Widening Horizons

The name HR itself
is indicative of its function and activities. HR deals with the human
beings who are working in and for an organization. The act and impact
could be direct and/or indirect. Traditionally, HR has been a support
function and a cost center.

In good old days, HR used to deal with employees handling products of
the company. The products were manufactured in the factory environment
and delivered to the customer in ready state. The features, quality,
packaging, appearance, etc of the product were all set during its production.
And these were the factors that satisfied the customers while realizing
the value for their money. To summarize, the skill and the motivation
level, the state of mind, appearance, communication and other such characteristics
of the person who was presenting the product to the customer had very
little role to play in the selling process.

Since the 1990s,
two concepts have been catching up very fast in India. First is the
concept of service across industries and the second is the concept of
internal customer, which is primarily an off-shoot of the first but
within the organization. However, the people are becoming more sensitive
to the needs of internal customers and the concept is still catching

Market trends indicate that service is one of the key elements which
create a major differentiation for a company in selling its products.
Now, the services do not come free. They are available as a range of
products and can be priced accordingly. The deliverables can be clearly
defined and measured.
Further, service is one of the real and key enablers in product sales.
Nowadays, the customer does not buy products or services, but hankers
to buy a comprehensive solution. One who can offer the complete range
of products and services under one roof with overall single-point responsibility
is today’s winner and will survive in the long run.

In the services industry, deliverables are not produced and packed in
the factory environment. Skilled professionals, while working with and
for the customer, design, produce and deliver the services. Hence, a
set of factors which are relevant to the production life cycle of a
product have to be prevalent while service assignments are executed.
Some of these factors are:

* Skill level and experience of the person delivering the service

* State of mind and motivation level of the person delivering the service

* Communication, presentation and personality of the person delivering
the service

* Tangible deliverables like documentation and handouts that go along
with the service

* Tools, technology, aids and other similar components that are used
while services are delivered.

Let’s now take a close look at some of the factors specific to IT:

* Traditionally, the IT industry meant a group of professionals with
an engineering background. Lately, the IT professionals come from other
relevant disciplines line MCA, DCA, etc. However, the latest trend in
India has shown management students and people with functional experience
joining the IT industry

* Most of the time, technical professionals work in the software factory
with limited exposure to the customer and outside world

* Traditionally, the technical professionals specialize in certain areas
and strive to keep themselves updated with advancements in the same
technology domain

* The manpower demand and supply model has major gaps and mismatches.
It has led to a scenario where the IT industry has become the employees’

* The overseas opportunities are massive. Today’s professionals carry
different pressures while opting for overseas jobs such as money, peer
pressure, advanced working environment in terms of technology and infrastructure,
family pressures, etc. Some are genuine, but most of them are perception-driven

* During the early stage of their career, IT professionals have very
little perspective. They see lot of opportunities and lot of money around.
They observe emergence of new technologies and want to get associated
with almost every new development. In the process, they land up hopping
jobs at the cost of loyalty to the profession

The market for IT professionals is immature, driven by perceptions and
misconceptions. Hence they have to be dealt with differently. The motivations
for IT professionals are different, so the retention schemes and policies
have to be different. HRD will have to find out a new, innovative and
effective approach to deal with IT professionals.

The HR way
There is no simple, straight and final formula to it. Maybe individuals
have to be understood and then driven accordingly. One of the effective
means could be to create significant and visible differentiation between
star performers, average performers and non-performers. To enable it
effectively and practically, the action depends on the line managers.
It is the functional heads and managers who have to get into the role
of HR managers. Even if so, the challenge still persists with HRD to
train and groom the line managers.

In another way, maybe HR has to go through what Quality has already
gone through. In the 70s, Quality was a tool to save cost and was implemented
as Quality Control. In the 80s, Quality helped in reducing cost and
was implemented as Quality Assurance. For most of the present decade,
Quality has been an important tool to manage cost. Now, Quality is no
longer just a department, but it is built into the process. Quality
is an assumption. Quality is a must. Quality does not differentiate
with hype, but it makes organizations more competitive. Likewise, HR
has to go through a similar process. Probably, HR will not have three
decades for it. It will have to move much faster, from a cost center
and a department to an integral part of business planning, review and


Head, Professional Services Unit (Mumbai),
HCL Infosystems Ltd.


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