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BPOs innovate to tackle attrition malaise

Amriteshwar Mathur | March 22, 2004 08:58 IST

Human resource managers are implementing new strategies to tackle the high level of employee attrition in the business process outsourcing industry.

HR managers at BPOs are now increasingly using a range of non-monetary benefits to keep staff on their payrolls for a long time.

This strategy is gaining in popularity as employers have realised that employee needs have evolved to include more than just better compensation packages and meeting these needs is key to retaining employees.

Employees at BPOs work through the night with their work shifts getting over only at 4 am -- often creating physical and mental stress.

In such a situation it requires HR managers to design policies that would ensure a delicate balance between employees achieving the objectives set out as well as mitigating the difficulties of working late hours.

Also despite high compensation packages, the BPO industry still witness attrition levels above 30 per cent.

Says Pradyut Singh, an HRD consultant, "Non-monetary techniques help to achieve a greater sense of understanding between an employer and employees as they take into account the special needs of employees."

To stem employee churn, ICICI OneSource has introduced a career diversification programme whereby employees who have been with the company for more than 18 months can switch to positions in the ICICI group after passing internal tests.

Company officials point out that the objective of this policy is to ensure that future growth of employees is getting due consideration from the senior management.

Also it highlights that skills learnt in the BPO industry such as customer friendliness and rapid response to customer problems have wider applications in today's competitive markets.

Says Aashu Calapa, vice-president, HR, ICICI OneSource, "This innovative programme is a recognition that employee needs are constantly getting more sophisticated and we are responsive to that trend." They are not alone.

At Neilsoft, they have creche facilities within the company premises, and they have trained teachers to look after young children.

Company officials highlight that women in the age group 28-35 are increasingly selecting the BPO industry as a preferred career choice and as these employees have young children it becomes necessary for companies to provide adequate facilities.

Says Prashanth Chunduri, manager, Neilsoft, "Providing infrastructure support/perquisites that are directly relevant for young families would help to create greater mutual trust and collaboration between the company and its employees." Other companies such as Wipro's Spectramind have introduced medical insurance for their employees and they also provide 24-hour medical facilities for employees.

And realising that housing is getting increased priority, especially in a metro city like Mumbai, companies like Transworks Information Services and Zenta Technologies which are already providing accommodation to their senior staff, are contemplating this for lower level staff.

It could also include paying the entire deposit amount for flats or a certain percentage of the registration fees. Apart from improving long-term work prospects, HR managers are providing life enhancers in the form of community or sporting activities in a bid to improve staff morale.

At E-Funds International the company is focussing on social and sporting events such as organising six-a-side soccer games and cricket matches.

Achieving rapid success in lowering employee turnover rate is key else BPO companies would find the operating environment even more difficult -- as several new multinationals are likely to enter this segment in the medium term and they could poach trained staff from existing companies.

This factor was highlighted in a KPMG and Nasscom survey which pointed to a shortfall in manpower amounting to 0.5 million by 2009 and the urgent need for the industry to respond.

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