Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Job loss is one of the most difficult work related situations that a company and an individual may encounter in the present scenario. Yet, sometimes job loss may also turn into a blessing in disguise. Combining the career literature with the literature on unemployment, the current paper addresses potential positive outcomes of job loss by focusing on specific career adaptability activities that individuals can undertake to obtain these outcomes.

Live case:
Infosys is planning to hire 25,000 people this year. That is almost 500 a week or 100 a day for each working day of the week or about 12 every working hour of the day or about 1 every 5 minutes!

This rampant hiring raises several issues. By announcing that Infosys will hire 25000 engineers this year, they might have satisfied their shareholders. But what message they are sending across to existing and prospective employees? That Infosys is no longer an exclusive club? Can their big bosses anymore claim with any credibility that they hire only the best? However big the candidate pool may be, you cannot find 25000 “best” engineers in a year. The reason why big companies can get away with not so top notch talent is because their processes are so well defined that software development almost mirrors an assembly line. The creativity of the individual hardly seems to come into play.

Last year, attrition rate in Patni Computers was 26%, more than double the industry average of 11% and management is not recruiting any Tom, Dick and Harry. Non performers were asked to leave, and management has decided to revise upwards (in some cases up to 50%) the salaries of their best brains. Profit guidance for the year 07 has been brought down, which is not good news for investors. The reason given is higher salaries. Now this system is in contrast to Infosys and Wipro.
Is it a Blessing in Disguise?
People say attrition is the big bane of the industry. I think it is a blessing in disguise. Following are the main reasons to support my statement:
Ø It helps transfer "people capital" from inefficient companies to the better ones helping the Darwinian cause of weeding out the weak.
Ø The day is not far when Bangalore will get "Vietnamed" just like New York got "Bangalored". Indian companies would need to learn to let go of people. High attrition lets you learn to handle the people risk better.
Ø Forces companies to focus on processes to derisk the people issues better. In a commoditizing business, good processes become a basic necessity not a differentiator.

Good or bad, the fact remains that attrition is a reality and there are companies that manage it well and there are those that do not.

What the companies can do?
An optimum mix of freshers is critical to maintain margins. Typically at least 30-40% of a project needs to comprise freshers (<1>
What the HR can do?
The key measure for a HR professional attached to a business unit knows who would be 'potential attrition' cases and why. The only way a HR person can know this if they interact and hang out with the employees a lot. Knowing the dissatisfied employees and the reasons of their dissatisfaction can result in preventive actions being taken to retain them.Of course, the real driver for this becomes a business leader or manager's desire to decrease attrition. That only happens if attrition becomes one of the measures for how a leader or manager is doing. Many a times when this idea gets mooted by someone from HR, business managers immediately throw up their hands.

"It's the generation they come from". "They only leave for higher salary". "The issue is common to the whole industry". These become the excuses for not linking attrition to a manager's performance. However, if these generalizations are indeed true then it becomes all the more reasonable to make that linkage, to assess who can retain high performing employees better amongst them. And yes, that’s the key! Not merely retaining all employees but managing to retain and develop only the high performing employees.
The vacuum created by the exit of a few senior project managers or a delivery head are routinely being filled by eager second-line managers. More than a conscious risk mitigation strategy, the existence of a ‘pyramid structure’, coupled with aggressive hiring during the past few years has ensured an abundant supply of talent in many of the large organizations. So we are not bound to say that attrition leads to employee loss and in turn the loss of business. However if one is not performing, he/she is bound to go. With a large talent pool, companies are replacing the old generation with the new one which is infact good because it helps in continuous flow of fresh ideas in this knowledge based economy.
And to conclude, I would like to say some golden words:
“If the Indian industry continues to grow, a few large players—especially those that are merely banking on past performances and goodwill—are bound to falter. What would it take to trip the 800 pound gorillas that are merely moving because of sheer inertia?”

Sunday, August 12, 2007


“A manager always needs to be a good leader but the vice versa is not a pre requisite for a leader though”. Throughout our life times we have read & listened to this phrase a thousand times and we agreed to it. B-schools across the globe were into producing good, infact, great managers. It was always believed that a manager always possesses the leadership qualities because initial part of his job is always to get the work done through others. Also, there was a myth prevalent that leaders are born, but the question is that ‘is it true?’ Many debates have been held and we have a lot of reviews but no results. Irony, isn’t it?

Well, leaving the past reviews and not indulging in one more debate, I would like to draw your attention to this new buzz word- LEADERSHIP. A leader is always believed to be an influencer; the person who is like the sandpiper whose flute has the magic to lead all the mice. He is the one who has the capability to be the role model. As a manager has functions like planning, organizing, directing, controlling & coordinating to perform, a leader has just one function, i.e., to influence. Now, who can be a leader?

Just to make a distinction, I would like to give an example. You are in your campus/office and suddenly you get to know that in the next building of yours, two eminent people are coming in different auditoriums- Mr. Asaram ji Bapu & Mr. Xyz, COO of ABC CO. You have an option to go for one, who you think you will go for? You, and infact, 99% people of your age might go to attend the session of Mr. Xyz as you think you will gain some knowledge from him. But the irony is that if you compare the fan following of both, you will notice that Mr. Asaram ji Bapu has much larger, may be more than 10 times, fan following than Mr. Xyz.
This was the same point I wanted to draw your attention towards. Mr. Xyz is a manager; however, Mr. Asaram ji Bapu is a leader infact. He has the capability to draw a larger audience than Mr. Xyz. Now, we can mention as many leaders from different walks of life as you want, e.g., Amitabh Bachchan, Rajni Kant, Ratan Tata, Dhirubhai Ambani, George Bush, Osama Bin Laden, etc. We know that all these people have such a charisma that whatever they say, whatever they do, people follow. Now are there any pre requisites to be a leader?

The answer is both yes & no. Yes if you take a macro view of whatever I am going to mention below now and No if you take it specifically. So here are certain musts to be a great leader:
People Skills: No followers, no leader. Develop a liking for you in the hearts of the “junta”. No matter, be a heart-throb.
Voice: The best example is Amitabh Bachchan or for that matter, any of the movie star. Whatever they say becomes a dialog. Have a good tone.
Communication: Whether you have a great voice or not, if you are unable to send your message across, you can’t be a good leader. Learn to imbibe all the principles of communication.
Memory: Sharpen your memory. You must remember your followers to make your impact not just a one time exercise but continuously. It’s a process, remember it. Start remembering the faces, names, telephone numbers, and their last comments.
Appearance: It is not necessary that you must be tall like Amitabh Bachchan or powerful like Muhammad Ali to be a leader. But appearance means that you must display an image with which you want to get recognized. It includes your inner charisma too. Also, remember that you must be conscious about your cleanliness and hygiene.
Aggressiveness: “slow & steady wins the race”, “speed thrills, but kills” and similar phrases I would associate with losers. The person, who is not aggressive in his approach and is not fast, can’t be a good leader. By aggressiveness and speed, I do not mean that you should work in haste but do not waste time. Kill the snake as soon as you see its tail; don’t wait to see his head or you will be killed.

The list is not exhaustive. One can go on and on but these are the qualities one must have or develop to be a great leader. So now the question comes, if there is so much buzz about leadership, what about management? Is it a waste material to study? Are managers somewhat below the leaders?

Well, I have started writing with the answer only. Look at the first line of the article. And that is the answer. It’s not about who is above or who is below, it all about who can do what. I would say that it’s easy to be a leader than a manager as leadership is an integral part of management. As of today we have a dearth of leaders in India but might be with some insight we can produce great leaders within home.

So what are you waiting for guys, get up, the world is yours,

“Let’s make a dent in the universe.”