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How Airtel Used AI to Manage 20,000 Employees

Managing 200 employee experiences can be difficult. But 20,000? That's a whole other ballgame. That's what Harmeen Mehta, Ex-Global CIO of Airtel, and her team have to do every single day. Further, they need to continually work to solve issues endemic to the telecoms sector, like turnover rates, disengagement, and a shortage of skilled talent. In such a customer call centric business, negative interactions because of unhappy employees can hurt the bottom line. Further, as Asia Pacific and South East Asia's telecoms industries grow rapidly and tech evolves ensuring an influx of high quality workers able to handle the changing needs of the industry is crucial. Google has predicted that the internet economies in places like Singapore and Malaysia will reach 25 billion USD a year by 2025, so acquiring, empowering and retaining the best employees possible is key in the telecoms arms race.

So how have Harmeen and her team succeeded in retaining top talent, reducing disengagement, and promoting upskilling? Transparency, real-time feedback, a culture of problem solving, and a little help from an AI engagement chatbot.

Watch Harmeen Mehta's Full Interview Here:


Airtel HR Team's Top 3 Challenges

Harmeen and her team found it a challenge to:

  • Ensure feedback from 20,000 employees was unfiltered and transparent

  • Understand employee sentiment and overall company mood daily and in real-time

  • Make effective policy and procedural changes that ensure heightened employee experiences

When Airtel Met Amber

1. Creating a Culture of Trust and Transparency to Limit Turnover

As Harmeen herself so astutely pointed out, “Anonymity is bullshit.” We couldn't agree more. Why does she feel so strongly anonymity is useless? Simple: Anonymous feedback gives you no real, actionable insights but rather propagates an environment of distrust in which anonymous finger-pointing becomes the norm. If your employee base is afraid that critiquing their managers or org wide policies will put their necks on the line, they’ll either want to answer anonymously or obfuscate their concerns out of fear of repercussions. So what did Harmeen and her team do? 

With some help from Amber, they’ve built a culture that ensures employees are free to speak their minds and provide feedback without fear of repercussions. In order to do so, they’ve designated the right stakeholders who have the power to make concrete changes and disperse information effectively without creating animosity. That’s picture-perfect cultural best practices thinking, and one of the quickest ways to build an environment of transparency and accountability that goes all the way up to her and her fellow C-Suite employees. Top to bottom, Airtel practices a culture of honest dialogue with some help from Amber.

Key Takeaway: While anonymous feedback may make employees feel more comfortable, it's not useful for problem solving. Establish a culture where employees are free to speak their minds so you can make concrete changes so you don't lose employees to other opportunities.

2. Getting the Real Time Pulse of Almost 20,000 Employees to Reduce Disengagement

One of the primary strengths of Amber is her ability to aggregate and splice data through useful reports, user segmented feedback, and a variety of watchlist settings. But what do you do with all that data? For Harmeen and her team, it meant baking in Amber into their daily routines, and building and structuring programs based on Amber feedback response cycles. As she said herself, going over the dashboard is how she spends the first ten minutes of her day.

So what does this mean for Harmeen and her team? As she told us, "You deal with 50 people in a day, and as a leader you feel, the mood that I have seen with those 50 people is the mood of the other 100s which you haven’t met that day." Her daily check-ins through Amber's textual analytics engine helps cut through the noise and lets her and her team know how the company is really feeling that day. And with 20,000 people, not having a data aggregation tool just won't cut it!

Key Takeaway: Manual data aggregation and small scale, emotional driven interactions doesn't offer the flexibility and honest sentiment you get with a HR chatbot or other data aggregation tool, limiting your ability to fight disengagement.

3. Building an Environment of Introspection and Action for Employee Development

Harmeen cuts through jargon and cushy terminology and hones in on issues effectively. For her and her team, Amber has been a blessing, but not an excuse to sit around. As she told us, Amber is simply "going to come and show you a mirror," but the onus is still on her team to do the work, noting her employees are "as good as the actions that they take." For a sector that often struggles to find talent to fit roles, promoting an atmosphere of introspection using data derived from AI can help make good employees great, and allow for in company role advancement.

For Harmeen and her team, leadership buy-in in terms of employee experience is crucial. If they don't participate, it's a waste of time. So what does Harmeen do? She relies on the organizational leaders to go out there and do what needs to be done around EX, and doesn't want excuses. They have an exception tool, but what makes Airtel's HR team so strong is they're not complacent. They continue to drive to make it a better place to work for every employee, every day.

Key Takeaway: Just because you have great tools, or a great team, doesn't mean you'll succeed. You still need to up your game, efficiently utilizing the resources around you, rather than losing your own problem solving skills in order to build better employees.

Watch Harmeen's Full Interview Here:


For a team like Harmeen's, relying solely on HRBP data collection just wasn't an option. With a workforce that size the hours needed to accurately and frequently reach out to employees would've been absolutely impossible. So, they got the tool they needed. But what makes their case so special isn't that they used their HR chatbot properly, but that they then built on their learnings to create an empowered workforce culture for employees that held everyone accountable. The tool helped, and that's why you need an AI chatbot like Amber, today, but without their grit and desire to make a change through transparency and accountability they' couldn't have made the strides they have.

Clay Walsh
Clay Walsh
Content Writer at inFeedo

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