Monday, August 25, 2008

New Challenges in Retention

Retention is the key word for any HR team more so in these turbulent times. Let us study what companies are specifically doing in this area of talent retention. The article given below throws somelight as to what is HR doing to curb attrition.

Happy Reading.

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Only a decade ago, innovative HR practices in IT/ITES companies were all about keeping employees satisfied with a great workplace, attractive compensation packages, well-defined roles, performance-based rewards and many many perks, including in some cases a ‘dating allowance’. Today, all these are mere ‘hygiene factors’ which employees expect as a ‘given’, much like the free food, free travel, free training that these new-age companies provide.
But the challenge of keeping the employee happy continues.

HR people have therefore come up with other ideas and concepts. One of them is ‘employee engagement’ -- to keep the employee engaged with the company from day one. Not that it is a new concept all together, but it is getting tougher and more challenging to do. "Any organisation is just a pitstop for youngsters who are looking for a career in IT but who do not necessarily associate that career with ‘A’ or ‘B’ company," says Hari Iyer, Senior VP for human resources at Sasken Communication Technologies Ltd.

So, what exactly is required to keep an employee tethered? "An employee is ‘engaged’ when he or she has an intellectual and emotional commitment and involvement with the organisation and its goals. True engagement is when the employee goes beyond what is expected of him and strives to better his performance, delivering extraordinary results thereby, contributing to the organisation’s success," says Sanjay Paul Antony, Senior VP-HR, Subex Ltd.

Says Dr Ganesh Natarajan, Global CEO of Pune-based Zensar Technologies, "Earlier, an employee’s primary concern used to be: ‘How much money will I make? When is my next raise due? When am I due for a promotion?’ Therefore, it was important for us as an organisation to address the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) factor in order to retain a person. Today, we have moved from WIIFM to TLC (tender loving care), because no amount of money can buy a person’s loyalty. I spend 40 per cent of my time in office just chatting up employees and making sure they are happy. I also enjoy spending time after office, partying with them or just listening to what they have to say. What is important is to make sure that an individual employee’s aspirations are aligned with the organisation’s vision." Zensar currently has 4,800 employees, and the company has identified 400 fast-trackers with whom the top management spends quality time, listening to their woes, concerns, aspirations, etc., added Ganesh.

Speaking on the same wavelength, Subex’s Anthony said it was critical to make an employee feel at home and special even before they join the company. For instance, Subex has a separate area for interviews where candidates have privacy. They don’t have to sign a register, and get welcome letters as they walk in.

"The first connect with an employee is extremely important. Our multi-stage induction process ensures that on day one, everything from an employee’s business card, id card, access card, machines, seating and complete stationery is organised including the opening of a bank account with a debit card. The employee goes on a pre-conducted tour of the facility with an iPod and earphones, where he is taken step by step through the entire organisation. They also get to watch video clips of senior management worldwide who welcome them as well as clips of various support staff who they would necessarily have to interact with for various requirements. The 20 most frequently asked questions are answered every day through personal emails for the first 20 days after a person joins us" said Anthony.

Tesco Hindustan Service Centre’s HR head Sudeesh Venkatesh says that organisations need to get a whole basket of employee engagement initiatives right in order to retain him or her.
"First and foremost, a company needs to be successful in its business and ethical, too, thereby creating a brand equity which will generate pride in an employee. Second, every employee should have an interesting job function. Third, every employee must have a clearly defined career progression plan so that their future in the company is well-defined. Fourth, every empl-oyee needs to have a supportive manager and last, every employee deserves to be paid competitively."

Tesco, Venkatesh says, addresses all of the above. Managers go through a leadership development programme and are taught how to handle career, performance and development discussions with their team members. Employees who finish one year with Tesco gain additional qualifications and domain knowledge by going through a 5-week retail certification programme offer-ed jointly by IIM-Bangalore and IRMC (Integrated Retail Management Consulting). Tesco’s ‘get curious’ initiative lets employees contribute innovative ideas through the year, at the end of which big ideas are showcased at an annual event and the best one is presented to the entire Tesco team.

Infinite Computer Solutions has instituted ‘PARAM’, an elite club that consists of top performers directly under the aegis of the CEO, which gives them the opportunity to mould and guide others in the fray. "Our employee club, iVerve, believes in the mantra ‘work hard and party harder.’ Employees celebrate festivals, get together every month for talent display evenings and also sponsor the requirements of an entire class of children in an underprivileged school called Parikrama," says N.V. Rajan, Senior VP of HR.

Electronics giant LG has worked out a 5-year ‘Employee Career Plan’ for 1,300 white-collar employees. "The results are outstanding. In an industry where attrition is around 23 per cent, we have managed to reduce it from 18 per cent in 2006 to 6.8 per cent this year," said Yasho Verma, Director of HR.

While these are overt initiatives from organisations, companies such as Sasken believe in simply creating a fair and transparent workplace. "The fear associated with traditional organisations is missing in ours. We have process fairness, outcome fairness and an effective employee feedback loop which has worked very well for us. We offer a relationship where employees feel good about themselves, because the organisation helps them to constantly learn, grow and get better everyday, says Hari Iyer.
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