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18 July 2005  
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Home - Technology Life - Article


HR concerns of the day

Srinivasa Rao Dasari writes about the main issues on the minds of HR managers, and the way they deal with them

Human resources (HR) as a function is fast changing since it works closely with senior management, business segments, line management and functional leaders in an IT organisation. HR management is undoubtedly one of the major challenges ahead for Indian IT companies.

The IT industry is already under stress on account of persistent problems like attrition, confidentiality, loyalty, etc. Managing HR in the knowledge-based industry is not a cakewalk for HR managers as it a multi-task responsibility. In the present scenario, HR managers are performing a variety of responsibilities. Earlier, their role was confined to administrative functions such as looking after manpower requirements and maintaining rolls for the organisation. Now it is more strategic in keeping with the demands of the industry.

A S Murti, Senior Vice-president, HR, Satyam Computer Services, explains, “Since the IT industry is growing at an encouraging rate, the supply-demand issue will pose a major challenge for the industry, particularly for experienced professionals. Retaining the best talent will also be equally important. We can’t retain professionals only by paying higher salaries and offering attractive perks; that is the not the best way. We need to create enthusiasm in their role, their work and the organisation.” He says that Satyam focusses on internal and external training programmes on periodical basis; there is also job rotation. Every 18-24 months, professionals are placed on different processes of their choice.

We can’t retain
professionals only by paying higher salaries and offering attractive perks; that is the not the best way. We need to create enthusiasm in their role, their work and the organisation
A S Murti
Senior Vice-president, HR
Satyam Computer Services

Present issues

Some of the issues that the IT sector faces are managing people, motivation to adopt new technology changes, recruitment and training, performance management, development, and compensation management.

Bargaining power

Managing people in the knowledge-based industry is critical as the human resource is the soul of the organisation. Since there is a high demand for knowledge workers, talented professionals often enjoy high bargaining power due to the knowledge and skills they have. The attitude is different for those who are taking up responsibilities at a lesser age and a lower level of experience. These factors have resulted in the clear shift to individualised career management from organisation career commitment. Managing the pool of people talent is essential for the growth of knowledge-based sectors like IT and BPO.

Motivating the workforce

As global competition is growing rapidly, a technological edge supported by talented manpower has become crucial for survival in the market, which is why organisations give top priority to technology advancement programmes. HR managers are now performing the role of motivators for their knowledge workers to accept new changes.

There is a need to develop competent HR professionals who are sound in HR management practices with strong business knowledge

Competency development

The success of the knowledge-based industry is dependent on its manpower talent pool. Hence, human capital is the real asset for any organisation. This makes HR’s role critical in recruiting, managing and retaining the best people available. The HR department has a clear role in this process, and determines the success rate of any organisation. If HR managers are not competent enough, this will have a direct impact on the organisation. There is now a need to develop competent HR professionals who are sound in HR management practices with strong business knowledge.

TCS values every associate and invests in their personal and professional
development. We have a number of initiatives that bring associates and their families together in fun,
learning and social
Elizabeth Mathew
Head, HR
TCS (Deccan Park-Hyderabad)

Recruitment and training

Recruitment has become a major function from an important sub-system in HR, particularly in the IT industry. HR managers play a vital role in creating assets for the organisation in the form of quality manpower.

Another challenge for HR managers is to put systems in place to make people a perfect fit for their jobs. Skill obsolescence is rapid in the software industry. To overcome this problem, organisations give utmost priority to training and skill enhancement programmes on a continuous basis. Many IT companies are providing technical training to their employees on various platforms every quarter. Most find this regular training quite useful, apart from the feeling of security it provides.

The trust factor

Low levels of trust inhibit knowledge sharing in the knowledge-based industry. Concerned over recent reports about an employee of an Indian call centre who allegedly sold bank account details, Nasscom is gearing up to face unforeseen challenges regarding confidentiality in the IT industry. It is working closely with legal authorities in Britain to ensure those responsible for criminal breach. Any case of theft or breach of confidentiality should be treated seriously. Such malpractices would pose a serious threat to SMBs in the BPO sector. Most of the small and medium companies in this segment do not have enough capabilities to tackle the situation themselves.

Lt Bipin Chandra, Vice-president, India operations, Knoah Solutions, does not believe that this will severely affect the BPO industry in India. He says, “We have enough security measures as far as data security is concerned. Accessing the database should be need-based only, and if, without necessity, anyone tries to access it, our system will alert us. We have been strengthening our security policies; in any case, our existing system does not allow employees to browse through the data. Going by recent reports, I don’t think there will be any significant impact on BPO companies. Our clients ask for higher levels of security on information systems. Every organisation needs to have a fool-proof security system, apart from building loyalty and commitment among employees as part of good HR policies which are common for all types of organisations.”

Critical factors

At Wipro they believe that the knowledge-based industry faces five critical challenges. One of the most important is talent management and development. Professionals bring with them a lot of aspirations, and to be on the competitive edge they look out for three important dimensions—learning, technology and early opportunities. A recent study conducted by Wipro showed that people join the company because of the above, and these act as a differentiating model for the organisation. In the IT industry, the best practices of today may not be the best practices after some time, so it is imperative that the company constantly improve its own business-aligned HR processes to be at the leading edge. Another dimension to the challenges faced by the industry is the growing pace of talent acquisition, which creates with it the challenge of smoother assimilation of new employees into the organisation fold. The pressure of delivering the best quality service in reduced time-frames calls for ensuring that employees maintain a work-life balance. Another important issue, which will continue, is retention of existing employees.

Addressing the issues

Manjula Rajoli, Manager, Talent Engagement & Development, Wipro Tech-nologies, elaborates on how Wipro manages the challenges. “Wipro’s talent management and engagement has a two-fold approach. We contain the challenges by following best practices in two areas—compensation and non-compensation. Challenges arising due to compensation reasons are contained at Wipro by continuously benchmarking our salaries with our competitors and providing merit-based salary increases. In addition, for middle and senior management, we have equity-based compensation through Restricted Stock Units. We also have various employee benefit programmes. These ensure that we stay competitive on the compensation front.” (For non-compensation issues, see box alongside.)

Employee care is a top priority. Elizabeth Mathew, Head, HR, TCS (Deccan Park-Hyderabad), states: “At TCS, we value every associate and invest in their personal and professional development. We have a number of associate engagement initiatives that bring associates and their families together in learning, fun and social activities. This enhances the bonding and commitment to the organisation. We also continuously revise our HR policies, listen to our associates’ opinions, make our policies more people-friendly, and cater to varied needs of a diverse workforce.” The following, according to Mathew, are some of the key issues faced by the industry in general: attracting and retaining talent, meeting volume and quality needs, providing multiple career opportunities, aligning and integrating policies with market needs, and coping with the constant pressure on compensation.

Mathew points out that a survey by Hewitt-CNBC TV 18 rated TCS as the best employer in the country. The company has associate-friendly policies, a dynamic focus on people as an asset, and a work environment which is challenging and rewarding. “Career growth and clear career tracks endear the organisation to its people. The focus on Economic Value Added (EVA) to calculate variable performance pay makes TCSers among the most competitively paid in the market. TCS has a strong Academic Interface Programme for creating synergy and forging strong relations with educational institutes, which brings TCS closer to the budding software engineering community,” adds Mathew.

Hanneke Frese, an HR consultant based in Zurich, believes that in order to increase the quality and capabilities of employees it is better to align professionals with the business strategies of the organisation and create an organisational culture that attracts highly competent employees. She was recently in Hyderabad to participate in an interactive session organised by Nasscom. Frese advises IT companies to achieve the best possible fit between the aspirations of its people, the organisation’s needs and its clients’ expectations. “Productivity in the knowledge-based industry will be another challenge as some key issues are still uncertain. These issues are—who will own intellectual capital, how will knowledge be patented, and what new business models will emerge to make organisations more competitive.”

Frese foresees future challenges as confidentiality, managing change, developing leadership, movement of labour and workplace, globalisation, managing knowledge workers and productivity. For HR managers, who are already burdened by present day concerns, the future holds tougher problems which need to be addressed from today.

The Wipro way
At Wipro, problems arising due to non-compensation reasons are addressed by four initiatives, informs Manjula Rajoli, Manager, Talent Engagement & Development, Wipro Technologies. These initiatives are: Meet Your People Programme, Wipro Listens & Responds, Best People Manager Awards, and Talent Review and Planning.

- Meet Your People Programme (MYPP): From our research at Wipro, we found that some managers have higher levels of employee engagement, satisfaction and productivity than others Such managers enjoy a greater bonding with their teams. Wipro has studied their best practices and created a framework called MYPP, which is an initiative launched to increase supervisory touch time and effectiveness with team members. It is a framework which defines the various touch points that the manager needs to engage with the team. It enables every manager to connect the team to a bigger picture, create an understanding of the organisation’s objectives and the team members’ role in the same, create fun at the workplace, work on the career aspirations of the team members, and conduct regular and periodic meetings that increase the productivity levels of the team.

- Wipro Listens & Responds (WLR): WLR aims at improving the health of the workplace. WLR continuously maps the needs, preferences and choices of employees, and in a structured and responsive manner resolves all

employee issues to create talent engagement and productivity. It works at two levels. At one level it is Wipro’s way of listening to employee feedback and suggestions on different issues like policies, benefits, workplace conditions, growth opportunities, etc. At the second level it acts on those areas of feedback by improvising existing systems and identifying new processes in response to the changing needs and aspirations of employees.

- Best People Manager Awards: Talent engagement initiatives have always been a major thrust area, and will continue to be so. All its managers strive towards the same, with some of them going an extra mile to ensure superior levels of engagement, motivation and retention of their teams. The Best People Manager Award is an honour given directly by the Chairman and CEO to those managers who create a better workplace for their team members. These are managers who show high employee satisfaction, engagement, productivity and low attrition.

- Talent Review and Planning: This exercise is undertaken every year, and helps in identifying high potential talent at different levels, their position movements, their professional development and aspiration tracking. It creates a snapshot of the talent pipeline for the whole organisation and also at the business unit level.


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