Retention of talent remains a concern despite more spending

As the campus recruitment season peaks and a record number of students are taken on board, the words that echo in the campuses of engineering colleges are ‘Bulk,' ‘Dream' and ‘Core' coined to describe some of the top rung IT companies during the recruitment process.

Behind the enthusiasm of the students and excitement levels in the campus, however, lies the apprehension of the software firms on how long they would be able to retain talent. Despite the 20- 25 per cent increased spending by leading firms on retaining talent, attrition, particularly among the junior employees, continues to remain a big concern.

For instance, Infosys has implemented a ‘Green Channel' initiative for welcoming its former employees back to its fold, besides using Infy bubble, a social networking forum for employees and infy radio to help them stay connected. “The idea is to make sure the employee gets the maximum benefits, chooses to remain in the company, and feels like coming back even if he has left it,” says Sujith Kumar, location head (Chennai), Infosys-HR.

There are also companies, including Wipro, who are modifying their hiring process to recruit only those who are likely to stay. “The interview standards are never lowered,” says V. Viswanathan, Senior Manager-HR, Wipro Technologies, on how the company has always focused on technical interviews even when many of the others are doing away with them. Also, a few months ago, Infosys hired computer science Ph.D students from IITs by offering salaries which were 15- 20 per cent more than those offered earlier, while TCS recently recruited students from several colleges for research offering them up to Rs.6.3 lakh annually in an attempt to retain employees.

Definition of attrition

The issue is also complicated by how attrition is defined. “Most companies make sure their attrition rates are not below the industry average. Some do not consider the attrition of employees in the junior levels, while some might classify employees leaving for higher studies as sabbaticals. There is no normalised procedure across firms to determine attrition, so the numbers are often vague,” explains S. Ramakrishnan, IT consultant.

This however, would not stop companies from hiring because recruiting fresh graduates is always less expensive, almost 1/3rd the cost of roping in lateral talent. “Moreover, employees are no longer irreplaceable unless they belong to the senior rung,” he adds. Besides, the business development scenario, despite speculations about the American crisis, looks promising, says Shankar Srinivasan, Chief People Officer, Cognizant. “Clients are launching programs to ramp up for next year and get the benefits of global sourcing,” he adds.

Record recruitment

This year, till July alone, Cognizant has recorded the highest number of new employees with its net head count totalling up to 7,122, while Wipro has seen an addition of 4,105 new employees, TCS 3,576 and Infosys 2,740.

Efforts to restrict attrition are also being taken at college-level as companies are in talks with many top educational institutions to include their training programme as part of the eight-semester curriculum. “In fact, TCS is also training our faculty members to start the mentoring soon,” says K. K. Sivagnana Prabhu, head, Training and Placement, RMK Engineering College that placed nearly 642 students in the company recently. But it is also difficult for colleges to influence students beyond a point, say institution heads. “We ensure at least 90 per cent of the recruited students honour the offers and join the companies. But sticking with the organisation depends totally on them,” says Sai Prakash Leo Muthu, CEO, Sai Ram Group of Institutions.

Taking students into confidence

Often, students do not know what they are getting into that makes them want to leave soon, says S. Muthukumaran, Dean-research, Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering. “Now that companies have projects in all engineering disciplines, they should spend time with students discussing areas of interests and prospective projects before recruiting them.”

However, K. Purushottaman, regional director, NASSCOM points to the fact that the attrition rate in Chennai is lower than Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi and Pune. “With the largest facilities of Infosys, HCL, TCS and Cognizant located in Chennai, the city is next only to Bangalore in terms of software development, and promises a great deal to the IT crowd, he adds.


Vasudha VenugopalJune 28, 2012