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HCL’s Employer Brand- a best in class initiative

Initiative Summary

In 2015, 73% (HBR report 2015) of CEO’s reported being concerned about the availability of key skills hence the need to build a differentiated employer brand has become more important than ever. At HCL, the employer brand has been brought alive in a unique and innovative manner which is unparalleled across industries.

While most organisations invest in employer brand typically in the “awareness” phase , the aspect where HCL has demonstrated thought leadership, is in bringing alive its employee value proposition across all stages of the candidate lifecycle (from awareness, application to offer, post offer to pre joining,  day of joining, post joining and post exit) . Not only have all phases been analysed to identify unique insights, but, each initiative has also been innovatively designed to ensure the unique talent market issues that the IT/ ITES industry are facing are well addressed. The approach can be summarised as under:


HCL’s being an IT services company has employees at the core of its offering and consequently it owes its success to them. With an annual need to 30,000 new hires, recruitment as a business function is crucial to HCL’s topline and bottom line. IT industry’s maintaining 5-7% of workforce on bench for faster response to new deals is now an obsolete practice with margin pressure and need for IT mammoths to become lean organizations to rake in efficiency gains. Just-in-time hiring policy is a reality and leads to a severe supply chain problem given short fulfillment time for the recruitment team.

Recruitment team like B2B sales force is responsible for one to one search and sale of the product (career choice at HCL). HCL formed the employer brand and recruitment marketing team to enable one to many messaging and reach in various countries to enable recruitment team just like we have been enabling sales teams for many years.

Sourcing of candidate resumes (lead generation) for various roles is traditionally done through following channels – job boards, employee referral, partner recruitment firms, corporate website etc. With high cost per hire for employee referral channel ($400) and partner channel ($1000) due to commissions. HCL has a separate sourcing team which is always hunting for the best talent through the social media channels for the last few years. 


IT talent pool of experienced hires is extremely fickle minded with high rotation within the same set of IT companies. There is no stickiness of any employer brand. Hiring for IT talent is dangerously akin to pricing wars where the candidates join new companies just for the salary packages. This consumer behavior is largely prevalent due to the undifferentiated employer value proposition in the IT industry and the threat of new age employment options like ecommerce companies, internet based businesses, and product based technology companies etc. which are not only offering attractive roles but also higher compensation


Further, the global hiring industry has seen the gap between hiring volume and budgets increase for the first time in four years in 2015  (exhibit 2).

This has created a need to deliver more with less investment, where the leaders are focusing on investing wisely to attract and retain talent driving organizations to invest in building their employer brands. 


  1. Opportunity to design and deploy a holistic approach to employer brand, given high business relevance and lack of proactive focus from most organisations

In the survey conducted by People in Business (TMP worldwide) in 2013 with 271 respondents across organizations from 32 countries, who have invested in initiatives towards attracting talent, it was found that only 28% have invested in building their employer brands.

  1. Positive engagement with the millennial talent pool can strengthen employer brand significantly and reduce cost of hiring
  • 95% of unsuccessful candidates are more likely to apply again if their experience is positive
  • 97% of all satisfied candidates would be willing to refer their friends and family to the organisation
  • 50% would carry a positive word of mouth to social media if they have had a great experience



The employer brand team has designed and executed, award winning and breakthrough marketing programs across each phase of the candidate lifecycle. The brand philosophy has been unified and consistency of messaging maintained by adherence to a holistically crafted brand guidelines document.

Pre hiring – focus is on creating disruptive mindshare. In the period of July ’14 to May ’15, 300 million + digital impressions have been achieved on the employer brand.

Selection- Joining phase- a breakthrough candidate experience program has been designed to deliver workforce productivity as well early exposure to the employer value proposition. This program will directly engage 30,000 employees each year

Employment – structured ideation platforms have been created to generate a strong proof point for the Employer value proposition of ideapreneurship ( license to ideate). These platforms have generated nearly 50000 ideas, delivered a direct business impact of USD 800 million to HCL and helped deliver customer value of + USD 650 million

Post exit –the ex-employees continue to evangelise the employer brand. The fact that close 1200 alumni , chose to join HCL back in the period July ’14 to May ’15 is strong testament to the traction that HCL technologies has managed to create amongst its employee- both past and present.


HCL’s unique approach towards employer brand development by creating a differentiated experience across the employee value chain approach has been recognized by thought leaders communities and top academics.

  • ideapreneurship™ is featured as a case study in the Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU) publication titled Strategies for Success
  • HEC Paris has written a case study on the employee culture practiced at HCL. Titled ‘HCL Technologies since the Global 2008-09 Crisis: Creating Value through Employee Empowerment’, the case study highlights HCL’s journey from EFCS to ideapreneurship and mentions employee culture at HCL as a key catalyst for its healthy performance
  • Leading analyst firms like Gartner and Forrester published exclusive report on EFCS, recognizing that this philosophy empowers HCL’s frontline employees to make decisions and take actions for the benefit of customers
  • Harvard Business School teaches HCL as a case study on organizational development.
  • Awards – ABBY Awards, Paul Writer, BMA Awards, DMAi Awards, W3, RASBIC etc.

Development of a strong employer brand for HCL has resulted in:

  • 41% increase over FY14 average in fulfilment numbers in India and 66% in other geographies including US and Europe as key markets
  • Quarter on quarter improvement in utilization and average resource cost in FY15- 50% improvement in Q1 vs. Q4 previous year, 21% in Q2 and 37% in Q3.
  • Lower attrition rate as compared to industry average of +20%, HCL has an attrition rate of 16.1%

Situation Overview

In today’s competitive job market, the need to attract and retain the right talent has become imperative. Distinguishing oneself from the competition, by promoting strengths and confirming values ensures that a company stays ahead of the pack and becomes an employer of choice throughout the business cycle. As companies try to outdo each other in the constantly changing IT space there is a subtle, yet intense battle waging for talent (exhibit 4). 


As a fast growing global player in IT/ ITES industry, HCL needed to achieve the base-line credibility enjoyed by it’s larger and more established rivals, by elevating its image and coming up as an employer of choice. As a lesser-known player, however, HCL needed to differentiate itself – become less like rivals – through unconventional initiatives that might attract the right talent.

One approach for setting itself apart from rivals was: Highlight HCL’s passion for ideas, which was derived from HCL’s philosophy of Employees First, Customers Second. This philosophy helped ignite entrepreneurial behaviour in the employees and HCL management realized that it was imperative to have a uniform culture across the globe.

Hence, the key to cutting edge differentiation was to build the relevance of culture through the employee life cycle by creation of a strong Employer Brand, both internal and external; the internal being culture and the overall employment experience that a current employee has and the external being the brand image portrayed in front of prospective employees, majority of which are millenials (born between 1980s – 2000), who will dominate the future workforce and need more than regular work life to be engaged.The intent was to use ground breaking and non-conventional means to reach out to the millenials who have short attention span and live comfortably in the cyber zone.

Understanding of Customer/ Market need:

The proportion of working-age population in India is likely to increase from around 58% in 2001 to more than 64% by 2021, with a large number of millenials (20-35 age groups). There is a huge challenge for employers, when it comes to decoding the mind-set of this group as it is comprises of:

  • 3/5 wish to switch jobs every 5 years
  • 4/5 want regular feedback from their managers
  • 1/3 wish for recognition from manager/co-workers or promotion than higher pay
  • 7/10 need more of “me time” in their jobs.

In 2015, the sourcing landscape changed from a typical staffing firm reliant to heavily reliant on professional networks. The last 4 years have seen a rise in recruiting through social professional networks by 73% making it fastest growing source of quality hires globally (exhibit 5).


Like any other employer, HCL is faced with a complex environment - unprecedented technological change, challenging economic conditions and ever increasing competition, and is crucial to find and retain the right talent to achieve business agility and sustain competitive advantage.

Moreover, the current talent market consisted largely of millenials, who do not resonate with traditional HR methods. The strategies for finding, hiring and developing talent that worked in the past don’t translate as readily in these new and possibly more competitive environments. Hence there is a very pragmatic need to develop a strong employer brand that appeals to them and:

  • Help HCL to sustainably attract and retain the right talent and have a healthy employee base/ pipeline
  • Help create a differentiator for themselves against their competitors and
  • Help build salience for the brand both internally and externally thereby enabling the employees to live up to the promise of delivering a relationship with the customer that goes beyond the contractual agreement.


Through business turmoil and industry upheavals– there is one thing that truly tests an organization’s resilience - its culture. The employee culture at HCL is a key catalyst for its healthy performance. It has led to a remarkable turnaround in HCL’s market share and mind share, over a period starting from 2005 till date and even helped the company sustain and survive the 2008 recession. This thought leadership in the employer brand space is a cohesive framework of HCL’s beliefs, employee behaviour, programs and eventually business outcome which is brought alive throughout innovative approach towards recruitment as well as other aspects of the employer brand.

  1. Unique player in its industry:

    HCL is the only culture based EVP which is not focused on just individual performance but is also focused on creating a culture of ideation and a strong enabling environment.

  2. Innovative interventions right through the candidate lifecycle

    Creative and path- breaking initiatives have been launched by HCL to attract its Target audience at every touch point possible. At every stage of the employee life cycle, right from Pre-Hiring through to Alumni, specific targeted campaigns are launched. Here is how HCL has consistently innovated throughout the employee value chain

    Pre-hiring stage : Alternate thinking has been demonstrated with award winning campaigns like #HIRALVIDEOS, with an unprecedented 175 M impressions, 3,35,000+ video views and 11,400 application, or with Coolest Interview Ever (CIE)- the worlds 1st ever end to end recruitment campaign on Twitter, which pushed HCL’s Twitter follower base to more than 200,000.

    Selection- Joining phase : HCL has created a nuanced and experiential onboarding Program, infact, in bold new approach, the induction day is actually themed the “Fare Well Day”. This is a tribute to bidding adieu to the old world thinking and embracing instead a new approach to building ones career- thus “faring well” at HCL.

    Employment phase :  multiple innovative initiatives have been implemented at HCL . Some highlights- the internal social platform MEME for employees, which is 90000 (90% of total base) employees strong and buzzing, or the first in kind campaign in India with 50 million global impressions, where an organization (especially IT/ITES) has facilitated employees to uninhibitedly discuss organization culture on social media, HCL has cracked the key to brand impact through effective social reach.

Today, millenials are not just looking for a high salary, or a successful career; but they want PURPOSE. Therefore to be an employer of choice, HCL realized they needed to take the right value proposition to the current and new employees and create the culture that completely integrates and reflects this value system in and out. To do this, HCL embarked on a journey to create a strong Employer Brand.

HCL believes that putting employees at the forefront would help unleash their true potential. This belief, defines HCL’s philosophy - Employees First, Customers Second

As part of this “employees first” principle, HCL strives to attract and foster employees. Ideapreneurship is best defined as the attitude or ability to drive grassroots-based, business-driven and customer-focused innovation in an intrapreneurial environment. In order to make sure that the prospective candidates and current employees embody this tenet, a lot of time was spent working on building and more importantly living the employee value proposition.

The Employer Brand creation followed a two-pronged approach at HCL:

  1. The Inside-Out Approach in Creating the EVP: Seeding and Nurturing Ideapreneurship inside HCL
  2. The Outside-In Approach: Creating the relevance of the ideapreneurship value proposition through the employee lifecycle

The Inside-Out Approach in Creating the EVP: Seeding and Nurturing Ideapreneurship inside HCL:

At HCL, there was a clear understanding that there’s much more to an employer brand than a new strapline or typeface. HCL realized the need for Employees to live and breathe the organization culture and personality. And every employee touch point from job postings and initial induction to further training and exit interviews – should reflect the employer brand. So, there was a lot of work to do internally first to embed cultural change thereby enabling Employees to ‘live’ the HCL employer brand.

Seeding Ideapreneurship

The Ideapreneurship Framework started with validating beliefs, to clarifying and promoting the desired behaviours, reinforcing them through aligned programs, thereby leading to the desired business outcome – ‘Relationship beyond the ContractTM

Nurturing Ideapreneurship – Developing ideapreneurs using the ideapreneurial Profiles

Self-discovery social tools such as the ideapreneurship assessment tool help an individual employee discover their ideapreneurial profile. It measures their ideapreneurship quotient and suggests steps to jumpstart elevate their performance.

At HCL, over 80,000 ideapreneurs have undertaken the non-mandatory ideapreneurship assessment — a tool that had helped ideapreneurs identifies their individual “ideapreneurial” profile. Post the assessment, the employees were taken through Learning Programs based on their profile to help sharpen their Ideapreneurship skills and competencies. 


Nurturing Ideapreneurship – Enabling Ideapreneurship through Collaboration via MEME

The next step was to bring the employees to collaborate and make it possible for their ideas to become a reality. There was a need for tools and programmes that enabled different generations to work together and share knowledge so as to meet clients’ goals. To this end, HCL launched an internal social and professional networking site, MEME, in 2011, where all employees across the globe could connect, collaborate and share their thoughts and ideas.

Nurturing Ideapreneurship – Facilitating Innovation through multiple Channels creating unprecedented business impact

With such an atmosphere that fosters Intrapreneurship, ideapreneurs are constantly engaged in generating and evolving ideas which are harvested using our various idea-oriented platforms and practices which are Value portal, Lead Gen, Mad Jam and Good Practices Conference, thereby helping unleash the true power of ideapreneurship. The employee innovators, who ideate in the real-time and in the “value zone,” were embraced and inspired by the management. Every-day, HCL employees work directly with customers to create solutions to customer problems, delivering IDEAS which enable collaborative, incremental change. It makes innovation an everyday habit. And, these every-day ideas set a new business paradigm, with incremental gain. 




The Outside-In Approach: Creating the relevance of the ideapreneurship value proposition through the employee lifecycle

Equipped with the knowledge that the current set of employees view HCL as an Employer of choice, HCL entered the next leg of the Employer Branding Strategy - creating brand experience through the employee lifecycle by embedding ideapreneurship in all their messaging. Delivery of the EVP was made through every communication touch point, internal and external.

HCL anticipated the crucial role of social collaboration tools in changing the face of organizational structure in the coming years. HCL also took into account the rising popularity of social media forums like Facebook and Twitter; and decided to bring its Employer Brand to life using these media.

This was followed by creating the relevance of the Ideapreneurship through the four stages of the employee lifecycle namely:

  • Pre-hire
  • Candidate experience through to joining
  • Employee stage
  • Alumni


Ideapreneurship through the Employee Lifecycle: Stage 1: Pre-hire

To attract new talent the HCL talent acquisition group decided to play their ideapreneurial strength and tap into social media in an effort to increase its reach across talented job-seekers.

1.1 Career page on HCL Website

In this digital era HCL Technologies undertook the task of reaching out to masses through our official website, as organization website is the first point of contact for any stakeholder (employees, customers, analysts, suppliers, partners etc.) of an organization. The problem was that there were limited metrics to showcase HCL as a high talent organization across nations. To overcome the same, the UI & UX of Career Page needed to be revamped completely to give the external audience a visibility on open demand options of jobs & company culture.. Career page was an underleveraged internal recruitment asset with HCL Tech till last year, so we incorporated meaningful filters on main jobs page, created country specific pages, implementing jobs on each country specific page, improved the quality of the job description, which resulted in over 200,000 applications and more than 1000 hires since July 2014.


1.2 LinkedIn

HCL also had a career page on LinkedIn (a social media site used by recruiters and for individuals to display their professional profiles and to connect with other professionals around the world) - which allowed HCL to take the employer brand message to the talent network and showcase their employee value proposition through customized experiences. On the LinkedIn’s career page, jobs, company images, employee testimonials and more were shared to showcase the brand of HCL as an employer of choice.

1.3 Slide Share

The Ideapreneurship Culture Deck has been published on Slideshare (in Aug’14). The Presentation has attracted over 19,000+   views in an organic manner. HCL leveraged the presentation for 2nd time and conceptualized a contest around it to increase the number of views of the culture code and to gauge the understanding of Ideapreneurship for the external audiences. The deck has been made available to build external salience for the brand. 


1.4 Twitter - #CoolestInterviewEver

Given that most companies had already started tapping into Facebook and LinkedIn for reaching out to the talent pool, the existing efforts were still not seen as enough to bolster the employer brand of HCL. Thus was born a campaign called the coolest interview ever involved an end to end hiring of a candidate on Twitter from a global talent pool for a one-year assignment. The campaign was launched in multiple languages to engage the maximum number of people. The search, interviews and shortlisting were to be done using the Twitter platform. Five roles would be on offer, one of which would be the winner with a twelve-month contract that carried a US $25,000 one-time cash prize and US $50,000 annual compensation.                       

The campaign supported the mission of improving the employer brand of HCL and portraying the internal culture of ideapreneurship to the Gen Y candidate – it got media coverage from more than 60 international and national media outlets worth a commercial value of one million USD. The campaign also pushed HCL’s Twitter follower base to more than 200,000, which placed it well ahead of other global companies including IBM, Accenture and established Indian companies like TCS and Infosys. The campaign trended across 19 cities and across the nation for four days, drawing people’s attention to the employee-centric and innovative culture of HCL and helped bag some of the most prestigious marketing awards like ABBY Awards for Digital Brand Promotion & Activation and Direct Digital Response, BMA award for Social Media (Twitter program), DMAi Award, AIMA & W3 amongst others  


1.5 YouTube – #HIRALVIDEOS

HIRAL was the first of its kind recruitment marketing campaign to:

  • Convert written job descriptions to video format and create a hiring collateral
  • Be targeted to non-target audience (viral video watching friends of candidate who are too busy to watch viral videos)
  • Utilize social media, affiliate marketing, email marketing, recruitment channels, search and display advertising for a single campaign.
  • Use creative strategy to ride on the popularity of viral videos in India to create unexpected hiring pitch

The Campaign achieved unprecedented 175M impressions, 335,000+ video views and 11,400 applications with a CPA of $4.93. After Coolest Interview Ever, #HIRALVIDEO helped build salience of HCL as an innovative employer in India and became winners of BMA Award for Integrated Marketing Communications Programs & Paul Writers Award for Best Lead Generation campaign



2. Ideapreneurship through the Employee Lifecycle: Stage 2: Candidate Experience

Throughout the phases, HCL devised multiple campaigns to target the challenges at hand and deliver an experience to the candidates, an experience to remember.


2.1  Awareness Phase – This is the period when the candidate is searching for a job

  • Social Media Campaign – Digital advertising through disruptive messaging – 175K impressions achieved in 35 day
  • Career site content revamp to cater to the millennials

2.2  Interest Phase – This is the period between the application and the offer rollout

  • Development of a comprehensive recruiter’s guide with responses to FAQs
  • Featuring success stories to showcase fast career growth within HCL

2.3   Pre-Joining - This is the period between the offer acceptance and the pre-induction

  • Gamified Learning – Sharing content on the company’s culture and history delivered through a game thereby resulting in a high SoM. Each candidate was presented with a series of individualized tasks tailored to a predetermined goal. After completion, the candidate was rewarded with a new learning opportunity: the ability to ‘level-up’ and unlock the next level of content. The game mechanics such as points, leader board and medals enhanced participation and learner motivation. The efforts of the candidate were rewarded with achievement badges as per the proficiency demonstrated by learner in the interactive quiz assessments that followed each level of content.In first three months of the roll out, 62% of the new hires participated voluntarily in the training program. The probability of a candidate dropping was found to be 9X lower among the cohort who participated vs. those who did not. As a result, HCL was able to cut down pre-join churn by ~90%.
  • Communication mailers – Redesigned and Automated – For candidates and managers to address challenges identified during research

2.4   Post-Joining – These are the initial days ranging from Induction to the initial 30 days


  • The avg. candidate just wants to “get done” with his induction
  • All inductions are perceived as boring and standard

The new and revamped Induction will be launching soon- creating an experience to remember with information that is useful and will be remembered by him throughout his tenure at HCL and beyond. Our metrics for this phase include feedback forms that will be distributed to employees after their experience at ‘Fare Well Day’ to receive their feedback


First 30 days: | Initial 30 day handholding program

Communication on this important yet delicate phase can make or break the experience for any candidate. HCL handholds him through his first 30 days through initiatives and experience enhancers that will make his fondness of HCL grow, so that he focusses his time and energy on productive work and every information he seeks is pre-thought of and provided to him before he can ask anyone for it! At the end of 30 days, asking all joiners to give us a formidable rating of 4/5 or more for their 30 days experience

3. Ideapreneurship through the Employee Lifecycle: Stage 3: Employee Experience by Living the Brand

The ideapreneurship culture immersion has been done through unified messaging approach across all initiatives for employees by building awareness, ambassadorship and advocacy.

3.1 Awareness – The facilities branding project has been taken up by the team to brand multiple facilities across the globe to create a unified messaging approach through the creative deployment of impactful branding creatives across facilities.

3.2 Ambassadorship – HCL created four platforms LeadGen, Value Portal, Mad JAM and Good Practices Conference to institutionalize the culture of Ideapreneurship and engage employees in the organization.

Celebrating Success: Chronicles of Ideapreneurs & 100 Success Stories



HCL didn’t stop with enabling Ideapreneurs to succeed, but also celebrated them. For this, HCL hit upon a novel idea to also make these celebrations an inspiration in itself and thus was launched the first volume of, “The Chronicles of Ideapreneurs Volume1”– a graphic novel containing stories of ten motivated Ideapreneurs, and how their stories reflect the true spirit of Ideapreneurship. It’s not only beautiful collateral for employee recognition but also becomes a proof point for HCL’s differentiated approach and its brand promise to the clients and potential employees.

In addition to this HCL also created and compiled crowd sourced 100 success stories in the form of Ideapreneurship Journal, for Ideapreneurs across the organization and leveraged the same on the HCL technologies page to celebrate the success of these ideapreneurs and also build external salience for them.

  1. Advocacy -  Various digital campaigns such as the digital Ideapreneur have been launched to  Facilitate engagements with Ideapreneurs and to build external audiences with tweet chats and generate user content in terms of Blog posts and to create proof points for the culture of Ideapreneurship. The campaign resulted in achieving over 50 million digital impressions around campaign hashtag


4. Ideapreneurship through the Employee Lifecycle: Stage 4: Alumni Engagement

HCL introduced its alumni to the ‘I-alum Program’ and positioned it as ‘Once an Ideapreneur always an Ideapreneur’, Alumini were invited to join the portal and regular communication on current happenings and growth of HCLT. The portal saw a tremendous response with an increase in registration requests on our portal, Within 3 months; HCL has a membership of 2000+. Their portal membership has gone to 7000+.



Closing Statement

At HCL ideapreneurs are constantly engaged in generating and evolving ideas in an intrapreneurial environment which are harvested using our various idea-oriented platforms and practices which are Value portal, lead Gen, Mad Jam and good practices conference. Furthermore, to ensure that the evangelisation of the culture of Ideapreneurship cascades to the grassroots level, various communities such as iCoach, iEvangelists, Value Creation Team, VC Champs, etc.

At HCL we attempt to create an intrapreneurial environment through the culture of Ideapreneurship where recognizing and motivating employees to ideate is not just confined to managers but is driven by the culture itself. HCL’s EVP has been established as an enabler of Business strategy as it directly contributes towards HCL’s top line through unique programs i.e. seed platforms –LeadGen, Good Practices Conference, Value Portal, MADJAM

Since HCL is the only culture based EVP which is not focused on just individual performance but is also focused on creating a culture of ideation and a strong enabling environment and the business results of our innovative employer brand are proof of the success of our approach and we are now in a position to leverage our first movers advantage by selling it as a proposition which would make HCL, the first IT company to do so.

“HCL is showing some great leadership and I wish you and your colleagues success with your initiatives. “ - Soumitra Dutta, Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean and Professor of Management, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University


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