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'Employees first' is the new mantra!

February 21, 2007 09:40 IST

D K Srivastava, senior vice-president, corporate human resources, at IT services company HCL Technologies, has reason to smile. The firm's 'employee first' initiative has cut attrition in its infrastructure services division to 16.8 per cent in December 2006, from 23.6 per cent a year ago.

Headcount rose from 28,182 in December 2005 to 38,317 in December 2006, and Srivastava expects it to hit the 100,000 mark by 2010. It's these numbers that led the management to rethink its HR strategies.

HCL embarked on a five-year transformation journey in July 2005 with the aim of achieving market dominance in its business segments.

The 'employee first' initiative is based on the premise that it's the individual who helps organisations deliver value to customers and must therefore be at the forefront of new strategies that aim at higher growth.

The payoff has been quick: Revenues shot up to Rs 1,465.1 crore in the quarter ending December 31, 2006, from Rs 1,054.2 crore (Rs 10.452 billion) in the year-ago quarter- a 39 per cent year-on-year growth.

Srivastava attributes this to increased efficiency triggered by the five-pronged HR programme- Support, Knowledge, Empowerment, Transformation and Recognition- which employees can access through the company intranet.

The five principles form the core of HCL's HR strategy. "To achieve these aims, we have launched more than 70 programmes customised to the needs of employees," Srivastava says.

Each of the principles has separate programmes: 'Support' has virtual assistant Natasha and customised e-zines; 'knowledge' has a knowledge bank and weekly sessions with IT experts; 'empowerment' has mentoring and coaching programmes; 'transformation' has modules focusing on leadership and executive development; and 'recognition' holds rewards and appraisals programmes.

"By imbibing these five principles we will be able to achieve productivity through support, capability through knowledge, service quality through empowerment, adapatability through transformation and drive through recognition," Srivastava explains.

Of these initiatives, those that stand out are 360-degree appraisals, where managers are rated on effectiveness, communication skills and helpfulness (among other parameters) by employees, and the ratings are put on the intranet; 'Smart Service Desk', where they can open an 'electronic trouble ticket' stating a particular problem and ask the company to resolve it; 'Pulse', an employee satisfaction survey; 'Applaud', a monthly rewards and recognition programme; and 'i4XL', an online appraisal system. All these are aimed at making management more accountable to employees.

The net result, says Srivastava, is that "we have been able to engage the workforce more productively." As proof, he cites the 30,000 'tickets' or issues that are raised in the Smart Service Desk programme every month, with a 'closing rate' (number of questions resolved) of 25,000 tickets; the 69 per cent employee participation in the last 360-degree appraisal in July 2006 (this year's expectation is 90 per cent); and 74 per cent employee participation in the annual employee satisfaction survey in May-June 2006.

But the 'employee first' policy is only the first step. "With the kind of growth we anticipate till 2010, we need to try hard to retain the same philosophy across all geographies," he sums up.

Nupur Amarnath
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