Talent retention is the name of the game

Updated: May 26 2007, 05:30am hrs
From the earlier oft-repeated phrase of no one is indispensable, today the key words for any HR department are key personnel, talent war and attrition. In such a situation, employee retention programmes have gained importance in sectors like IT/ITES, retail, banking and financial services which witness high rates of employee turnover.

After talent acquisition and talent management, talent retention is the next most important issue on any HR agenda. Says Zubeen Mody, senior vice-president, HR, IndusInd Bank, Employee retention is of utmost importance. At the senior level, each individual brings a unique set of skills. Where talent is already rare and people with requisite skills and experience are difficult to find, retention becomes a critical component of organisation building.

The biggest challenge in this process is to identify key people and devise ways and means to retain them. Xansas 7-stage employee assimilation process categorises employees likeliness of leaving the organisation by categorising them on a red, amber, green status. This in turn helps in addressing on an preemptive basis, any concerns or issues the employee may have, and helps in positively influencing the retention levels, says Shantanu Banerjee, director HR, Xansa.

Where monetary compensation -- salary, perks, stock options are a given, it is the intangible benefits like career roadmap and bonding of the employee with the organisation which determines whether one will seek out greener pastures. Lets face it, the pull is on the side of the people today, with more opportunities and avenues, organisations are increasingly at the mercy of employees making a choice. Recruiting is expensive, and without active focus on retention, the model becomes unsustainable. Organisations that think that cash is the name of the game cannot be more wrong on the front. Yes, it is the most perceptible aspect of the employment deal, but of course not the complete deal itself, points out Sumeet Sabharwal, MD, Navisite India, which provides IT hosting, outsourcing and professional services for mid-to-large-sized organisations.

The best bet to retain employees is to provide them the vehicle of opportunity to grow in their career. Amongst various measures, Aditi Technologies focuses on career compression and accelerated growth as a reward for employee performance. This growth is enabled through early identification of the stream of choice for the employee, equipping them through focused training and providing them enough opportunities to deliver on their acquired skills. When you look around in Aditi, there are a lot of old-timers who have grown as the organisation has scaled up, says Chetan LS, VP, people department, Aditi Technologies.

Kalpana Srinivasan, HR director, Aspire Systems, agrees that employees need to be shown a path of continuous growth, development and recognition. Employees, especially middle-management, prefer a fast-track career growth path and not the conventional hierarchy-based upward growth. Organisational goals are important and the roadmap that it is taking for the short-to-medium term needs to be visible, she says.

Cincom Systems India also prioritises learning among its employees. It has a tuition reimbursement policy of Rs 2,00,000 for employees who wish to pursue skill enhancement programmes. CSC Indias employee recognition policy promotes a work culture that recognises and rewards significant contributions of employees beyond their routine jobs. The programme recognises achievements, rewards the right behaviour, reinforces company values and establishes consistent practices across CSC India, says Neelam Gill Malhotra, HR director, CSC India.

Retention efforts must be part of an organisations strategic business initiatives and must be carefully aligned with who, what, where, when and how for an organisation. That means that there must be complete clarity on who needs to be retained, why they need to be retained, where their skills and expertise is to be used and when they need to be ready to share those skills and that expertise. All too often, organisations are so busy looking at what makes people happy and trying to make employees happy that they lose sight of the real reason that they are in operation; they need to turn a profit. That really is the bottom line, clarifies Nina Woodard, director, business development, India, Society for Human Research Management.

At IT major Cisco India, well-structured employee retention initiatives have helped attrition rates come down to a little over 10% from the earlier high of 13%, even as employee strength has increased by over 100% in the last two years. Opportunity to work on cutting edge technologies in a great environment is a strong draw for its employees. When employees are doing work which they like, with people they like, in a company they like, they are less likely to leave. That is the programme, says Subash Rao, director, HR, Cisco India. Retention cannot be viewed in isolation and nor is there a magic tool which ensures retention when other necessary conditions are not met, he explains. Retention becomes a by-product when a company is a great place to work and is rated among the best employers. Of course, having good work opportunities with learning and growth along with a competitive compensation package are pre-requisites.

Aspire Systems claims that its retention initiatives have brought the attrition rate down to 3% from the 8% two years ago. My six years at Aspire Systems has been a great learning experience. Everything we do here revolves around our cherished value system and a strong desire to succeed. The comradely atmosphere enables us to plan and execute assignments perfectly while exceeding expectations, says Dhaya Vijay, manager, recruitment, in the company.

Having a good environment where an employer feels relaxed helps. Pradeep Kongalla, development manager at Cincom Systems India, has been with the company for 10 years. The company has a good environment, great work culture and most of all, great leadership. Flat organisational structure makes managers easily approachable. At Cincom, there is no one standing over anyone. The company does not allow overt display of hierarchy. All executives occupy cubicles, including the director of the company David Foulcher. Tom Nies, the founder and president of the company meets every employee visiting the head office from anywhere in the world, says Mona Gupta, senior manager, HR, Cincom Systems India.

Bonding with the top management is key here. Says Mody, One on one relationship is very important at the top levels. How long you have been with the organisation, what the organisation and the top officials mean to the individual, personal rapport with the CMD all these together play a crucial role in determining an individuals length of stay with an organisation.