Swati CA

Swati_CA column in The Hindu Business Line

Monday, April 24, 2006

When old fights come to the fore...

Monday, April 17, 2006


How far is it ethical to poach a rival's trained staff?
At one point X dropped the name of Ketan, an ex-employee of the company, who had to leave under situations far from pleasant, a few years ago....

Monday, April 10, 2006

Market boom and family gloom!

Episode 123
Do families have to bear the brunt of a feverishly booming market?

"Can greed make even otherwise learned people blind to realities, I
wondered? Do families have to bear the brunt of a feverishly booming market,
where its participants lose all cool?"

Web reference:

Sports portal http://sportal.nic.in

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Workout at the stadium...

Workout at the stadium... (Business Line, April 3, 2006)
On a morning that I woke up early, I decided to go to the neighbourhood stadium. So, there I was, huffing and puffing, after a jog. `Lack of practice,' I consoled myself, and loitered around to watch what others were doing. A college girl was practising high jump. When she cleared what seemed to be an impossible height, I clapped and shouted, "Well-done!"

During a brief break she took from practice, we got talking. "Hi, I'm Malar," she said. "Good jump," I complimented. "I'm Swati." She was practising for national championship, I learnt. "Are you looking for sponsors?" I asked her, hoping I could convince my boss to chip in some funds. She looked at me and said, "Thanks for asking. But my self-respect comes in the way. After having seen how athletics get a step-motherly treatment here... " I was shocked, "Why do you say so?"
Malar laughed wryly and said, "Top three games in India are cricket, cricket and cricket. To go with it, it will be some Bollywood actress. Not an athlete, even if he or she won gold medals at international events." Without expecting any reply from me, Malar resumed her practice. After some time, as I was lumbering back home, I wondered if competitive athletics demands a thoroughly professional approach that our governments are merely incapable of! Send in your thoughts by Friday to:

Personal security for working women

Response to: Is it becoming increasingly necessary for women, not only to be financially independent but also be armed with self-defence skills?

“When we read media stories about women executives who are raped and killed as they take the innocent ride home in the ‘office’ cab, personal security for working women takes on greater importance.”

“Stringent workplace practices and specific policies tailored to women’s needs can ensure greater levels of security and comfort. Corporates can identify the safest routes for transport; perform background checks for all drivers and contractors; get the cooperation of local police; and train security staff to ensure greater protection for women.”

“HR can work to provide flexible schedules, offer helplines and specialised assistance to women employees, so that women do not end up compromising their quality of work.”

“The truth is that ultimately women need to be personally responsible by increasing awareness, making smart decisions and exercising caution.”

“Self-defence classes can be a great idea for building confidence and may be a necessity in cities like Delhi with higher crime rates.”

Radhika Nair, Manager- Documentation Services, Rapidigm (India) Ltd, Pune.

Align the fulfilment of individual’s core needs with organisational requirement

Response to: Are companies incapable of retaining young talent?

“There was a time when good working conditions, above par pay and perks could motivate people to stay and perform. However, today the ‘Bleeding Human Capital’ rates range from 30 to 40 per cent across levels.”

“There is a feeling, especially among HR Managers, that while there is market dynamics involved in the demand-supply gap, there certainly is a need to find better ways to retain the knowledge workers deficiencies like the inability to influence the employees’ perception of growth, not aligning roles to talent and inflexibility in leadership styles are causing major conflicts at a very intrinsic level, resulting in employees opting for the proverbial ‘easy way out.’”

“Organisations need to train their managers to motivate people working under them. Beyond a point, an employee’s primary need has less to do with money, and more to do with how he’s treated and how valued he feels.”

“At Rapidigm we feel that the key to preventing frequent switchovers is to have a stronger vision and values, well-structured training modules and transparency in career growth, active communication, employee care competitive and monetary benefits in its true spirit where our employees are treated as our key customers.”

“We constantly ask ourselves – ‘Can we align the fulfilment of individual’s core needs with the organisational requirement?’ Praise is given for a job completed or a job well done. Encouragement is given for effort or improvement.”

“Make job descriptions detailed and specific. Meet regularly with staff to discuss progress and encourage improvement”

“Research shows that people stay in organisations for the following reasons: a chance to learn and grow, a good boss, meaningful, challenging work, and great people to work with.”

“Beyond that, retention strategies include things like flexibility, fun on the job, and the feeling of being respected.”

“So, before you jump to the ‘money as reward’ solution, check to see if your people are getting those needs met.”

Rajkumari Achtani, Human Resource Head, Rapidigm (India) Ltd, Pune.

We women should pursue what we want to pursue and not what society wants us to pursue

Is it becoming increasingly necessary for women, not only to be financially independent...?"

"In my mind, when I think about all the problems that women have to go through at the workplace, I sometimes begin to wonder whether we as women actually fuel the already existing (mis)perceptions of our abilities to perform in the corporate world.”

“Any modern, educated, 21st century, woman reading the statement I just made must be thinking ‘Me? I don’t understand how I contribute to the negative attitude surrounding women’s skills?’”

“It’s really a paradox that we’re dealing with in this day and age - are women really incapable of performing well in the workplace because society tells them that they are incapable of growing and contributing to the success of an organisation?”

“Do we women start believing that we are meant to be mediocre employees and cannot even dream about contributing the managerial level because that’s what society has instilled in us since the day we set foot into this world?”

“I have to admit that we live in a country where the idea of women working is still a big no-no in many communities. However, things have changed drastically since the 1930s when my grandmother was asked to stop her education and get married at the age of 15; my mother luckily completed her education, got married at the age of 20, and started working after her 3rd child because she wanted to pursue her dreams - of course she had restrictions for the first 9 years of her marriage (things didn’t come to her easy), but she eventually pulled through and learnt how to manage a home as well as her career.”

“Today, I have got an education, I can choose to study further, I am working pre-marriage, and I’m sure I’ll continue to work post marriage - see the trend? Now how do you think women got this far? What women have to start understanding is that we can do more today not because people (both men and women - you’ll be surprised to hear how many women pose restrictions on other women) have allowed us to get this far, but because we have the confidence to say ‘we can do it!’ and we will do it!”

“In no way am I a feminist and in no way do I think men and women are equal - there are things women can do that men cannot and vice versa. My point is that we women should pursue what we want to pursue and not what society wants us to pursue - of course this is going to be difficult because of the mind-set people have had for generations, but who ever said it was going to be easy?”

“It’s very easy to give up, but it’s much more gratifying pulling it through till the end. People will eventually get used to women being on an equal platform as any other individual - we are human beings and no one person is weaker than the other.”

Swati Kapoor, Software Design Analyst, Synygy India P Ltd, Pune.

OPTIC for better employee focus

“The world is facing major shortages of a critical resource—not petroleum, but people. Demographic shifts (aging populations, declining birth-rates, economic migration), social evolution, inadequate educational programs, globalisation, and entrepreneurial practices (outsourcing, off-shoring, on-demand employment) are causing shortages, not only in the overall availability of talent but also – and more significantly – in the specific skills and competences required in industrialised, emerging, and developing economies like India.”

“There is already a talent shortage in many areas of the global labour force, a situation that will grow more acute and more widespread across more jobs over the next 10 years and could threaten the engines of world economic growth and prosperity.”

“HR managers, especially in the IT / ITES sector, must bridge the ever-increasing gap between the demand and the supply of suitable employees. Employers don’t want just anybody; they want the right kind of people who can keep pace with the unique work patterns in the IT industry.”

“The toughest concern for an HR manager, however, is a high attrition rate. In India, the average attrition rate in the technology sector is approximately 30-35 percent per year. This means that HR managers have to work that much harder, just to keep the same number of employees.”

“Keeping low attrition levels is a major challenge as the demand outstrips the supply of good talent by a big margin. For example, the salary growth plan for each employee should be well defined, because failing to do so only encourages poaching by other companies who can offer a higher salary. Work environment is also a significant factor. Many individuals (mostly fresh graduates) who join the IT industry are not aware of all the work aspects of the job. Once they join the IT sector and understand its requirements, they are taken aback by the long working hours, work pressures and the monotony of the job. This results in the high attrition rate at the junior levels especially during their initial days in the industry. A scientific and analytical approach to the whole issue should be implemented.”

“Pay cheques alone are not enough to retain employees. An organisation also needs to consider other aspects like secure career, benefits, perks and communication. The attrition battle could be won by focusing on retention, making work a fun place, having education and ongoing learning for the workforce and treating applicants and employees in the same way as one treats customers.”

“Companies need to go in for a diverse workforce, which does not only mean only race or gender diversity but also includes age, experience and perspective. Diversity in turn results in innovation and success. The 80:20 rule also applies to recruitment. Studies show that 80 per cent of the company’s profit comes from the efforts of 20 per cent of the employees.”

“There are lot of factors that are responsible for keeping the attrition rates down and the key to all those is hiring right people who share the company’s vision and values. At Synygy we have a special system in place that ascertains if the person is fit for the job. It’s not just about job performance, it is about cultural fit.”

“Experience shows that cultural fit is one of the best predictors of whether a new employee will succeed at Synygy, so the process of hiring and training an employee focuses on core values and company culture.”

“Everyone at Synygy regularly meets with their mentor to discuss and evaluate their performance. These evaluations focus on how the employee has demonstrated Synygy’s core values (Ownership, Professionalism, Teamwork, continuous Improvement, and Customer focus – known as OPTIC) and the specific job skills required for their position. The feedback is based on specific examples, providing the employee with actionable information about areas needing improvement.”

“Every employee undergoes an initial three month probation period. Mentors monitor the performance a new employee very closely during this period with reviews at the end of each month, for the first three months. After the three months are completed, employees settle into a regular rhythm of quarterly and six monthly evaluations.”

“At Synygy all employees have a variable component of salary based on their performance. All employees at Synygy are paid a quarterly performance bonus; the amount determined by calculating the achievements against quarterly objectives, evaluations by co-workers, and evaluations by clients. At Synygy the employees also have an opportunity to evaluate their mentors.”

“Since job performance is evaluated on a quarterly basis, the semi-annual performance review is more of a career planning and self-assessment session, where, mentee and mentor map out what skills and competencies the employee needs to develop for the next step in their career path.”

“Companies should also train people in giving and receiving feedback. Companies that implement 360-degree feedback without first checking and developing managers’ feedback skills risk serious damage to teamwork and morale. Providing constructive feedback takes instruction, training and practice.”

“While training individuals to give and receive feedback may temporarily increase the expense associated with 360-degree feedback programs, the gains will outweigh the higher cost as the feedback delivered to participants becomes more focused, targeting the behaviours most closely associated with value creation and destruction.”

“Ultimately, the goal should be to create a culture in which individuals feel comfortable giving and receiving feedback--both positive and negative--on a real--time basis, hence talking attrition at the root level.”

Parag Wadhone, Manager-HR, Synygy India P Ltd, Pune.

From a Black Belt in Karate

“Is it becoming increasingly necessary for women, not only to be financially independent but also be armed with self-defence skills?” (Financial independence and a dose of self-defence – Business Line March 13, 2006)

“Yes, it certainly is. Both financial independence and knowledge of self-defence skills enhance confidence in a woman.”

“With women increasingly participating in all walks of life, the need to protect themselves from any untoward incident has become all the more essential. Knowing self-defence techniques builds inner strength and brings steadiness to the mind when under stress, which comes of great help in a work environment.”

“It is a great motivator for achieving goals and does wonders in both personal and professional life. Financial independence and self-protection skills go hand in hand and are strong enablers for success.”

Savitha RP, HR Department, iGATE Global Solutions
Black Belt in Karate and a National Champion

Soccer vs Cricket

"Believing that soccer cannot be popular because cricket is the nation's passion can never get soccer the status that cricket has achieved today. With just one world cup in so many years and highly periodic performances, there is hardly any reason for it to be so popular."

"But good selling and marketing along with understanding of the needs of audience can make a sport popular and financially rewarding be it - a team or an individual sport."

"Lance Armstrong could achieve success in USA, where baseball and football dominate, and Schumacher could achieve it in Germany where soccer is popular."

"In India, Bhaichung Bhutia could achieve some success, Anand also created some rage in 90s and now Tennis is also catching our attention. "

"If one chooses sports as a profession then he/ she should assume the risks involved. Lack of facilities is today a problem, it will be maintainence tomorrow, which will be followed by the ability to pay for the facilities."

"It is within you to change and make the difference, and reap the benefits for yourself - like a true entrepreneur, rather than wait for the things to change for you."


Is it time we start paying our taxes to corporates!

"Hi Mam. Thanks once again for including my views."

"Our govt. is incapable of so many things. It's not limited to inefficient management of sports in our country. And every time we talk of govt inefficiencies, the dicusssion most of the times (not in this article) turns to how corporates can help in that."

"May be it's time when we should start thinking of paying our taxes to corporates and not government."

Sandhya Goel

Village BPOs

“We are a Hyderabad based company into technology solutions. We are also closely working with Government of AP on other projects.”

“During our interactions with senior officials we were asked to come up with ideas for setting village BPOs. I saw your articles ‘How about a village BPO doing your firm's work’ (Business Line, August 29, 2005). Any ideas??”

Uma Prasad

There are bosses who do not even look at anyone’s face and simply walk off!

“Most people feel that the attrition rate of youngsters is more because they are not satisfied with the present pay they are getting. I wouldn’t support that argument because most youngsters get good pay package and they wonder how to spend that much money.”

“I do support the view that all people command respect and youngsters are no different. Employees should be treated with respect by their bosses, in the form of encouragement to give comments/ suggestions regarding various things.”

“Give them a smile when moving around the office; lend a good ear to their problems and try to help them in solving it.”

“Attitude of seniors towards juniors may be a problem in software field, but I don’t think such problems occur in the BPO sector. In software field there will be people with professional qualifications and non-professional qualifications. So seniors with professional qualifications may not fully cooperate with juniors who don’t have such a qualification.”

“Smile is a thing which works everywhere. There are bosses who do not even look at anyone’s face and simply walk off. Sometimes those bosses might be shy to look at people’s faces or else may think that it’s not necessary to look at subordinates’ faces when moving around. This really irritates the subordinates, because they feel that their boss ignores them and does not respect them.”

“Bosses should make the employees feel that they are important to the company. A smile/gentle talk (like how are you, where you are going for lunch etc etc) passed by a boss to his subordinates really sends across a message of care and affection, which the subordinates crave for. These things make an employee think he is respected by the company.”

Anil K Nair
Senior CSA in a multinational BPO firm, Thiruvananthapuram.


“I am very much impressed by your articles. Please keep it up.”
Ch.Mallikarjuna Reddy, CA

A study on micro finance models

“Dear Madam, I recently read the ‘Mentor’ pages in Business Line. It has worthwhile words that might help young managers to proceed further in their career of success. About me, I’m Hari from PSG Institute of Management, a reputed B-school in Tamil Nadu, and I have got placement in a bank.”

“Currently I’m doing my project in ‘A STUDY ON MICRO FINANCE MODELS’ - that different banks follow to fund the rural people. I hope u will help me in this project by rendering required advice.”

“My questions are:

  • What are different types of Micro Finance models that are available and are followed by banks in Tamil Nadu?
  • Name some websites and articles, from which I can gather detailed information how they are working?"
"I have decided to prepare a questionnaire (not yet started, waiting for your suggestions). So is it enough to fill questionnaire with bank employees to get genuine data or should I meet managers? Kindly give me some valuable suggestions regarding this. Expecting a reply.”


Two reasons why senior employees don't cooperate

“Dear Ms Swati, there is a lot of truth in the words of your canteen-mates. The problem is universal. Leaving one company to join other company may become like jumping from oven to fire for these youngsters.”

“The non-cooperation from senior employees towards new ‘young’ employees may be for following two factors:

  • Today, corporate world likes to rely more on young blood who are ready with high education and soft skills. So they are prioritised. Older the employees, feel of obsolescence will increase, which they just can’t bear.
  • Either with the entry or after a short span of the entry of young talents will get better positions than old employees or positions, which older employees could get only after, say 4-5-6 years of experience. How to tolerate?
"Effect of these two factors will be on youngsters, who are just opening their eyes in the corporate world."

"Now, senior employees need to understand that unless they keep acquiring better skills and show more and more involvement in the corporate business, no one can protect them from getting obsolete, irrespective of their past glory."

"At the same time, management needs to create step by step induction and provide basic training to the freshers, so that they can get mixed with the current group of employees rather than demanding performance from day 1 from them."

Dattatri H M
Law & Taxation - AT & S India
Nanjangud, India 571 301

3Rs of retaining the Young Turks

“Dear Mam, this is my very first attempt to express my views in regard to the articles which you write. Now to start with, this is in relation to the article by you dated March 20: ‘Are companies becoming incapable of retaining young talent?’”

“The answer to this question maybe an affirmative one if we look at the current scenario. As your article was already backed up with data which stated that 70 per cent of attrition takes place within the first year of the job, that in itself is a reason for companies to get on their feet and start doing something.”

“I am myself doing MBA and as time for my summer training is approaching, the fear which haunts me is if I would actually be given work in the company.”

“Now I feel if I as a summer trainee am worried about my state in the organisation for two months, I am sure it is a great cause for worry for the young professionals out there.”

“In my viewpoint, it is very important for companies to make their employees feel ‘wanted’ in their organisation. Considering the number of options available to these young pool of talent today, it becomes inevitable for the companies to try and retain them or else in the end they would end up questioning their own evaluation system.”

“The company or the boss needs to start partnership with the employee in his/her development and growth. Retention basically depends on both the individual’s competence and criticality for the organisation. Promotions and pay-hikes are another way to retain the young talent.”

“I would sum up this whole issue of retention of the YOUNG TURKS in 3R’s:

“Retention might not be that easy a job, but it is certainly possible if a company adopts the right approach.”

Jasmine Juneja
Student of Bharati Vidhyapeeth Institute of Management and Research, New Delhi.

Respect the individual & reward performance

“Hi Swati, a large percentage of companies have to reinvent their retention strategies. Companies have to think of new strategies to retain young talent instead of using the strategies they had used for the previous generation.”

“Today’s generation has a different set of life goals. They want to work smart, earn some quick bucks, have fun at work, learn fast and move up their career ladder. They plan to stay for a max of 3 - 4 years before they like to move onto the next organisation.”

“When organisations design retention strategies they should keep this on top of their mind: respect for the individual & reward for performance.”


The biggest issue that corporates will face!

“Hi Swati, I read your writings in newspaper today about employee attrition rate being so high (70 per cent in your article). You have invited comments from readers also."

"This is very sensitive issue. In the coming days this will be the biggest issue that corporates will face. There is so much to speak… I am sure so many people would like to add their views as well, but I am also deeply concerned with this issue as you are. Thank you.”

From: Yes Pod (name changed)

Sense of belongingness is absent

“First, I need to give you a thumbs-up for the effort to bring such topics to the print media. I am fully in consonance with the problem of the companies being increasingly incapable of retaining young talent.”

“To my understanding, given the fast structural changes taking in the Indian economy, management of many companies have become very short-term goal oriented. This often leads to the problem that management commits something to the candidate just for the sake that the candidate joins the firm. But later on as the candidate discovers the actuals to be a lot different, foundations of quitting early are laid there itself.”

“Consider the way HR departments work these days. Just as marketing team is always hard pressed to meet crazy sales/ clients target, HR is asked to recruit certain number of new candidates every month/ week. In marketing, we have seen how consumer interest is eroded by the marketing people in order to meet their targets.”

“Similarly, hard-pressed by the top management to recruit fresh talent, the HR guy over-promises/ hides from the new recruitee certain facts, that he would discover only once he joins. This discrepancy is nothing but the foundation stone of quitting for any person.”

“There is absolutely no sense of belongingness to a particular firm/organisation. Remember that marketing and HR, both target the ‘sensitive human element’.”

From: Secret Kumar (name changed)

Three reasons for attrition

“Hi Swati, first of all let me take time to introduce myself. I am V.Gokul working with a group of companies as an internal auditor and I am a CA by profession. I read the article in Business Line and found that really interesting as I could see that it reflected the current trend very beautifully. High attrition is what the industry as whole is facing."

"The trend is due to three principal reasons:

  • The young guns are able to get a job at an early age thanks to BPO, i.e. ITES, and also the IT industry.
  • The young don’t understand the value of money and as a result they turn up ending spendthrift.
  • They lose sight of the long term goal and purely run after the short term benefits."

“That’s my opinion, though I aint a HR person or any psychologist to be accurate enough.”
Gokul Srinivas

Monday, April 03, 2006

An African story

Comments from P.S. Rao, HR Head, CSS Group

“Are companies incapable of retaining talent? Or is it that the markets are driving the movement of employees from one job to another?”

“Markets are growing and skills are in short supply. Recruiters are aggressive, and competitors are providing attractive opportunities especially for the skilled and experienced.”

“I recall the story of two great business people – competitors – meeting in Africa and they decided to go together into the wild forests for hunting. They take a jeep, rifles, bullets, etc. with them, and after driving a few miles, there was no track for the jeep, so they leave it, pick up the rifles and keep walking. A few miles later one of them find that they forgot the bullets in the jeep. The other person immediately changes to running shoes. When asked why he was changing shoes instead of going back to fetch the bullets, he replies that he would be able to run faster in case a lion comes. “Can you run faster than lion?” “No, it is enough if I run faster than you.”

“Is 20 per cent attrition a cause of concern? Not if the industry average is 50 per cent. Are you a step ahead of your competitors? If markets do not permit you to keep employees, at least develop strategies that are contextual.”

“We need to ask ourselves: (1) Which talent do we want to keep and (2) for how long. And it is never a one-time effort. What is appropriate today need not be appropriate forever. Should we always keep the best talented people, or should the organisation convert the implicit knowledge of people to explicit organisational knowledge? How do we manage with less talented people, who are willing to serve us longer?”

“People join organisations but they work only for people. Do the managers have a pulse of what motivates youngsters in their team? Do they take care of their learning needs, give them the freedom to innovate and experiment, give them challenging assignments, help them grow in career, recognise exceptional performance and exemplary behaviour in a timely manner, or just wait for the annual performance appraisals and promotions?”

Succession planning wanted

Responding to the tale of attrition, D.N. Shanbhag (AGM- Purchase in a pharma company) writes:
“Dear Swati, I read your article in BL. Yes we do have a problem of retaining young talent but same is the case with old employee. The fact of the matter is that majority of Indian companies do not have a succession planning, nor a definite policy or strategy to address such issue. We do not have a proper structured induction program.”
“I have worked for 20 years in a various positions in pharma functions and at present handling a key function, purchase. Recently a new person was appointed in our organisation. He is less experienced and less qualified, but his pay package is very high. How you can expect any senior person to train him and guide him to take up higher responsibilities in the same organisation? Such a young recruit is bound to get frustration. It’s a two-way damage for the company.”
“In the case of IT and BPO, the story is little different, young recruits are pampered with good salary package due to which there is a shortage of skill sets in the industry. Expectations are rising and young recruits are tempted to frequently job-switch. Attrition rates rise; so, all in all the issue is basically of management’s perception of the problem and the preparedness to tackle such issues.”

The attrition tale

When key employees leave...

Last week's episode was about key personnel quitting after a long innings: "Isn't it tough when valuable human capital walks out?"

Unattended athletics

Today's episode raises the question: "Does competitive athletics get enough professional attention?"
Send in your thoughts by Friday to: Swati_CA@hotmail.com