War of Talent, Growing Attrition, Manpower Crunch: phrases which have caught
the attention of the media. It has taken HR out of the office boundaries of IT
companies and into peoples living rooms and evening cocktails.
Suddenly everybody (also IT outsiders) is talking vociferously about hiring
woes, and talent managementall thanks to the booming Indian IT services
industry. Competition is tough. Despite being a young country, its obviously
becoming a problem to satisfy the services companies insatiable appetite for
more and more manpower.
But though these companies are weighed down because of the huge volumes they
have to hire and train (and retain), they are able to offer very attractive
salaries, big perks, glitzy work environment, globe-trotting, et al. Not to
forget the lure of extensive training.
Where is the Fire?
Many CIOs become part-defensive, part-reflective when asked how they manage
to attract and retain IT talent, in the face of tough competition from an
industry that competes on peopleIndias vibrant IT services exports industry.
After all, whether it is salary, proactive feel-good HR policies, or growth, the
IT services industry offers a lot to its employees as compared to any other.
Most CIOs point to the responsibility and ownership in user companies as clear
With a tech user company, theyll be working with the business people,
learning functions, processes. They will grow into becoming business leaders.
Whereas the services firms offer fast growth, big salaries but they dont get
the same depth, the width of experience, says Hilal Khan, head, Corporate IT,
Honda Motors, who looks for a 50:50 mix of freshers and skilled-professionals
for his team.
Most CIOs insist user companies offer their own brand of glamourthe glamour
of being a part of the companies business decisions, and wholesome, fulfilling
They are not overtly worried about attrition and hiringa sure sign that
their strategy is paying off. For example, Arun Gupta, CIO, Shoppers Stop,
places hiring and attrition way down at a #3 or even below in his pain list.
|Price is an issue and retention
a pain area, but with IT now being looked upon as a business enabler rather
than a cost-center, hiring is not a problem
Zoeb Adenwala, CIO, Essel Propack
|There is an across the board
shortage of people who want to do a good job. Long-term skill development
and a career approach is at a discount across functions
Shikha Rai, director, IT, Canon India
Over the last year, we have been able to create stability within the team by
offering a mix of projects and operational activities such that they do not find
themselves stagnating in their current roles. With reduced attrition, and the
focus on skill upgrades and enhancements, our IT team has been able to scale up
to the need at hand. Coupled with tactical outsourcing, our people issues have
been addressed, Gupta adds.
Guptawho, before his present assignment, was with Pfizer, a company often
referred to as a CIO factory, with so many IT heads in India being its
alumnirefers to tactical outsourcing, thereby hinting that the real job of an
IT guy in the future may not necessarily be doing IT, but ensuring business
happens through IT. Inadvertently, thanks to their exposure to the world of
outsourcing, many Indian CIOs understand that going forward, they will have to
outsource more and more. In such an environment, it is not knowledge of the
latest technology but translating business vision to IT and managing services
relationships will be key to success of an IT professional in a user
In line with that, most CIOs look for fundamentally different qualities in
the candidates that they look for hiring into their IT organizations from what
IT firms look for.
What I look for is if the person is mentally ready to join my company, do
the job I require him to do, understand the business implications. Id rather
take a positive attitude and a long-term commitment, than skill-sets, says Ritu
Madbhavi, VP, IT at FCB Ulka.
Khan of Honda Motors agrees. Instead of restricting the choice to a person
with skill-sets he goes for people who are logical, astute, positive, and who
have good selling skills, team spirit, and communication skills.
He says for a techie who passes out of college, there are two choiceseither
become a user of IT or a creator of IT. S/he has to measure the merits and
demerits of both, and make her or his own choice.
There are some CIOs who acknowledge that at a broader level, finding skilled
IT professionals is a challenge, though it may not be a top worrying factor as
of today. Says Shikha Rai, director, IT, Canon India the malaise runs deeper in
that there is an across the board shortage of people who want to do a good job.
Long-term skill development and a career approach is at a discount across
But most CIOs say IT skills are secondary to business acumen quite
unequivocally, though that will be tested only when they do not find enough
people who have both!
What the user companies have managed to do is focus away from the traditional
requirement of skills, skills, and more skills, and on business acumen and the
ability to take responsibility. They have managed to attract a fundamentally
different breed of IT professionalswhore not nerds but the future business
leaders. And the strategy is paying off.
So what seems to be winning the war of talent for the user companies is
the job role they have on offer. And it is very important, as Madbhavi rightly
points out, that you sell the job honestly. If you present a false picture,
youll end up the loser. Considering what a huge cost losing people is to the
company, when you take into account the spend on an employeetraining, HR
processes, hiring costsit sure seems like very sensible advice.
The employee works closely with the business people, works on every damn
thing as she puts it, and has complete ownership. Theres instant praise and
problem solving, and a strong sense of belonging.
|To keep employees happy you
have to facilitate better HR practices within the department, and reward
Pradip Lele, VP,
|An IT company can give you fast
growth, big salaries but what a user company gives you is depth, width, and
Hilal Khan, head, Corporate IT,
|What I look for is if the
person is mentally ready to join my company, do the job I require him to do,
understand the business implications
|We offer them the exhilaration
of being able to reap the benefits of their toil and effort by seeing how
the technology solution they created has impacted the business
Arun Gupta, CIO, Shoppers Stop
What we offer is a long-term career option, and we look for commitment in
Its a close group, they can walk up to me anytime and share their
concernspersonal or official. There is continuous mentoring and hand-holding,
is the kind of atmosphere Madbhavi offers to her team. Agrees Gupta: We offer
them the exhilaration of being able to reap the benefits of their toil and
effort by seeing how the technology solution they created has impacted the
business. Many professionals are driven by this, and their love of business and
technology, in combination, is higher than other incentives offered by the
In a technology company you will be given software applications to develop,
which you just go back and do, but in a user company you have a say, a
complete sense of ownership. You know what is good, what will work, and you put
it across, and you are heard. That itself gives tremendous satisfaction, says
Madbhavi, and she knows, shes been there, having worked with TCS and NIIT.
Pradip Lele, VP, IT at S Kumars Nationwide finds that getting them
(manpower) within the designations, role fitment, and package limits is a
problem. He puts a lot of stress on checking personal reference, and evaluating
total exposure with fitment to his requirements. He says that though tech
companies do get the advantage of internal and external competition, at the
user-end psychological analysis as well as personal background analysis at the
interviewing stage plays a crucial role. He says to keep employees happy you
have to facilitate better HR practices within the department, and reward
achievements, though he feels that aspirations of candidates are much higher
compared to capabilities.
Shikha Rai of Canon says hiring, retaining, salary, growthall four
dimensions have their own challenge. The principle shift is the paradigm of
instant gratification. All across there is a transformation where expectations
from the job has overtaken the responsibility to deliver but adds that people
who deliver develop a reputation and are sought after. The grass does appear
greener across the fence, but walking across and exchanging notes with friends
leads to similar storiespeople who have stuck around with the organization do
find security that the environment provides and the gaps created on account of
attrition provides a huge opportunity. Hence, yes, there are those who choose to
stay and flourish.
What seems to have worked for these companies is the huge image overhaul
that the IT departments have undergone. And here again, the CIO has taken the
lead. It is no more about writing operating systems or learning programming, it
is about earning more revenue, lowering costs, improving customer
servicehelping the company change the way it works. And thats the big pull. As
Rai says, The organization is alive to and thrives on account of the enablement
that the IT provides. Gupta of Shoppers Stop says its extremely important for
the CIO along with other CXOs to address this image issue: The leadership
team contributes to the public awareness and perception. And the pull to an
industry or company is driven by the perception at large on what kinds of
opportunities are available within the industry and enterprise.
Then comes the bigger challengeretentionbecause that is a far larger
challenge than hiring itself. People within a team stay if their goals are
aligned to the organization goals and they continue to see new opportunities for
growth. Salary is important to all of us, but it is not the primary driver for
retention. There is an old saying: People join organizations, but they leave
their bosses, says Gupta, and Rai believes that each situation and each
employee demands a unique method of handling, This is a challenge while working
for an organization which is global and process driven. Yet I find that open
communication channels and a continuous dialog with the team helps in
establishing a bond. Another important need in todays fast moving, dynamic
world is to have very tight processes; and checks and controls in place, says
Madbhavi, one has to document everything; one-person dependency has to be
minimal. This not just saves on precious time and resources, but also makes the
newcomer feel s/he belongs, right from day one.
Zoeb Adenwala, CIO, Essel Propack says an in-house IT job gets monotonous
after sometime and meeting aspirations of young techies becomes rather
difficult. One has to then settle for the second best and outsource high skill
jobs. Price is an issue and retention a pain area, but with IT now being looked
upon as a business enabler rather than a cost-center, hiring is not a problem.
The Current Reality
A much talked about McKinsey survey pegs the available, hire-worthy tech
talent at only 25%. Though the survey was primarily focused on multinational
off-shoring companies, Gupta feels that it reflects the current reality for
enterprises in India. The technical skills are not adequate to become
productive in an internal IT environment. In India, we expect our teams to be
multi-skilled, whereas in other parts of the world, a specialization in a
specific technology is adequate to remain productive and employable, he says,
but does believe that all thats slowly changing.
The ecosystem has to gear up toward the increase in demand with the country
observing good growth across industries. Most of the students completing their
academics do not have the skills required by the industry. Some of us partner
with selected academic institutes to provide a platform for the students to
acquire skills that will assist them in their and our quest to be productive
quickly. Such partnerships need a larger platform to create a bigger pool of
talent, says Gupta. As feels Madbhavi and Essel Propacks Adenwala: Technology
is moving much faster than academia can keep up with, thats understood. The
educational institutions are not being able to cope up with the changing and
growing skill-sets that are demanded. The curriculum will have to be improved
upon faster to avoid stagnation. So, what came is that the government and the
institutes should work together on the course curriculum; need for hands-on
skill-set validation test centers was put forward by Pradip Leleto improve the
employability of fresh talent.
Moral of the Story
With the Indian economy on a high, the war for talent is an undeniable one
for corporates. Though working for a tech user company might not be considered
too hot by the techie community, they seem to be making the right moves in
keeping their people happy. Maybe theres a lesson to be learnt.