HR Connect 2021: Extreme Ownership at the Center of Talent Transformation Strategy


2020 ushered us into a new way of working. Organizations are now moving to investing and setting up infrastructures to provide a superior work experience to their people– Hybrid 2.0. SAP organized the SAP HR Connect 2021 to throw some much-needed light on how we can design employee experiences for the hybrid 2.0 world that are holistic, progressive, agile, technology-driven, and most importantly, more human!

As we reimagine our world in a hybrid way, organizations need to put extreme ownership at the center of their EX strategy. Emphasizing the same, Harshvendra Soin, Global Chief People Officer, and Head Marketing, Tech Mahindra, presented an in-depth case study of how his organization rewired itself, placing human employee experience at the core to rebound with resilience.

Extreme ownership and how we develop talent to display it have become a key facet of facing the many upcoming challenges of the pandemic and post-pandemic era. Organizations and professionals recognize the many opportunities that lie amid this chaos and are trying to tap into them.

Let’s start by looking into the many paradoxes that companies all over the world are grappling with today in the new normal:

  • Saving cost or investing in growth
  • Changing employee expectations, whether it is from remote working or at office
  • Customers expecting companies to deliver digital yet personalized
  • Changing market dynamics in terms of competition, resource availability in a heated market, and changing legislations

With this context, we move on to explore the many challenges and opportunities that this new normal has to offer.


  • The need to cater to the physical and emotional wellbeing of the employees
  • Connecting, communicating, and engaging everyone to a common culture in a virtual environment
  • Building a resilient and future-ready leadership


  • The rise of gig working along with diversity, inclusivity,
  • A chance to reset for surviving, reviving, and thriving in a post-pandemic era

To refocus on resilient and future-ready leadership, we need to start by understanding why extreme ownership is important.

Leadership teams “make or break” organizations:

  • 95% of investors state that the most important non-financial performance indicator is the credibility and experience of the leadership team
  • 9x likelihood of reaching above-median financial performance when the leadership team has a shared and clear vision
  • 33% of transformations failed because the leadership team’s behavior did not support the change (silos, competing agendas, turf wars, indecision)

Looking at these numbers, it is not rocket science to understand that most companies that do well are where extreme ownership is made the basis of moving forward, and the top teams are all aligned to the critical goal.

Extreme ownership is not simply a new business jargon. It is a set of 7 everyday behaviors that can change the very course of an organization’s growth.

  1. Inspirational coaching – that teaches an organization to be bold
  2. To be visionaries – reminding people about the larger picture beyond the business
  3. Create ownership mind-sets – exploring competition as opportunities, taking each challenge head-on
  4. Culture broke by on black hole. Build connections through the spine of culture.
  5. Cleanse our sponge frequently. Create both capacity and speed for change.
  6. Think different and innovate to out-hustle and out-muscle your competition.
  7. Erase energy sappers from your everyday life! Bring in the energy stars!

As part of our journey to create a culture that adapts to extreme ownership, Tech Mahindra formed 5 transformation offices with clear outcomes – Growth, Delivery, Innovation, Process and customer success, and probably the most important – the People Transformation Office.

The objectives of the people transformation office were always very clear:

  • To build a high-performance culture
  • To have talent refresh that ensures the agility of the workforce
  • To have young leadership and capabilities around young leadership
  • To be an employer of choice
  • To be able to achieve cost-optimization

For now, let’s narrow down on three of these critical objectives – building a high-performance culture, young leadership, and capability building and becoming an employer of choice.

Extreme ownership always flows from the top, it flows from leaders being aligned to a common goal. To achieve this alignment of thought and actions, at Tech Mahindra we created dashboards for our top 300 leaders. These dashboards were automated straight from financial data and provided monthly reviews of not only the harder aspects of the business but also gave insights into the softer aspects of performance.

These dashboards also allowed us to set customized goals. Not just cut and paste job where everyone is measured against the same yardstick or expected to deliver the same outcomes. With our customized goals we ensured that there was reasonable upskilling, reskilling, repurposing, and refreshment of talent across the organization. This meant that new talent could be brought in, and existing ones could be upskilled to face the new challenges of the post-pandemic era.

As part of this initiative, all top 300 leaders were reviewed monthly. And 30 of them were reviewed by the CEO himself. This brought in a lot of rigor and alignment in the way things got done within the organization.

Secondly, to encourage young talent within the organization we took on something that we call “reversing the pyramid”. This move helped us ensure that the power is refocused on the ground level – turning account managers into CEOs. To infuse some young leadership talent, we also introduced several interesting programs like LEAP, Global Leader CAD program, Management Training program, AIMER program. All these programs were specifically targeted at youngsters from outside the industry – positive thinkers and doers who would take on extreme ownership. Next, we encouraged women within our organization through our Women Leadership Program. This program yielded a significant uplift in revenue for the organization, as we not only upskilled our female employees but also placed them in higher job roles immediately.

Giving higher-visibility roles to early leadership and continuous performance tracking, mentoring, and upskilling was the hallmark of all our initiatives. There were some common attributes that we looked for in all our young leaders like – pursuit of passion, curiosity, persistence, digital prowess, an entrepreneurial mindset, and of course attention to detail.

Thirdly, as part of our initiatives to organize the extreme ownership culture we were continuously inspired to do more to become an employer of choice. The many awards we have won are simply an outcome of the efforts we have put in. As an organization, we took on initiatives that encourage diversity, young leadership, and career-building, very early on.

And we got recognized for our diversity, usage of HR technology, upskilling, our response to the pandemic, for being the best place for careers, best workplace for women, and being named as one of Asia’s Best Workplaces in 2021. All of the external recognition’s that came in reiterated for us the fact that we were on the right path to organize ourselves as a company with extreme ownership. This is a continuous journey for us and external recognition’s like these only inspire us to do more.

In conclusion, it would be right to say that managing ‘change’ through basics turned out to be the key for us as an organization, whether it was a process, policy or people change. In the post-pandemic era, we are empowering our leaders to go and WIN! We are hype personalizing, we are adding collaboration and skin-in-the-game and we have rewards, recognition’s, and schemes including new incentive policies in place to spur our people on.

We have simplified all our designs and amplified all our communications. And that is how we have energized 1,26,000 employees and associates in this new normal. Extreme ownership is the only response to this global pandemic. How we work and lead has completely shifted with more priority and focus on clarity, compassion, and connection.

Check out more posts from SAP HR Connect 2021:

HR Connect 2021: Evolving Employee Experience from HCM to HXM in Hybrid 2.0 – SAP India News Center

HR Connect 2021: CEO’s Perspectives on the Changing People Paradigm   – SAP India News Center

HR Connect 2021: Meeting Business Priorities in a Hybrid World – SAP India News Center

HR Connect 2021: Thriving in the Vaccine Economy Through Human Experience – SAP India News Center

HR Connect 2021: Code to Cracking the Talent, Technology & Cost Trifecta – SAP India News Center

HR Connect 2021: Driving Talent Transformation Strategy with Resilience – SAP India News Center