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My father joined the Indian Air Force straight out of college and spent over 35 years with them. Growing up, I believed that a career was working hard at a chosen workplace and slowly climbing the ranks. Of course, if one was capable and smart while being hard-working, there was a good chance to make it all the way to the top!
My career began about 20 years back. Today, I manage a young workforce spread across several countries including the US, Costa Rica, Mexico and Brazil. For today’s generation, a workplace is not a fixed location where one slowly learns the ropes and climbs the rungs. Rather, it’s dynamic and rapidly changing. One is expected to contribute and add value. This transformation in the mindset has changed work dynamics and attitude towards careers.
Today, my biggest challenges are attracting the right (skilled and capable) talent, and retaining them. This requires managing expectations of the millennial workforce and keeping them engaged. And why not? Allegiance to the employer is at an all-time low. Talent and succession planning usually tops the priority list, whether you are a CEO or a supervisor. In fact, in his book Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about how having ‘the right people on the bus and in the right seats’ is critical for creating a successful and great company.
When it comes to creating a harmonious, successful and symbiotic relationship with a company’s biggest asset, its people (especially, for services organisations), I believe there are five simple truths that need to be understood. But first it is important to understand the fundamental forces that influence the employee-employer relationship:
1. Protected labour markets and regulations. Understanding each country’s complex labour laws and regulation is vital to operate successfully and be competitive. Reporting employee ratios, workplace injuries, managing department of labour complaints, lawsuits, equal pay for genders etc. are just a few challenges that enterprises face every day. Brazil, for instance is one of the most complex markets to manage talent with strict regulations on wage (above board salary hikes every year is a mandate), role definition and associated pay ranges, and several federally-defined guidelines. And it doesn’t end there. Former employees taking their employer to court are common and unsubstantiated complaints are not penalised. In 2013, an astounding 2.7 million Brazilians filed cases against their employers for violating labour laws.
2. Employers and employees view work relationships as transient. Employees, when not actively engaged often perceive the company as uncaring. If not addressed, they stop perceiving the organisation as a place for a long-term career, but as one that pays the bills and provides a training ground to hone skills, build a resume, and increase employability.
3. Increasing competition: In many ways, training large labour pools is disadvantageous as lateral hiring is at an all-time high. Organisations are constantly dealing with build-versus-buy balance for their talent needs.
4. Societal pressures. This generation demands instant gratification. I call them the generation of now. If I do a great job, I want to be recognised today and not wait till my appraisal. I am a precious resource and come at a premium.
5. Democratisation, usage and availability of information. The increasing use of social media (GlassDoor, Twitter) means employers can, in a matter of minutes, get a sense of what employees think about the company.
The five simple truths
1. Recognise that each region is different. You cannot have the same set of guidelines across countries. Consider this: In India, we only hire graduates but in Brazil, almost every company hires interns who are not graduates yet. That is the way of the land.
2. Allow movements, both internal and across geographies. Internal job movement is important and so is the openness to fast-track good candidates. Employees are usually excited to work in a different region. So put in place a strong Human Resources, Legal & Compliance team to manage movements within divisions and regions. Having a global mobility desk will be key.
3. Communicate regularly. Whether it’s good news or bad, employees are more engaged if you communicate regularly. It’s easy for employees to perceive a lack of interest when you do not communicate enough.
4. Address the small issues. Typically, it is the smaller tactical issues such as on-time claims reimbursement that employees face that cause the most angst. There needs to be a mechanism to quickly close these day–to-day tactical issues.
5. Don’t over manage. Listen to your employees. They like becoming a part of the process and not being managed. Empower the team leaders to run their operations, and support them with local business-specific policies.
- By Aniket Maindarkar is Head, Americas Operations, Infosys BPO