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Fighting Attrition

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DQI Bureau
New Update

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.

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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

agreements.

BPO’s

Big Problem
Attrition:

35% in non-voice and 45% in voice-based call centers


Career choice:
About 80% of them look for better careers within the

same industry


Magnitude of the problem:
As on March 31, 2003, BPO cos employed

171,000 professionals


Some Solutions
Giving luxury comforts to its

employees (housing scheme, low-rate loans, pick and drop, attractive

catering)
Encouraging spouses to work in the

same company
Recruiting improbables such as

housewives, and senior citizens
Signing anti-poaching agreements to

retain people

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.

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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

seen."

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,"

he said.

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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

agreements.

SHWETA KHANNA/CNS in New Delhi

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