A BPO HR head’s job is not an enviable one. Look at a typical HR head’s
list of tasks: One, stop the spi-raling attrition. Two, arrange interviews of a
couple of hundred, at times even a thousand or more candidates per quarter.
Three, set in processes so that only those employees who ‘fit in’ with the
demanding nature of job are hired–which is about 25—30% of all people
interviewed. Four, train the selected employees. Finally, ensure satisfaction
among the current employees.
In some ways, the dilemma is to choose between keeping the present set of
employees happy and thereby preventing attrition, and to concentrate on the
hiring process that is happening at a breakneck pace. Today, most BPO operations
are starting to look at outsourcing bits and pieces of their hiring processes.
Even though HR departments shy from admitting that they are moving portions of
their hiring process to external agencies, they have started the experiment to
tackle some of the hiring-related issues.
Thomas Profiling Is
As MphasiS CEO Jerry Rao said at the company’s half yearly results
conference call, "Traditionally, we have hired people and trained them in
accent and keyboarding and basic skills, and then put them into specific skills
that our clients need. We have done all that in-house. But there are mature
companies who can recruit, train them, give them the accent skills, give them
the keyboarding skills, and then give them to us."
So, what are the advantages of outsourcing portions of the hiring process?
"We pay them a higher fee than we would have paid to the old recruitment
people, but we get trained people and we don’t have to see 10% of them not
getting through the accent training. Also, our job is to run the business, and
if somebody else is good at training then let’s have the trained
resources," adds Rao.
Bangalore-based HTMT has also been using external agencies to help them out
in their pre-interview hiring process, especially conducting tests for
candidates in venues other than Bangalore. "We work with some external
agencies, and are considering outsourcing some of our functions like conducting
tests in outstation venues," says Dr Solomon Suresh, HTMT’s HR head.
MeritTrac is a Bangalore-based competence assessment company, which among
other services, helps BPO companies in their hiring processes. MeritTrac offers
‘BPO assessment modules of tests’ that include tests for communication
skills (voice test and listening comprehension tests), basic intelligence, and
domain-specific skills. Says Mohan Kannegal, director, technology and content,
"In addition, MeritTrac also has the ability to roll out this recruitment
assessment in 10 cities across the country including Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai,
Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Bangalore. We take care of all the
necessary logistics arrangements and coordination to roll out these tests–like
screening of resumes, arranging for the venues, intimating and scheduling
candidates for assessments, administering the tests and scheduling interviews
with the client." In other words, all the logistics of the pre-interview
stages are taken care by the external agent. MeritTrac currently offers services
to GE Capital International Services, ICICI OneSource, Dell International,
Digital, Accenture, Nipuna, 24/7 Customer.com, MsourcE, and TransWorks. In
addition, MeritTrac also works with the governments of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh
and Kerala for BPO assessment tests.
As a result, the kind of logistics that MeritTrac handles is mind-boggling.
According to Kannegal, the company has in all conducted more than 110,000
assessments across the country, of which about 70% were for the BPO industry.
The company conducts about 6,000—7,000 tests a month.
"Looking at the kind of logistics we handle, there are times when I feel
that we are half an event management company and only half an assessment
agency," says Kannegal jestingly.
All in the Mind
There is also a school of thought that the attrition problem can be fixed at
the pre-interview stage i.e., even before an employee joins a company. Sounds
strange, doesn’t it? But it is possible if one hires employees with the right
mindset. Theoretically speaking, if one hires employees who ‘fit in’, then
they are likely to be happy and stick on with the company. So BPO employers are
trying to understand their prospective employees. And they are using
psychometric tests as a tool to do that.
"The biggest advantage of psychometric profiling is that it provides an
objective dimension to candidate evaluation procedures, which can often be
subjective during interviews. Used along with information obtained from other
assessment tools, the result can help to mitigate the risks and costs of a bad
hire," says Prahlad Rao, managing partner of Team Value Profiling Services
(TVPS). TVPS has an exclusive agreement with Thomas Profiling to offer their
internationally profiling products to companies in India and neighboring
countries like Sri Lanka and Maldives. AOL, Mainstay, 24/7 Customer.com are some
of TVPS’ customers who use psychometric profiling.
"Psychometric profiling helps because it gives a good idea whether the
person is indeed the right fit for the job," says Dr Solomon.
Says Progeon HR head, Nandita Gurjar, "We use psychometric testing while
hiring senior employees. We find it effective at that level. I am open to
looking at psychometric tests for other levels too in future. It gives a more
knowledgeable idea of who the person is rather than a subjective opinion gained
during an hour or two at an interview."
But there’s a caveat. "Psychometric profiling is a great tool as long
as it is administered by professionals with a behavioral science background.
Otherwise, more harm than good might be done. The chances are that if not
analyzed correctly, the right candidate may be turned down or the wrong
candidate may be hired," adds Dr Suresh, who holds a doctorate degree in
organizational behavior from IIT Madras.
Employers like MphasiS have begun to experiment by hiring employees with
different profiles like part-timers, trainees, etc. Others too are trying out
novel ways. HTMT, for example, is trying out something called ‘exemplar
cloning’. "Generally speaking, we are attempting to create a profile of
the model employee–the exemplar–who has all the traits that we look for. It’s
also an employee who is very happy with what he is doing here. Using this
profile, we try to assess new candidates and try to model the existing
candidates to that profile," says Dr Suresh.
Others like Progeon are not looking at too much of variance with their
current hiring policies–at least not for the time being. "So far, we have
not experimented too much. The youngsters at Progeon have been doing a
tremendous job so far. The kind of maturity and customer service orientation
they show for their age is unbelievable. But we do not rule out older
people," says Gurjar. But then Progeon is still just around 1,000 employees
strong. And with size and unbridled growth come most HR challenges.
However, the BPO industry is still a young one and processes (including HR
processes) are yet to mature. "As an industry, we are in the process of
learning the art of hiring. We are getting closer to maturity. But till we get
there, it’s a quest," says Dr Suresh. And the painful process of learning
by trial and error continues.
TV MAHALINGAM in Bangalore