IT And The HR Headache

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on January 24, 2012

Too many choices can, sometimes, lead to a headache. An average Indian IT professional has innumerable choices but he’s not the one with the headache. He reserves that for the men and women bearing the HR flag. High attrition rates have always been a cause for concern in the IT industry but, in the recent past, these rates have reached a fever pitch and a panacea for it seems more like a wishful thinker’s dream.

IT and HR Headache

According to Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman, "People leave managers not companies." This little statement has more than a semblance of truth. The IT industry hires some of the best techies across the length and breadth of the country. After putting them through the grind of technical training programmes, they are in a position to deliver as software engineers.

A competent software engineer usually becomes a team leader within 4-5 years, and this is where the problem begins to kick in. Promotions are based on technical competency and number of years of experience. A technically competent man doesn’t necessarily have the aptitude to become a competent manager. The skill set required to deal with technical specifications, algorithms and code is not the same as that needed to be an effective leader of men.

After a few more years, a team leader is promoted to the role of project manager and has to handle a greater number of employees. This chain continues but what the techie who is climbing up the managerial ladder doesn’t receive is the training required to manage people and other soft skills.

Organizations refrain from training such young managers as managerial training incurs a lot of cost, and high attrition rates mean that a manager who has been trained might not stay with the organization long enough for the cost to be recovered. Most techies today work under such managers, who lack elementary people skills. This helps us connect Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman’s statement and the alarming attrition rates.

A young and energetic workforce needs flexibility and freedom. The more you restrict them, the more is the vexation. An exasperated employee doesn’t always isolate his sentiments. While many organizations worldwide give employees the freedom of casual dressing and flexible work hours, many IT biggies in India still insist on formal wear and have curtailed freedom by imposing inflexible working hours. ‘Work from home’ which is a means for providing flexibility to employees, especially women, is also not encouraged. In today’s age of high connectivity, ‘work from home’ is a pragmatic option, which if used effectively would be beneficial to both, the employee and the employer. Though many organizations have a flat organizational structure, there are quite a few that believe strictly in hierarchy. Needless to say, the latter isn’t preferred.

HR managers need to appreciate the fact that an attractive salary package isn’t the only incentive for a techie to hold on to his job. With salaries not differing much across various organizations, innovative methods are needed to instill a sense of belonging in the employees toward the organization.

First of all, one cannot run away from the fact that since a large majority of the workforce is from a technical background, most managers will be techies. But before techies are given roles that involve leading a set of people, basic people management training should be made mandatory and the onus of implementing this lies on the shoulders of HR.

Organizations need to be more transparent and communicate more effectively with their employees. Nothing irks an employee more than a business daily/magazine that tells him more about his organization that what the senior management does.

It’s high time for the big bosses to realize that though this is a technology industry, the driving force is the competency of its highly skilled people to deliver time and again and this realization has to be manifest in the way they communicate, make policies and act. HR can no longer be treated as a support function; it has to be treated as a strategic partner that evolves as per the needs of the organization and the industry as a whole. More proactive HR measures will be needed in the future and the ability to empathize with the expectations of the employees will be pivotal.

The last thing that a man with a plethora of choices would appreciate is apathy and many IT professionals crib about their employers’ indifference. As an HR manager, one needs to remember that apathy begets apathy. Gone are the days when skilled people chased after big employers. The tides have changed direction. The future leaders in this hyper competitive industry will be the ones that know how to chase after and retain the most adept minds. It is better to act now than to have wrinkles on one’s forehead thinking of a fire-fighting reaction.

This article has been authored by Rohit Haldankar from WE School (Welingkar), Mumbai.

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