All About Money?

Last
December, The Far Eastern Economic Review rated Infosys Technologies Ltd as
India’s top corporate house for the year 2000 based on, among other things,
management vision and financial soundness. Around the same time, in a
newspaper-conducted poll Infosys was voted the most admired company in the
country. In January this year, the company topped the list of India’s Best
Employers in a study by a business magazine. Last month, it reported quarterly
earnings were up by 125%.

That’s the cake. The icing is its 30-acre campus, golf links, food courts,
bowling alleys and most of all, its employee stock option plan. Ask any
Infoscian what attracts him most about the company and he’ll say, “The
money, Boss. The money is unimaginable. If I get 1,000 shares after my annual
appraisal, at current prices, it is Rs 60 lakh. Two years ago, I wouldn’t even
have dreamt of that kind of money.” It shows. Infosys employees today are
pushing up rental and real estate prices in Bangalore and clogging the city
roads with fancy cars.

Employee stock options are not a new concept. And one could argue that the
fallout is accidental–if the company wasn’t doing so well at the stock
market, the stock options wouldn’t mean very much. The company’s
contribution to HR models in the Indian IT industry is not about offering ESOPs,
its about articulating “wealth creation for employees” as a specific
HR initiative.

Hema Ravichander, the company’s HR head says: “We believe in a
three-pronged value-add for our employees. The learning opportunities are
immense, constantly equipping them to stay abreast of the latest technologies
and skills; the financial benefits aim at an overall wealth creation for the
employees; and the emotional support that the company offers is a third
component that keeps the employees happy.”

The other big high is of course, knowledge. In the new economy paradigm it
directly translates to money and is therefore an important component of both
personal and professional aspirations. To cater to that Infosys set up an
education and research (E&R) department in 1992 that caters to the company’s
learning, research and knowledge management needs in diverse technology areas
including e-commerce. It now has a 56-member faculty and in the first nine
months of this fiscal alone delivered 240,000 training days. Says Ravichander:
“That’s a number that compares well with that of any large
university!”

But while core HR initiatives like career path, learning curve and
compensation are important, softer HR environments are also becoming
increasingly crucial. The Infosys campus is probably the most spoken and written
about corporate campus in the country. Its mere size was unthinkable a few years
ago. In fact, its so huge that the company parks hundreds of cycles outside each
block to help employees get from one block to another. Bangalore is given to
sudden, unexpected rains so umbrellas hang outside each block. A large part of
the campus is given up for de-stressing activities where harried software
engineers can go play a couple of rounds of golf or unwind at the bowling alley.
The company even has a music group of its own called, appropriately, Algorithms.

The byte-pack is the most pampered professional today. With Infosys employees
being the most cosseted of the lot. But are these HR policies sustainable over a
long period of time? Maybe. For the moment at least Infosys has the lowest
attrition rate in the industry. And in churning times like these, that’s a
good measure of how effective their HR policies are.

SR

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