SOFTWARE’S BEST EMPLOYERS: It’s All About Money, Honey!

DQI Bureau
New Update

It’s true! What expert opinion, public perception and media pundits have

been saying for a long time–Infosys is the best Indian software company to

work for. But here’s a flash: 55% of its employees say Infosys is not their

dream company. More on this later.


It’s also true that software employees are techno-geeks, looking for

excitement and fulfillment in the digital world. Technology is their big high in

life. But here’s another flash: what really motivates software employees more

than anything else is money and they all think they are underpaid.

This, and a lot more, emerged from the DATAQUEST ‘Employee Perception

Survey’ carried out in the Top 20 software companies. A survey like this–any

study for that matter–is interesting for two diametrically opposite reasons.

First, when it confirms popular and expert opinion and puts a number to what has

mostly been conjecture. And second, when it doesn’t–when it throws up

completely unexpected results, shattering a few myths and dogmas in the process.

This latest DQ survey has done both–while quantifying a few long-held beliefs,

it shatters some others.

Broadly, this is what emerged from the survey–ranking of the best software

companies to work for (from among the software companies that made it the ‘DQ

Top 20 Software Companies’ list last year); a good understanding of what

motivates and therefore, retains, software employees; and finally, how the

industry as a whole and specific companies live up to employee expectations.


The rankings are a big surprise–following Infosys Technologies in joint

second place are Tata Infotech, IBM Global Services and Zensar Technologies, a

major coup for Ganesh Natarajan, who recently took over as managing director.

Rounding off the top five positions is Wipro Technologies.

Tata Consultancy Services has witnessed a big drop, coming in at number 12,

especially given its top ranking in the DQ Top 20 last year in terms of

revenues. The fall is more noticeable because of sister concern Tata Infotech’s

position. Clearly, company branding and revenues have little with which to move

the employee satisfaction index.

Two really interesting contrasts emerged from the study–the gap between

what HR managers think motivates employees, and what actually motivates them;

and the difference between what is required to recruit talent and what is

required to retain it.


Another interesting picture that emerges from the survey is that of the

average professional–he is young, conscious and perked up when he joins the

industry, very aware of company image, touchy about the technology he is

associated with, not moved by the number of zeros in his salary check, and is

overzealous when it comes to the angle of his learning curve, training topping

his priority list. Two years down the line, company image does not matter so

much, but what still does is the technology segment, plus he is also far more

conscious about his compensation package.

When the professional touches five years or more in the profession, money

emerges as the single-most important motivator for him–this does not imply

that the software pro of five years’-plus experience is mercenary. To the

contrary, he is very particular about the technology segment and the company’s

focus areas, but money becomes the key ingredient that balances out the

satisfaction and motivation equation.

An eye-opener–employees in companies ranked 21-25 in our survey are more

satisfied than those in the top five! The following pages deal with many other

such findings of the survey, apart from various elements of employee

satisfaction, motivation and retention in broader detail. But here are some

industry trends:


Satisfaction index: Never high

  • Though a majority of software

    employees are highly motivated (a very high 76%); only one in two say they

    are also satisfied in their current jobs–a good indication of why

    attrition levels have been high in this industry.

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  • Motivation increases with years

    of experience, but satisfaction levels actually decrease among the more

    senior employees. Over 65% employees with more than 5 years of total

    experience said they were dissatisfied.

  • Unexpectedly, employees of the

    companies ranked between 21 and 25 on the DQ list were found to be more

    committed to their companies than those in the Top 5 rankings.

  • Key motivators for software

    employees are money, work environment and organizational culture, job

    content and career development, and finally, training. Being able to working

    on cutting-edge technology is taken as a given.

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  • Motivations vary a little with

    experience. The company’s image is a big motivation for those with less

    than 2 years of experience; work climate and organizational culture becomes

    important in the 2-5 years’ experience group; for most people with more

    than 5 years of experience, money is the single-biggest motivator.


    Company TRI*M Index Rank TRI*M Index Score DQ Top 20 Rank
    Infosys 1 116 3

    Global Services
    2 97 12

    2 97 17
    Zensar 2 97 18
    Wipro 5 95 2
    Cognizant 6 91 7
    Birlasoft 7 88 19
    HCL 8 86 4
    Pentamedia 8 86 8
    TCS 10 81 1
    Satyam 10 81 5
    NIIT 12 79 6

    13 75 14
    I-flex 14 74 15

    14 74 20
    DSQ 16 72 11
    Pentasoft 17 65 9


    (Some surprises here: The only motivator for most of

    Infosys Technologies’ employees is money. The stated importance of

    "technology" is high, though its actual contribution to employee

    motivation is virtually zilch. Besides, employees rate the company as

    "average" on technology. IBM has got a better rating on technology,

    but again, it’s actual contribution to motivation has been zero. In complete

    contrast, the only motivator among Wipro employees is the technology they are

    working on–they rate the company far above average in this respect. Also,

    while Wipro employees say the company is an average paymaster, compensation

    contributes little to employee commitment)

    • Contrary to perceptions, software employees, on the

      whole, are not very enamoured of overseas opportunities; the promise of a

      trip abroad is not a very effective way of increasing retention. Among those

      that do go abroad, what is preferred is short trips, and not long overseas

      postings–either way, the contribution of this to employee motivation is

      near-negligible. The only exceptions here are Tata Infotech and Cognizant.

      Tata Infotech employees believe short overseas trips are a hygiene factor,

      and furthermore, they rate the company far above average in this respect.

      Cognizant employees don’t say overseas trips are important but its impact

      on employee motivation in the company is very high. Most companies are also

      rated average or below average on overseas opportunities.

    Work culture: The biggest lure

    • The software industry’s greatest strength is its work

      culture. Across almost all companies, employees rated work environment and

      organizational culture as far above average. By and large, most were also

      happy with their company’s image. A few notable exceptions were Tata

      Infotech, and IBM (employee rating on image–way below average) and I-flex

      (employee rating on image–below average).

    • Two other strengths that emerge

      are the "technology" that employees get to work on and

      "training and development". However, there are some surprising

      elements to this–while the industry average on the importance of training

      is high, the quality of training received on-campus is rated as

      "average". The software industry has been committed to minimum

      man-hours of training per year, but as is now apparent, not enough thought

      has been given to the caliber of training. Also, most software employees

      desire greater exposure to training in emerging technologies.

    • Contrary to popular perception,

      salaries, perks and ESOPs emerge as the industry’s major weaknesses.

      Employees have rated even HCL Tech, the biggest paymaster (see Salary Survey

      in DATAQUEST’s May 15, 2001 edition) as "average" on


    (The reasons are varied. Some of it has to do with

    heightened expectations and hype. Some of it is because of the very real

    effects of the slowdown that are now beginning to manifest themselves. The

    only significant exception here is Mahindra-British Telecom, which has been

    rated "above average" on the compensation front by its employees)

    • Software employees also seem to

      think that ESOPs are a much over-rated sop and the impact on employee

      motivation is very low. Employees of only two companies–I-flex and Tata

      Infotech–say ESOPs are important to them. Also, the industry as a whole

      rates the overall ESOP values as "below average", with only IBM

      Global’s employees being happy on this count.

    • Other industry weaknesses are its

      performance management systems, communication within the company and

      policies and procedures. Despite being a relatively young industry, most

      software employees complain of a bureaucratic style of functioning.

    • Interestingly, facilities have

      emerged as a hygiene factor, though employees have largely rated it

      "average". A significant exception here, you guessed it, is


    • The big crib on facilities–lack

      of high-speed Internet access!

    Perception: A strange animal

    Among the most interesting findings of the survey, on

    numerous fronts, is the wide divide between perception and reality. Zensar

    (ranked 18th by revenue among software companies last year) has come completely

    out of the blue to vie with IBM and Tata Infotech for joint second place.

    NIIT, which recently won the ‘Best HR Practices Award’ at

    the World HR Congress, figures as number eight on this list. Obviously, it takes

    more than that to satisfy and retain employees. NIIT does well in terms of work

    culture, technology, company image and interpersonal relationships, but its

    performance on all other fronts is rated as "average" or "below


    If one were to analyze TCS’ low ranking of number 12 in

    this survey, it is because though TCS gets high ratings on factors like company

    image and communication, it is not leveraging these strengths enough–they

    emerge as hidden opportunities. Also, while TCS’ employees are extremely happy

    with its performance management system, its impact on employee commitment is not

    commensurate with the efforts the company is putting in. The only strength that

    the company is making complete use of is its "work climate" and

    "organizational culture". Tata Infotech, on the other hand, is

    managing to leverage its capabilities with employees a lot better.

    The other significant gap is between what the company

    perceives as important to employee motivation and what actually is crucial. For

    instance, HR managers rate company image as a "high importance"

    factor. This is true for employees with less than two years of experience but

    ceases to mean very much after that.

    Companies also rate long-term overseas assignments as of

    "average importance" and short- term assignments as "least

    important". In reality, it is the other way around. So too with employee

    stock option plnas–companies believe they are of average importance, while

    employees say they are of no importance at all.

    On the other hand, while employees place high value on work

    environment and organizational culture, companies feel they are only of average

    importance. Also, training is important to employees while companies feel the

    impact of training on motivation is not very significant.

    The only thing employees and employers are in complete sync

    on–compensation is crucial to employee satisfaction and the most important


    Sarita Rani in

    Bangalore with inputs from Yograj Varma in