Sunday, October 28, 2007

Where to tap

Last evening I was trying to explain my profession - to a potential recruit and his family - the travails of being a headhunter!!

Its a life like any other..lots of ups and downs. Rather to be honest, more lows than the contrary. One has to be constantly on the alert..for we are all dealing with human emotions. Patience, persistence, ability to manage uncertainties-overwhelmingly more than the research, learning, interpersonal skills-and all other adjectives!

Infact -one of the hiring tests I use for my sudoku!! Any person who has the temperament to 'keep trying till we get the right solution' gets thru the first screening level.

And yes, its all about relationships, and meeting experts who are more knowledgeable than you. Day in, day out -you meet people.And ironically, every person you meet is either a potential employee or a hiring manager :-)!
You have to constantly back your instincts..for you do not have any clue which of your assignments will eventually fructify into a succesful placement. There are many a misses, but the sweetness of the "hit" or the "fit" is really remarkable.
Often -it looks very easy -almost as if it was foregone conclusion. And that even creates a general perception is that we consultants are paid lavishly. Some time back, one of my senior colleagues in the business sent me this note...which perhaps sums up the role of a consultant.

Ever heard the story of the giant ship engine that failed? The ship's owners tried one expert after another, but none of them could figure but how to fix the engine. Then they brought in an old man who had been fixing ships since he was a youngster. He carried a large bag of tools with him, and when he arrived, he immediately went to work. He inspected the engine very carefully, top to bottom.

Two of the ship's owners were there, watching this man, hoping he would know what to do. After looking things over, the old man reached into his bag and pulled out a small hammer. He gently tapped something. Instantly, the engine lurched into life. He carefully put his hammer away. The engine was fixed! A week later, the owners received a bill from the old man for ten thousand dollars.

"What?!" the owners exclaimed. "He hardly did anything!"

So they wrote the old man a note saying, "Please send us an itemized bill."

The man sent a bill that read:

Tapping with a hammer ........................ $ 2.00
Knowing where to tap ............................ $ 9998.00

Effort is important, but knowing where to make an effort in your life makes all the difference.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Changing Workplace in India- Moral responsibility of HR!!

An article on "cause related branding"-written by a pal of mine,Kartikeya Kompella provoked me to try and reflect on the changing workplace in India.
I didnt have to look too far into the recent past to see the HR parallel in corporate India. While most of the headlines have been reserved for the Fortune 500 firms opening, and expanding their operations in India, there have been, albeit very few, instances of some companies changing tack-once they realise all isnt hunkey dorey.
Some of us in the fraternity have been providing career transition services to those handful employees, whose roles have become redundant (thru managed seperation) overnight- and help them acquire the resilience to bounce back from the setbacks.
I personally think-with the kind of dwindling ratios of succesful joint ventures, and the aftermath of mergers & acquisitions, there is a need to address the human side -more conciously. I think HR professionals have to pay more attention to the hiring processes, so that they can prevent the need later on for finetuning the cases for re-deployment, re-engagement, re-direction, and ofcourse premature retirement!
Is the HR fraternity -presently focussing on attracting and retaining talent- setting apart some time to pre-empt such occurances (of sudden discovery of redundancy) and increase retention? While we have accepted the Western values -are we oblivious to the fact that there could be some mishaps on the way-especially in this game of high reward-which should be followed by high risk?
Isnt it in the gambit of the business entity, or more specifically the HR professional, to ensure that the most valuable resources are alternately capable of adding value?
Would someone address the need for a better 'work-life balance' and the need for a less stressful working hours? We in India-seem to work across time zones to keep in sync-is it sustainable for long periods..year on year?
Kartikeya refers to a few situations where Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has enabled an interesting way of creating a wonderful win-win situation wherein the brand gets business benefits from its CSR activities, thereby encouraging greater investment in CSR to get greater business benefits.
Do we see a day, soon in India, where HR firms would advocate good health, and sponsor NGOs that do pioneering work in health services??
Itsn't just about CSR and about brand building- the need of the hour is corporates moral responsibility.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Is India's offshoring industry losing its shine?

It is interesting to note that a recent study by has provoked some interesting insights.

Some of the points addressed revolve around news reports of some firms pulling back their teams in India. Here are some of the observations:

1. The fixed costs of the captive units model are very high when the requirements are for about 30-50 people. Most companies that have pulled back-are in this category -as most have overlooked the softcosts associated with managing remote team.

2. The companies best positioned to sustain their outsourced operations in India are those that have large teams or those with specialised products or services that can command premium pricing.
3. An interesting model that seems to be gathering momentum is Outsourcing for Outsourcers-or by partnering with third party outsourcers. The magic word here is TOB - transfer, operate and build- ie a third party firm absorbs the captive unit's employees on its own payroll, and takes over its projects. The example quoted involving a total of 120 employees, indicates the firm has cut costs by 10% to 20%, improved performance by 20% to 50% and cut attrition from 50% annually to less than 20%.
Personally I think it is yet to too early to generalise. In any maturing market, the fittest survive! I think we can see a lot of innovative models that are likely to emerge from these pain points..that will give long term solutions.
In some of the IT companies, we already see a fair amount of recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) happening already-with a partnership mode prevaling over the previous'vendor management' approach.
I also know of a few professional outfits run by HR firms- that leverage on the wealth of industrial experience a third party firm can provide- for an amount equivalent to a junior management's annual salary.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

India Inc needs 700 CEOs & 3000 CXOs in the next two years….

The latest issue of Business World has an interesting article based on a survey by a Top ten executive search firm EMA Partners Internationals (EMA) -which estimates a severe shortage of top level executive talent!!

The study indicates that the financial services, manufacturing & engineering , and the healthcare industries account for almost 45% of the shortage. Retail, real estate, IT, auto & Travel amount to the next 30&-and the Energy, Services , Pharma & Biotech account for the rest.

The primary reasons for driving the demand for high calibre talent :

1. the surging economy that is fuelling corporate growth,

2. the high attrition at middle & senior levels drying up the pipeline of leaders who could replace them,

3. Many senior level executives striking out on their own as entrepreneurs.

The article goes on to touch upon some of the attempts of the large business houses to address this vacuum;

- creating leaders internally ( eg the Tata Administrative Services, Hindustan Unilever, RPGoenka group )

- growing your own leaders ( eg the Aditya Birla group, ICICI group, Mahindra & Mahindra group)

I cannot resist adding one more source !!

- Those with international experience-be it the ‘returning Indians ‘ or the expats keen to have an India experience- this is a great time to look at Options in India.

However, the larger issue –is to ensure how the potential leaders are more likely to stay-and perhaps creating a pipeline of leaders. The only alternative is to for company to have a sound Employee Value Proposition- ‘ companies should create individual development as part of the corporate culture’!

Yes, for the business owners and the Board - there is another challenge they could address –to ensure enough..empowerment for the leaders!!

In the Indian context, there is a fear that a CEOs role is almost 70% execution and tactical-only 30% involves serious strategy –which today is mostly the prerogative of business owners –as well as globally managed companies ..

Is it in the ambit of the HR professionals to sensitise the various stakeholders about the transition required??

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dupont setting up R&D centre at Hyderabad

Dupont is setting up a R&D centre in Hyderabad- one among its sixth outside of the US

The DuPont Knowledge centre will focus on basic research, application development and other knowledge services including IP management.

The company operates in the following businesses in India

-agriculture and nutrition,
-coating and colour technology,
-electronics and telecom,
-performance materials
-and safety and protection products.

Good news for all those aspiring returning Indians...who wanted opportunities outside of IT & ITES sectors! Especially for those who are aware of PhDs who have specialised in molecular biology, bio-informatics and polymer synthesis-please stay tuned!!

It is likely to provide employment for about 300 scientists at the centre and it will be fully operational early next year.

India, career hub for young expats

After middle and senior level foreigners making it to India young professionals who are at the beginning of their career to flock to the country, whose work environment throws them a huge challenge, both professional as well as personal.

The gist of the article:

- around 20,000 to 30,000 expatriates are believed to be working in India.A popular Indian jobsite has over 110,000 profiles of foreigners job seekers registered on the site indicating the (high) level of interest in India.

-Foreigners come to India from South East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Continental Europe and America among other countries for not just the openings in the IT and ITeS sector-but also the emerging industries such as retail, hospitality, manufacturing, analytics, infrastructure, and pharma.

A couple of my clients have been hiring East Europeans and have actually found them to be more career conscious and feel their loyalty is higher. Considering the high attrition -at times due to misguided aspirations of the Indian youth, some of the employers have preferred to employ referrals of these expats-as their longetivity seems more assured!

With increasing globalisation, and use of web 2.0 tools, oflate I have noticed an increased interest in the "Indian magic"-notwithstanding the difference in culture, and perhaps the lack of a structured framework as yet- to enable the smooth transition.

The challenge for the HR fraternity is to proactively address the sensitivities involved in hiring and engaging such employees -not just on the basis of the hygiene factors like money, and look at softer issues as career growth, future, security-while also giving enough freedom for the professional to perform at the optimum level.

Personally, I am very convinced, the next decade with see a lot of global migration of professionals, and those with multicultural and multinational exposure -are the ones to watch out for. You can be sure these expats-would be ambassadors for Indian companies in time to more Indian MNCs go global!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Rupee Appreciation calls for Human Value Appreciation

Diwali this year is unlikely to mean crackers for many Indian professionals - especially for
the ones pampered by the half yearly performance appraisals of late!
Some of the comments by experts:
-"The IT/ITeS players are hit by the double whammy of US subprime crisis and rupee appreciation. It has never been such a bleak scenario. "
- "Several companies are also cutting down their monthly recruitment drive by nearly 35-40%."
-"Indian IT firms that earn bulk of their revenue from global BFSI clients are expecting cost cutting moves internationally will have a trickle-down effect in India as well. A concerted effort will be taken to reduce wage bills by reducing mid-term salary hikes or rewarding a handful few"
-"The middle and senior management professionals have much a wider performance-linked incentive system and hence a smaller hike will translate into higher savings for the company. As a result, several senior people may look for newer jobs and the market is likely to be flooded with CVs"
Personally, we can feel many Indian companies have either frozen their hiring or reduced the pace of their hiring. This is primarily because of the 12-14% increase of costs in India than estimated at the beginning of the year. Clients no more look for people who are just tech savvy.
Praveen Pantula,a HR professional with rich recruiting expertise says " Companies would need to look for the value add a person brings on to the table in terms of the domain expertise or the business aptitude a person is having. You can’t afford to have developers, testers, SMEs separately. Companies are looking for people who have all the skills. A business aptitude at the top of all the skills will definitely be an added advantage."

"When your profit margins are shrinking, you cannot afford to make more number of lateral hires giving the advantage of higher salaries. In the coming years, one need not be surprised if the campus hiring percentages dominate lateral hiring. Even NASSCOM talks about trimming salaries in IT industry. If India has to remain as the capital of services, our Educational system has to strengthen the curriculum with Business relevant courses as well."
Boy, is it a wake up time for all of us??

Monday, October 01, 2007

Setting expectations for India bound professionals

In the recent past, I have come across two articles that revolve around the increasing trend of professionals looking to India.

1. The six qualities for India bound expats needed for the person to succeed.

Personally, I think these are apt for professionals going to any foreign country-as one really cant classify them as only "Indian centric" issues.

2. Written by an Indian based in US-but having a very good pulse, highlights five, nay, eight
top reasons for IT professionals returning to India !

I am inspired to try and expand the horizon, beyond expats and IT professionals -to a larger canvas of all professionals bound to India for professional & personal reasons. It is also pertinent to the large section of those who have gone to the US in the late eighties & early nineties for higher education, have stayed back for citizenship-and now looking eastward.

I wish to play the devil's advocate and try and list down some of the 'wrong reasons' to come back to India !

- Salary as the primary motivation to relocate.

It is amazing how each of the 'aspiring' returning Indians are aware of atleast one in their peer group-who has come to India with a dream offer. Great role. Wonderful pay. Relocation. The works. But thats how it gets "legendary"-because there are more exceptions than the rule!!

My own take - please concentrate on the role on offer, the scope for growth within the company, and a due diligence of your employer's commitment to the India component of business. Am sure once this is the driver- the salary wd fall in the general band-take or give 10% this way or that way.

-Opportunities galore

Opportunities exist in plenty for a variety of skills. There is an acute shortage of middle and senior management professionals. For those already in the senior executive cadre, and those participating roles in the strategic decision making internationally, there is likely to be a dearth of roles -as they are still the bastion of the core management team.

In contrast, as of now, the relative sizes of companies in India are smaller-and so there is a future for those who wish to be handson, grow with the company-and manage the challenges thereof.

-Managing people

The Gen Y is increasingly ambitious, aggressive, and seeks instant gratification. As a manager in India, there is a need to understand them, in order to manage their aspirations better. There is a need to harness the sheer raw talent.

In a matrix organisational stucture, your being away in a remote location has its own dynamics. Those familiar with the Indians -will know there is a premium (fancy) for titles & designations.

-The Forty hour week.

While there are a lot of MNCs and Indian companies-across industries -who have adopted the "5 day working " mode-its rarely as simple as that. With increasing globalisation, most middle managers are reporting into superiors/clients who work in different time zones. There are no guesses to keep track of how many conference calls and meetings actually happen during the "Indian time zone of 9am to 5pm"!!

-The grinding commute to work.

It isnt Mumbai or the metros where you spend an hour and half commuting one way to work. Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune-all are increasingly becoming notorious for the longer time being spent in traffic, simply as the cities are building infrastructure to keep up pace with the burgeoning businesses.

And yes, please come to India -for the same reasons you went abroad.Look at long term opportunites-not just a myopic view of the offer in hand. The work place is throbbing with energy, state of the art technologies, bright youngsters, ...

Its a great place for building a career. And the timing is just right...