, chat, smartphones or instant messaging.

This article discusses how the digital workplace, along with consumerization of IT and new age technologies is changing the dynamics of today’s workplace.

Transforming the Workplace Digitally

Digital is prompting organizations across industries to reimagine their workplace strategies for better business success as the correlation between employee engagement and business performance is becoming increasingly relevant. Digital is playing a significant role in disrupting workplaces.

Today’s digital workplace is an always connected environment that enables faster and instant access to everything an employee needs. The digital workplace promotes employee collaboration, engagement and innovation through a consumer-like computing experience. Consumerization of IT and convergence of mobile technologies with social computing is changing the workplace dynamics. Proper planning, overall strategy, roadmap and execution are all linked to overall productivity and agility of the employees along with work engagement is required for a Digital Workplace.

Reimagining the Workplace with Digital

Generation Z, the demographic cohorts after the Millennials, are expected to enter the workforce in large numbers in the next few years. They, as consumers, expect personalized, user and persona based support solutions for their connected devices. To engage effectively with this demographic group, enterprises will need accelerate innovation and build a better workplace of tomorrow.

Here are the key trends that are driving the transition from the traditional workforce to a digital workforce:

Digital Dexterity

Digital dexterity is an organization’s ability to self-organize and adapt to evolving digital technologies in order to deliver more value to the customer. It is the level of adaptability to new technologies, evolving customer and market expectations, along with optimum resource allocation.

Digital Collaboration

Thanks to increasing consumerisation of IT technology and devices, an increasing number of digital workers are expecting the same ease of use with their work-related technology and tools, as any of their consumer related experiences (such as online shopping) in their personal lives.

Digital Innovation

The dynamic pace of the modern work environment means that employees must learn to adopt collaboration and productivity tools to get their work done easily and faster. The dependence on connected and collaboration devices has further accelerated the change, which is challenging for employers to meet the growing demands.

Device-Centric to a User-Centric Model

A revolution is occurring in today’s workplace. Personalization and consumerisation of employee engagement through digital has increasingly changed the way people work. With the continuous evolution of the workplace and employee expectations, businesses that do not adopt a digital workplace strategy, face the maximum risk with regards to employee engagement.

Digital Business Enablement

The digital workplace along with the supporting technology tools can transform information technology from a support-based function to a business-enabling function.

The digital workplace can provide the following business benefits through proper implementation:

Revenue Generation: Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. Digital applications can enable sales and marketing professionals to find the right resources and identify product up-selling or cross-selling opportunities for their customers. The rise of digital analytics tools, which involves the analysis of business data, can be used to drive a continuous improvement of the online experience for customers

Productivity Improvements: Improved workplace tools can save employee time and improve productivity. The implementation of a comprehensive digital workplace strategy can enable knowledge workers in their daily tasks through collaboration, communication, connection, and delivery

Improve the Customer Experience (CX): The use of data analytics tools and customer insights is critical for an organization to track their customer’s digital footprints. Structured customer data can provide valuable information on the type of transacting customers, the categories of products purchased, and the market demand for a product line. The CX factor can be managed effectively using digital analytics

Employee Augmentation

The optimum use of digital technologies can augment the capabilities of employees, particularly in the retail sector. Some of the trends that are helping employees include:

Cognitive technologies – to observe and analyze human work, and delegate common or routine work to digital assistants

Physical technologies – including advanced robotic technologies, which are compact and suitable to be integrated in any human workflow environment

Collaborative technologies – including software tools that can improve how product developers can create new products


Workplace innovation is critical to any business success, and depends on the business integration of emerging technologies that are appearing in the market. Emerging innovations in digital product technology can be integrated into the organization’s workplace strategy, after assessment of their business value.

The digital workplace has added differentiating value to the highly-competitive market, which has experienced new needs including mobility, seamless integration across technology devices, and global collaboration. With the rise of cloud-based services, the digital workplace is poised to become the new normal for providing new digital services to the customers, which cannot be delivered through traditional delivery modes.

Preview: BW Disrupt

CSS Corp on a growth path

An interview with Manish Tandon, CSS Corp CEO, talks about the company’s roadmap following an organisational revamp undertaken two years ago

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CSS Corp unveils Cognitive Customer Experience Platform

In a bid to up the ante on customer experience, US-headquartered CSS Corp has launched the Cognitive Customer Experience Platform, an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven platform. Cognitive Customer Experience Platform integrates with all customer channels like voice, email, chat, and website across devices.

“Cognitive Customer Experience Platform is designed to offer personalized and context-driven support, with a human-like interaction. It aims at resolving your customer’s needs at first interaction by using natural language processing (NLP), AI, machine learning and deep learning techniques,” said Vasudevan Sundarababu, vice-president, digital, CSS Corp.

As consumers use multiple channels to voice concerns or seek customer support, offering an omnichannel support experience has become imperative for corporates. A study by consulting giant McKinsey found that for companies that excel with digital customer care, customer satisfaction can go up by 33%, while generating savings of 25-30%, due to reduced call center volumes.

The AI platform can constantly learn from a customer’s interactions and build on its knowledge base.

 “The virtual assistant understands your customers’ intent and responds to their queries in real time. Cognitive Customer Experience Platform remembers facts, learns from previous conversations and can access online information by integrating with enterprise systems,” he said.

A SaaS-based solution, Cognitive Customer Experience Platform can be used as a standalone support interface or as a platform integrated with Amazon Echo, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, and Google Now.

With delivery centers across the globe, the company has deeply invested in digital and analytics. CSS Corp’s digital practice has 45 customers totally, which primarily handles analytics, mobile, AI, application modernization, machine learning, and virtual assistance.
Preview: Times of India

Covid: India Inc adds mental health of employees on their priority list

As the ongoing second wave of the pandemic exacerbates the pressure on teams and individuals, more Indian companies are making mental health an urgent priority for businesses. Live meditation, mental health sessions with specific focus on vulnerable groups, extended weekends, special holidays, free subscription to wellbeing apps and 24×7 counselling helplines —companies are running a series of initiatives to help stressed-out employees, with senior leaders playing increasingly active roles in the process.

At Genpact, the CEO and senior leaders communicate often through various channels across all levels of the organisation, EY’s leadership team does regular virtual connects. The Edelweiss Group has regular outreach programmes and townhalls by the leadership to express solidarity and support with employees.

“Our leaders hold a pivotal role in the recovery — they are the company-wide anchors to help ease concerns and rally teams,” said Piyush Mehta, Genpact’s chief HR officer.

“We have initiated small sessions, by business, with no agenda — so people can just talk about what is on their mind, and the support they need. We built an AI chatbot (Amber) to check in with our employees to capture immediate concerns and needs so we can support them better,” he added.

To ensure that employees do not feel isolated, EY has recently introduced EY Social — its inhouse platform of hobby clubs. The India leadership team has been conducting regular virtual connects with teams through forums like counselling family, regular team huddles, virtual townhalls, etc.

Companies such as ICICI Lombard, Snapdeal, MakemyTrip, Diageo and Publicis Sapient are also focused on mental health and wellbeing.

“We have been organising emotional counselling sessions, yoga and meditation sessions and collaborated with therapists and experts from the field of stress and anxiety management for consultations,” said Yuvaraj Srivastava, Group CHRO, MakeMyTrip.

Diageo has an employee assistance programme to provide counselling services. They are also conducting mental wellness sessions: the ones for employees cover effective stress management, avoiding digital burn-out among other issues, while those for line managers focus mostly on how to manage teams in terms of mental wellness.

Snapdeal is providing its employees and family members access to licensed counsellors, organising meditation and breathwork classes; Publicis Sapienthas mental health first aiders and sessions with specific focus on women, people facing domestic violence, etc.

Adobe India has company-wide day o􀂃s every third Friday as well as free access to meditation and wellbeing applications like Headspace and LifeDojo.ICICI Lombard has introduced flexible working — no meetings prior to 9amand after 7pm and no weekend/holiday meetings. L’Oreal will be hosting sessions for people managers leading teams to train them to better manage productivity with empathy.

“HR teams are in constant touch with the employees to build psychological morale and extend support to access quality and affordable healthcare. I speak with every Covid-impacted employee to offer support and guidance, which helped me understand the ground-level challenges they face,” said Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, Head of HR (global) and corporate quality, CSSCorp.


Winning Stroke: Interview with Sunil Mittal, CMO of CSS CORP

“I get hyper-focused and forget to take a break. Whether it’s a client that I know we can serve really well or teaching my daughter to ride her bike”

1. If not in the current profession, you would be?

Growing up, my family had a business and I had always planned to join them. When I graduated University, I took a job in the IT services industry to gain experience – and I loved it. And I never looked back. But if I wasn’t doing this, I think that is where I would be.

2. One tune you always hum.

There are actually two. One is “Jab Koi Baat Bigad Jaye” and the other is “Dream Big” by Ryan Shupe & the RubberBand.

3. One book to read when you want to motivate yourselves.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. The author writes about the situation where the conventional wisdom fails you. It’s the ability to “spot the next move” during those times that makes a great leader.

4. One dialogue of a movie that motivates you or you like the most.

I like the movie, The Pursuit of Hapiness because it shows how hard work and vision are unstoppable. There is a passage where Chris Gardner tells his son, “Don’t ever let someone tell you, you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream, you got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you, you can’t do it. You want something, go get it. Period. All right?” That has always resonated with me.

5. The place you never been to and always want to go?

French Polynesia. In the past, at one of my client locations, my view out of the window included a billboard advertising Bora Bora, with the sun setting behind Mt. Otemanu. We’ve been waiting for my daughters to be old enough to scuba with us. I view it as an opportunity to work on my patience!


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