The business world is being disrupted by the combined effects of growing emerging economies, shifts in global demographics, ubiquity of technology and accountability regulation. Infosys believes that to compete in the flat world, businesses must shift their operational priorities.

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Talent Wars, cont'd...

by Richa Govil, Group Manager, Infosys Technologies

It seems that some readers disagree with my statement about increase of unprofessionalism among talent in India.  However this is a trend that goes beyond my personal experience.  Recent studies have tried to measure “employability” of graduates including qualities such as ability to work in teams (e.g. see NASSCOM, McKinsey, and others).

To me this trend seems an inevitable consequence of the simple laws of supply and demand. 

Some readers have pointed out that employers need to be equally professional in their relationships with employees.  I agree.  When the tables are turned, employers in the past have been known to treat their employees with little regard.  Having seen two close friends go through lay-offs, I can attest to the callousness (deliberate or otherwise) that can be involved when the situation is not handled correctly.

However, none of this negates the fact that employees are now hitting back, collectively as it were.  No longer loyal, willing to switch at the “drop of a hat”, and unwilling to keep commitments, talent has now firmly entered the realm of unprofessionalism.  I have had multiple cases where after accepting an offer in writing, prospective employees have not informed the company that they will not be joining after all.  These days you can be sure that you have actually filled an open position only when the employee shows up on Day 1.

Business communities in any country (at least at the mid to senior management levels) tend to be small.  Even India with its billion people, relies on a much much smaller business community and business graduates to run its companies.   It seems that young workers in India have not yet developed the maturity to realize this fact.  With the over-abundance of opportunities this behavior appears to be the right choice (or even the logical one by some calculations).  But this will prove to be a short-sighted approach when the economy turns as it eventually must. 

Attracting the right talent (not just the right diploma/degree) in emerging economies is a challenge for all global companies (with Indian origins or otherwise).  It becomes even more frustrating for companies unfamiliar with the local situation or with a weaker brand locally.  And in India, as other growth industries such as retail accelerate hiring, the supply of skilled talent will only become tighter. 

But this is exactly where “thinking flat” comes in.  Companies have to look beyond traditional organizational structures and recruiting models.  They can consider alternatives such as hiring talent where best available, stretching reporting & collaboration lines across continents not just for the senior management levels as is already common, but even deeper in the organization.  Or, they can hire internationally mobile professionals.  In some cases, they can look to “Tier 2” cities for employees (e.g. JetBlue’s customer support centers or Indian IT companies’ development centers). Or going to the source of the problem, they can expand the talent pool by working with colleges and universities to make the graduates more employable.

Many of these approaches are being used by leading companies (Infosys included). For examples, see the Oct 17 New York Times: “In a Twist, Americans Appear in Ranks of Indian Firms” and “Skills Gap Hurts Technology Boom in India.”

Comments

Well said, I would like to add to it the fact that as companies are growing in india, they are becoming more unprofessional themselves. In the sense, there still does not exist the concept of firing people (I haven't heard of companies yet!). People who underperform continously are parked and are not given salary increments, in the hope that they might leave on their own. But if they don't!. I believe in the idea of "C-grade people hire more c-grade to make the company more c-grade". Is that professionalism on behalf of companies? Is that how they wish to grow their employee strength- only in numbers and not in competency?.

Perhaps I am being too rude / blunt about calling people c-grade. But maybe these people are not fit for your company, maybe they'll perform better / grow better someplace else. The company should help them find their true calling!

can't agree more with u Richa.This seems to be happenning at every level of the organisation.We cannot blame one particular system. The entire system has got to change. Going to tier 2 cities may not be the perfect solution. talent such acquired, though technically sufficient, is found wanting in communication and business etiquettes.Working with the college is the right way to go and probably the quickest long term solution.Companies should also start investing on training of the talent pool . At the same time, they must also impose restrictions on trained employees migrating right after training. This should be a collaborative effort at industry level.

Hi Richa,
These are indeed challenging times. I still would say that unprofessionalism is the way industry works and it is some what rooted in our culture. You think 'Flat World' will help. I think it will not. The only way to attract and retain a good talent is to have a great brand and I think there needs to be sea change in the way talent is hired and retained.Please see people as people and not as resource. A genuine interest in employees will do the trick..

Thanks
Vishal

The trick is to think in terms of the individual and provide right opportunities .Its easier said than done. Its becoming increasingly difficult to hire resources who are complete.The quantity has increased , but the quality has dropped. More than creating a brand, its important to create a collective vision , small or big, and work towards it and provide everyone a share of the load and the rewards. Sounds cliche...but is probably the way to go.This will need a strong middle layer which our biggies lack.

Richa, the unprofessionalism may be increasing among the people seeking jobs because they have options but when you say

"No longer loyal, willing to switch at the “drop of a hat”, and unwilling to keep commitments, talent has now firmly entered the realm of unprofessionalism."

I thought in the flat world companies too have stopped looking at loyalty? When compaines do not look at creating long term positions, how can they get people thinking about loyalty? Most companies (globally) also fire at the drop of the hat.

We are again getting into a blame game and losing focus on the basics.

Leadership is the ability to make people work enthusiastically and willingly towards predetermined objectives. Leadership is making ordinary people do extraordinary things. It is leadership that attracts people and talented individuals to a set up.

Ashok Soota was an architect of Wipro. Today his team is building another institution - Mindtree. When Shri Narayanmurthy envisioned Infosys he titrated to certain values and then things fell in place. Infosys is today what it is thanks to certain foundation values. Gandhigiri is a form of leadership and Bapu attracted millions to his philosophy, vision and leadership (including highly talented individuals). USA has the ability to attract talented and aspiring individuals from all castes, faiths and nationalities. Why? It has a liberal & entrepreneurial culture, and is the land of opportunity.

It is values & principles that attracts talent, disciplines it and taps the potential of talent.

The answer to the so called 'unprofessionalism' of both companies and talented individuals lies in leadership.

The think-flat philosophy is in itself a great magnet for talented individuals if properly percolated in an organisation. Google practices this organisational philosophy too.

Dear Richa

It is very true that employability and soft skills are factors of concern regarding our young professionals. As a faculty at a management school, I am sharing a few comments on these based on my observations.
The major factor that inhibits our young minds is their attitude of consumerism towards education. With the hefty fees levied in most institutions, students feel that they are entitled for a placement irrespective of the fact whether they have skills or not. I have noticed that even as the student enrolls, he feels that at the end of the course he should have a job and degree.Secondly, the current demand for professionals are forcing HR to take people if they satisfy some basic criterion ( without looking at cultural fit). The rationale is that if they do not change, they will move out ( darwin theory).Now the recruitment,retention and retrenchment is like an iteration process . This scenario presents a nightmare when we think of a slowdown ( which may or maynot happen).

Sunil said
"It is values & principles that attracts talent, disciplines it and taps the potential of talent."
I think this is a great summation. The best of talent will look for values.

Dear Richa:

I chanced upon this blog while searching for flat world characteristics. After reading the posts and very interesting comments I feel that somewhere the IT industry in India has shot itself in the foot (a slight different take on your topic).

The focus on employing only engineering grads with more than 70% distinctions has led to more commoditization of courses. Indian IT must employ Think Flat principle to recruitment as well and see the difference. There is a huge pool of Not so engineering grads with Science background having a comparable or better values and principles. I am by no means implying that engineering grads are bad workers, but want to reiterate that technocracy need not be restricted to only them. Open eyes wide open and your supply side problem will be taken care! No need to treat non-engineering science grads with barge pole.
IMHO (only opinion and have no research to prove this) they will do mostly better as they are under pressure to prove to society (parents, IT companies and other generally opinionated people) that they are no different in aptitude.

On one side I hear holier than thou statements that only technocracy rules in IT industry and on the other side we hear strong statements denouncing our education system (NRN saying that 70% of engineers are not fit). So what difference does it make by hiring others too. Anyhow you end up training all of them and spend money on shadow resources (while they are not yet client faceable), might as well do it on others (proverbial others) too. That will bring a balance and spread the benefits to a much larger audience.

Thanks for making me think! Best Wishes to you and Infy.

Would like a Add a Perspective here
1) How many Indian Companies actually take a Fresher's Interest Area into consideration before specialized training?
2) How many Indian Companies actually rationalize role as per the employee skill set?
3) Why Indian Companies like to let go an Employee instead of offering an Internal transfer ?
4) Why Indian Companies do not have a properly defined internal transfer policy ?

So as per saying goes .. People do not leave organization they leave their bosses.

If the questions can be looked into definitely they can reduce attrition to some extent.

Nice article
One request - please link to whatever resources you point to (NYT article, NASSCOM report etc.)

People with varied interests, values and culture has always been there. Now that the intake and no of employees is more , it appears as if a lot of people are not loyal. Equally grown is the no of people who are loyal , hard working and principle centric. It is for sure a challenge to constantly motivate the people and keep them with the company for longer durations. Correctly identifying what people are looking for and providing the same is the key to retention. Right resourcing(internally in a company) after a right recruitement is also a challenge. Innovative, creative and practical approaches are needed from HR Depts to see to it that employees are getting what they want along with seeing to it that companie's interests are taken care.

The blog entry defintely appears to be written as a result of frustration caused by hiring pains.

Sir, may I give you a solution? follow these:-
1) Hire from premier institutes. The graduates passing out of premier institutes are serious and not carefree individuals.
Don't hire bunch of idiots instead of hiring one talented guy.Don't bother about the size of team that is needed to execute a project. Execcute it with few smart people.

2) Pay right. If you are going to bargain for pennies,who the hell would bother to work for you? Also don't do mind arithmetic when you pay someone, measure by his worth. Don't compare your salary with what he is really worth.

Dear Richa,

Though I agree with your observations, I don't think it's entirely a demand/supply issue.

While the needs of serving global clients have changed the hiring processes have remained archaic.

Two most important attributes for today's IT professionals are 1) better client interaction skills and 2) need to be more flexible in thinking.

For these two reasons the traditional metrics of hiring "the highest academic achievers from the best schools" needs to be changed quickly.

Secondly, the hiring net should be cast wider into tier II cities as you rightfully said.

Thirdly, behavioral development and global thinking should be more important on the agenda than teaching say Java or .NET. Most Indians are smart and pick technical stuff on their own or on the job. The softer skills are not so easy for them.

I have seen criticism elsewhere in this forum that tier II city folks lack communications skills. I say if you lower the bar on academic qualifications, you will be surprised what you find.

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