‘Training is the best part of retaining’

a company, Perot Systems has been growing rapidly. We are a decade old and have
thousands of employees. Therefore, there is a need to provide support to leaders
and associates. As the industry gets competitive, there is a talent war brewing
out there, to attract and retain the best. Our aggressive steps are aimed at
creating people programs that will support our central vision and goals. We are
in a knowledge-based industry, which is built around its people. We have the
responsibility of retaining and maintaining our workforce within a dynamic
environment. And that’s where HR comes in.

How are you approaching the task and what has your personal role been?

I took over four months ago and since then, we have been doing a lot of
benchmarking, looking at companies that have the best people programs. I have
met with the HR chiefs of British Petroleum, Dell Computers and General
Electric, among many others. As we benchmark these companies, we seek great
ideas that we can apply to our own people programs.

Did you come across any unique ideas?

Each company that we visited has strengths in different areas. For example,
we visited General Electric’s leadership development campus in New York, where
the company conducts extensive leadership training. GE chairman Jack Welch is
very involved in this project. Dell Computers, as you’d expect, has impressive
systems for all facets of HR. From compensation to performance appraisals,
everything is online.

The common thread that we’ve seen running across all successful companies
is that they have programs geared towards recruiting the best people and there
is an emphasis on providing them with training on a regular basis. They also
give recognition and rewards from time to time so that the best people stay with
the company. We are also trying to follow this for our people programs.

Are you also taking measures to keep track of talented people? Microsoft,
for instance, has over 300 employees dedicated to this job.

That’s always part of the process. But ultimately, you cannot really track
success till someone joins your company. Only then can you keep a watch on the
individual’s performance. You can keep track in terms of costs of hiring or
the time it takes to hire, but I feel it is objectively difficult to keep track
of performance and find whether they meet the standards of your company till
they have actually started working with you.

After identifying the right people and employing them, what do you do to
fight attrition?

We have an attrition rate of 17%, well below the industry average of 21%. The
biggest thing is to understand how to keep someone in a company. For
compensation packages, our approach is to know what the market is paying and
keep ourselves competitive in terms of salaries, bonuses or stock options. But
it is not just compensation that keeps people with a company. To be an employer
of choice, you have to consider many other factors. In the IT industry, training
your employees and providing them with technically challenging work is the
primary factor. The other important thing is to provide them career growth,
where they see a clearly defined path to get to their set goals.

What is your organization’s approach to training?

We are very focussed on training. It is an absolute must, especially in today’s
IT world. It is important to keep our employees updated with the latest
technologies. Our training covers a number of different areas–we have a core
technology-training program for entry-level people, which translates into fresh
graduates or professionals new to IT. Then we have some high-end technology
training on specific skills. We also do a lot of leadership training for senior
executives as well as our young leaders who have just got into that role. Along
with technical training, we also have regular workshops on enhancement of
business skills.

Do all Perot offices reflect similar HR standards?

When you look at what affects people in an organization, work environment is
an important factor. At present, we are conducting a study to develop corporate
standards for all our offices around the world so that you get a similar
impression whether you walk into our office in London or the one in Los Angeles.

What about HCL Perot Systems in India?

The HR system of HPS also reflects the central value system. In fact, the
Indian arm has adopted the best practices of both parent companies, which are
pioneers in their own streams. It was a team of leaders from these companies
that came together for this joint venture, so obviously it will have a touch of
both companies. Just like Perot worldwide, HPS also tries to provide its people
with challenging work and there are regular competence development programs.
Besides leadership and management, which are the key focus of the HR programs at
HPS, the company provides all employees with a global work environment that cuts
across all geographies. The core team of people that started the company is
still there, and this shows that the company is people-focussed. It is a
competitive world out there and once you’ve found the best people and invested
in them, you don’t want to see them walk out of your company.

Shweta Verma in New Delhi

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