Thursday, May 29, 2008

Attrition among new recruits...

The points that I mention here are from what I have seen in the real world corporate dynamics, heard about experiences from friends and few from the learnings and readings from various articles, journals and blogposts. The reasons that I mention below are mostly centered around those who have spent their time and energy in the industry (mostly IT/Tech/Tech Services/Engineering) from a range of one year to say four years after their graduation from an engineering school or a technical institute. Even few of the points apply to those who don a much higher number of years experience hat.

Attrition is a growing concern for almost all the firms across various sectors in different corners of the world but today the pain is felt more in India. This bruise gets highlighted more in an Indian context because as the economy is growing, the engines who are partners in this ride also need to deliver, but because of employee attrition few initiatives are put on the back burner. The HR managers are having a tough time finding a suitable replacement with required experience and ability, to fill up the vacancies created on account of exit of key employees.

Here in my post, I share few of my views as to why employees, especially new joinees leave the firm, a little after the embryonic stage of their job career cycle.

1. Company and personal goals clash: Many of the smart recruits in many firms these days are hired through campus placements in engineering schools during the pre-final year days. Placement talks are like major branding shows and each of the hiring firms tries to outshine others in the fray by attractive presentations in diverse formats. Company goals and visions are put forward to candidates and these tastes like the best recipes to whiz one's career. The message that is sent is: 'With the company's goals, all measures are taken for an employee's personal development also'. I am not denying the fact that there are companies who do orchestrate company's goals and employees' personal goals but the number is less. Come to the work place, the real world is not that rose-cheeked after one understands the underlying factors. This is completely out of phase, of WYWPIWYG assurance (what-you-were-promised-is-what-you-get). In short most of the cases of attrition thrive on the thread that firms place their priorities ahead of employees' goals, without understanding the employees' basic aspirations resulting in friction.
Although their HR depts claim that they have systems which ensure a smooth induction, training and deployment onto projects that isn't quite the case for everyone.
The full story is here.

2. Incorrect picture painted in campus placement talks: Many global firms work under different legal entities but under one global brand umbrella in India. To make things clear, lets take a fictitious firm 'Remain Connected Corp', which has under it many legal entities such as 'Remain Connected R&D Center', 'Remain Connected Software Services Center', 'Remain Connected Consulting Team', 'Remain Connected Technologies', etc. In most campus placements, 'Remain Connected' would go as a single team for hiring but the offer letters are delivered by the different entities under its canopy. To a campus recruit, who is not aware of all these internal corporate crosswords everything appears to be the same. But after working in the industry for a year or two, when s/he realizes that s/he was offered a cozen pill, looking for opportunities elsewhere is the most pragmatic option. So my practical suggestion to all the campus recruits, dig deep below the surface and ask questions to the HR manager of the hiring firm, talk to friends/seniors/relatives who understand under the skin of the scenario before you finally accept any job offers.

3. Opportunities available: The present economy has opened up the doors of opportunities. If a person is skilled, smart and is a store house of ideas, s/he is like an appetizing cake, waiting for the market to react. Present day progressive forward looking youth aspire to see their career advancement as well as improvement in his net earnings in the shortest possible time. Demand for smart talent is always there, so when an individual doesn't find his/her present place of work to offer a hastening atmosphere, there are other avenues to explore may be in another firm, a start-up or a similar place.
Thanks to his own ambition, and to the Indian outsourcing boom, he escaped. He gained admission to the best engineering school in India, then landed a job that he could hardly have dreamed of as a child: writing software for Oracle, the U.S. technology giant.

"I fell in love," he said, recalling his first visit to Oracle's campus in Bangalore.

But Jain's zest eventually fizzled under the repetitive rigors of the Indian back office. So he did what a parade of burned-out functionaries in Bangalore have begun doing: He quit outsourcing to create his own start-up - in his case, designing cellphone software that blocks calls from telemarketers.

4. Change in mindset, among individuals and society: Gone are the days, when one stuck to a job even though it was not satisfying, solely on grounds of monetary benefits. The present generation wants money, no doubt about that, but it's just not money, it has to be enwrapped with stimulating job assignments and responsibilities. More often than not, the most heard verdict of a majority of individuals is.
Besides, they soon learn, the job is not really about programming at all... One such dude sums up the average IT career path on a Pagalguy forum:

There is not much of a ladder is S/W industry as such. For most life is quite typical. One or two years in a company. Then a chance to go onsite and see some money. Then back home. Another 2 years and then one becomes an analyst and after 5-6 years, a manager. And your engineering branch is the last thing that would matter here.
Even parents and family members, do not evaluate much when they realize that their children are not very happy with their professions and wish to pursue something that is completely out-of-the-box and divergent to their present occupations. These parents stand as pillars supporting their individuals realize their dreams. I know of few people who have left their regular 9 to 5 jobs in tech firms to work full-time for a NGO, to practice as a full time photographer, to run a restaurant, etc. The attrition resulting from this is miniscule but it does happen, more so with individuals who realize that they had boarded an in-correct ship that would never reach the destinations they had sculpted in their mind.

5. Not much liking towards big names as before: Today grandiloquent brands in job market do not draw as much awe as it used to few years back. Big names are subtly occupying increasingly lower positions in a candidate's priority list. Individuals are perfectly fine working with small and mid tier firms because it's a known fact that sometimes the biggies cannot match the salaries offered by successful second-rung companies which functions to an extent on a start up blueprint. More so many big firms have even withdrawn ESOPs, which were the main draw a few years ago. In contrast smaller companies are able to offer profit-sharing plans, interesting projects and more responsibility at an early stage in the candidate's career. This is like a ready made dish for a candidate working in a big firm shrouded with global policies, indefinite processes, layers of politics, and most important lack of visibility in a big crowd.Rashmi Bansal makes a cogent post here.
In just 3 short years, the world has changed. When I wrote this column for in June 2004, it was still a big deal to join one of the Big Five. Except, perhaps at an IIT.

With the rising aspirations of fresh grads the same jobs have lost their sheen. The net has to be spread wider and wider, to tier 2 and tier 3 colleges, which would not be on the recruitment map at all a couple of years ago.

At a lesser known college it is a matter of pride that 'Infosys picked up 6 students'. The feeling is that of having 'arrived'.

But next year when 60 join, and then 100, the same 'we are being recruited like alu and pyaaz' feeling sets in.
Bottom line is: 'Aapne kaam se maatlab raakho, yeh big brand maain rakha kya hai'.

6. Higher studies plan: A sizeable number of campus recruits move to the U.S. or other countries to pursue higher studies and explore more attractive career opportunities after working in the industry for a year or two after their graduation. They form a small pool of the attrition camp. Few go abroad for their Masters degree, few for their PhDs and few others stretch their stay in India to apply later for an MBA program. It's not that foreign lands are the only destinations, these days many prefer to go for a Masters program in the IISc, IITs, NITs, or even BITS in the engineering and tech stream and to the coveted IIMs and other top ranked B-Schools after clearing the CAT in the domain of business management. Even ISB with its global tag in business education along with many other private schools in India partnered with other western schools of Business Management is an irresistible destination for many who wish to put their lives on a fast track road. Every year just before the admission season, many managers wait dumbfounded to see how many of the ambitious wickets would fall.

7. Relationship between manager and employee: A smart manager is one who can understand the aspirations of his/her employee and can harness the true capabilities and potentialities to the last drop, brusquely pointing the areas of improvement among the team members. Now that appears as a picturesque and cheeky definition never to be realized in reality because most the IT related work in India is service and maintenance oriented, which in turn is purely dependent on margins and numbers. But more often than ever, a manager can't do justice to both numbers and fulfilling aspirations and finds him/her self in a Catch-22 situation. For some inflammation or misunderstanding arising at work, involving the manager and employee, mostly the bosses chalk up the tension to a personality clash. There is a tendency, according to management experts, to think that personality is the cause of organizational discord rather than perhaps an effect of it.
Ben Dattner, an associate at Dattner Consulting executive coaching firm, believes that personality conflict might be a symptom of a larger organizational issue. "When I work with my clients, I often try to get them to see how it is not just a conflict between two people. I try to get them to see that it is also potentially a conflict between two visions, two agendas, two constituencies or two visions for the future."
The most practiced remedy in this case by young employees is to nip off the problem at its root, just leave the job and find a place that suits to one's personal liking in most aspects. Quite a number of exits happen in many firms because of the above mentioned reason.

8. Team one works for: Fresh out of engineering schools, many graduates have a swelled head for being a product from a top school in India. This is very much human and expected behavioral pattern that this crowd aspires to be a part of best of the available work/assignments in any organization in the initial days of his/her career. But since most of the IT industry in India is doused in services and maintenance layer of the entire business cycle as stated in Point. 7, easy to follow processes are defined to streamline the execution segment with élan and efficiency. After doing the same work in repetitive cycles, it's no rocket science and even a normal graduate can tackle that in the most cost effective way without necessitating the presence of smart engineers who demand higher pay checks for the same job.

This air of exclusivity and clannishness lingers in the minds of many for the initial first two years. Unfortunately if they happen to belong to a team that is of a different clan/tribe than their's in many vistas, they connect with their friends and settle in zones that match their bandwidth. A sizeable number of exits in many firms fall under this category.

As I mentioned here, the points stated above are my personal views and are collected from various sources. This is definitely not intended on any organization, firm, group or for that matter anybody and everybody. This is an open post and if someone is willing to share more views on this topic, do blog and tag back, write and share your views.

Keep reading and remain connected.

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At 11:26 AM, Blogger Kutti said...

The whole thing is about motivation. Either one already is motivated or the organization should be able to motivate the person. If these two fail you just hired sub par productivity only to lose your investment on the individual eventually. This is where the skill of the HR manager lies. And of course firms are usually not honest about the work profile for fear of losing the best catch. It is like fishing with a bait. Only here you want the fish to stay in the water while its hooked to your line. Invariably the fish will either die or escape when its done with your bait. Only the best survive this tricky game.


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