They Outsource Too...

DQI Bureau
New Update

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
One of the

most renowned psychometric profiling systems used across the world is the

Thomas international profiling system. The system is used in 51 countries

and is available in 49 languages with 30,000 clients across the world

including 300 of the Fortune 500 companies. In India, Ernst & Young,

Arvind Mills, Asian Paints, Dr. Reddy’s lab, Hindustan Lever Limited, i-flex

Solutions, Cisco, UB Limited (Breweries), Tata Teleservices, Pfizer,

Ranbaxy, and Phoenix Global Interactions, are some of the organizations

that are currently using Thomas Profiling. The Thomas Profiling system is

used to take the subjectivity out of behavioral assessment in a wide range

of areas including recruitment, team building, training, job

compatibility, motivation, stress, and appraisals. There are several

benefits of using psychometric profiling. They are:
Eliminating guess work in dealing with

people while hiring
Increased transparency
Reduced cost to the company
Higher retention
High morale
Enhanced strategic aims of the company

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."


The Outsiders

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, 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 are some

of TVPS’ customers who use psychometric profiling.


HR Challenge

Large volume of


companies are hiring several hundred people per quarter. To simply live

with this hectic pace of hiring is a challenge. To manage the logistics

of the process of scanning, interviewing and then selecting employees

across multiple locations is a grand challenge

To get ‘the right fit’:

To hire the

best among the hundreds being considered is crucial. A bad hire can prove

to be very costly for an organization


train all the people selected and allocate them to their jobs depending on

their key strengths and weaknesses

Keeping them happy and


is the scourge of the BPO industry today. To do a balancing act between

hiring by the droves and keeping the existing staff engaged is the

ultimate test of an HR head. In a new industry, which is still finding its

feet on HR processes, this is a tough ask

"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.

The Experiments

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