When Jack Welsh, ex-CEO of GE instituted his policy of yearly appraisals–generously
rewarding the top 20% ‘A’ performers, developing the middle 70% ‘Bs’,
and firing the bottom 10% ‘Cs’, he certainly did not have the BPO operation
in mind. Forget firing the bottom 10%, in the current situation, the BPO
companies would talk about re-training the bottom 10% in an endeavor to curb the
high attrition rates.
With attrition rates soaring from 30% to 40% at the agent and managerial
levels, all hell is breaking loose on the Indian BPO industry. Today, the top
priority is not competition from the Philippines or the backlash; the crucial
issue before the BPOs is to stem the high attrition rates. Most of the BPO firms
are finding the problem difficult to deal with. Now these firms are resorting to
various strategies ranging from giving various incentives to their employees
(housing scheme, low-rate loans, pick-and-drop, attractive catering, etc.);
having spouses working in the same organization; recruiting the non-recruitables
(like housewives and senior citizens); and even signing anti-poaching
As the BOSS syndrome hits the agents and managers akin, BPO seems to be a
stopgap arrangement for few, and fewer find the lifestyles inimitable. Fraught
with these challenges, according to Nasscom, the current attrition is about 35%
in non-voice and 45% in voice centers.
About 80% of them look for better careers within the same industry. Agents
want to become team leaders. Team leaders want to become supervisors, and
supervisors are eyeing the senior management positions. BPOs are trying a
fix-all solution for retaining their trained manpower and create a quality
manpower pool that will stick with the organization for a longer period of time.
As on March 31, 2003, the sector employed 171,000 professionals. It has $1
billion invested in it and generated revenues of $2.3 billion in 2002—03.
Naukri.com CEO Sanjeev Bikchandani just finished a short study on the reasons
and intensity of attrition in India. "The workforce is very young and there
is a mismatch of aptitude, aspirations and the rate of growth in this
industry," he said. According to him, not many can anticipate the
biological issues and the monotony of the work.
Manpower Inc. MD (Asia-Pacific) Iain Herbertson reiterated that Indian BPOs
will need to learn to manage their people better to escape the stagnated growth.
Exl CEO Vikram Talwar said that with present pressures of reducing costs and
higher compensation levels, managing right people at the right place needs to be
fought at war levels. "Anti-poaching agreements, better perks, higher
compensation levels, employee satisfaction–all these tools are being employed
to control this aggravated attrition situation. But any effect is yet to be
Hero ITeS services director Anupam Bhasin feels that a well-laid career plan
is essential for retaining an employee. "An unstructured career path
results in higher attrition. We also need to line up better recruiting methods
to filter the right people for right places," he said. According to V
Customer CEO Sujit Bakshi, people can be advantage and threat at the same time.
"We invest in people to perform. With stringent SLAs and direct interaction
with customers, the work pressures are enormous for these young employees. We
have to balance between performance expectations and growth aspirations,"
Global Vantage V-P (HR) R Prakash Toppo feels that attrition is a part of a
growing industry. "As organizations we will have to hone our HR skills and
invest in improving the recruiting techniques and satisfying employees."
Hughes BPO Services’ Aadesh Goyal echoed similar thoughts. "To gain
operational excellence and retain the cost advantage, we will have to learn to
manage our people situation. We cannot wait and watch. Mobilizing resources is
also a great concern."
The key directive for BPOs seems to be to manage attrition through smart
people-management tools rather than create collaborative intra-industry
SHWETA KHANNA/CNS in New Delhi