Retain with a Personal Touch

Retain with a Personal Touch

There was a time when government jobs were much sought after. For one reason mainly – job security and the accompanying benefits. The money earned in itself was not the main criterion.

And then came a time – the jet age – where making quick money, finding greener pastures at the drop of the hat and job-hopping became common. If someone stuck to a company for more than two years in the private sector, he was a wonder.

While this paints a rosy picture for the job seeker, for the employer, it is anything but that. Training a staff and making them ready for the job, and then losing them to a competitor is frustrating. It is more so when the process has to be repeated with a similar result while never being able to stop it from repeating.

“It is not only about monetary compensation. We give them longevity, stability and a sense of belonging. We have an attractive incentive system which keeps them motivated,” says Sriram Vaidyanathan, Director, Integrated Securities”

Manpower retention has become a burgeoning challenge that has hit practically all organisations across all sectors, be it small, medium or large. While each company handles this issue based on its structure and mandate, what is perhaps common to all is to identify the lure to change jobs and come up with innovative strategies that help them counter the employee turnaround.

The big lure

Krishan Guptaa, managing director and global chief-executive, Organic India, an organic foods company in Lucknow, feels that money is not the main reason why people leave. “I think it is the work atmosphere that drives people away. If there is politics or lack of recognition, then people tend to leave,” says he. The company has a staff strength of 450 in India and abroad.

For Bengaluru-based activecubes, a young analytics company with 45 plus employees, attrition is a new problem. The company commenced operations in the year 2007 and for them, recruitment challenges began only in the last quarter or so, when the market started opening up. “Job market is really on an upswing and we can see people are taking full advantage shopping around for the best offers,” says Satyan Warrier, manager-operations, activecubes. “This does cause a considerable challenge because more people these days are accepting offers, but, often not turning up for the jobs!” he points out.

For Integrated Securities, a Chennai-based financial services company with 1200 employees, attrition rate is around eight per cent. And their challenge in retaining staff is something that most family owned enterprises face. “We have people who use this as a training ground,” says Sriram Vaidyanathan, director. “The common problem is matching the salary offered by competitors backed by private equities,” he adds. According to him, it is very difficult to pay the market salary structure. “Most BFSI companies have funding from private equities. They follow the hire and fire model. All the people who left us in 2007 are now without a job. They got 60 per cent more salary when they left us in 2007. It is very difficult to convince a youngster about the importance of longevity.”

Targeting longevity

Having said that, salary expectations do make people look for other opportunities. Warrier also feels that in retention strategies, monetary benefits alone can never be the solution to handle attrition. “I believe you need to have good quality of work, great opportunity to learn and a really great working environment. If you can put this together, folks will go nowhere, they will stay with you,” he says. And for this, he believes that aspects such as open culture, camaraderie, and ability to expand personal horizons beyond work are critical.

Agrees Sriram, “It is not only about monetary compensation. We give them longevity, stability and a sense of belonging. We have an attractive incentive system which keeps them motivated.” This includes housing for all their staff in Mumbai. Their backoffice setup is in the same apartment complex. “In Mumbai, housing and travel are very important for any employee. Sense of belonging and empowerment are two things a family-owned enterprise can give compared to any professionally run organisation,” he explains. The firm also has an employee trust that gives out equity to proven performers.

Sriram believes that monetary and non-monetary benefits work together to help retain talent. During recession, people normally realise job security is more important than monetary compensation. Balancing the two is very important. Stability and longevity are very crucial for any individual. “People should be clear about their career goals. You cannot keep shifting jobs hoping someone will hire you for a better salary,” he cautions.

Organic India too believes that the work environment and personal touch matter when retaining talent. “We do not work like a company, but, like a large family,” he stresses. To prove that it is not all talk, Organic India has action points that reinforce this feeling of bonhomie. Though a structured organisation, access to the managing director is one of the critical factors in ensuring transparency, like in a flat organisation. They have 12-14 mentors that handle 14-15 people each, under the concept of Vikas Chakra, a mentoring programme. These mentors are there for the well being of the employees in their Chakra and also establish personal rapport with the families of the people to enhance their sense of belonging.

Until two years ago, Organic India faced the problem of losing sales staff in the retail division. To counter this, it introduced a concept called ‘Continuous Improvement’ and every month, everyone assembles and any employee can read out the improvement they have implemented and the benefits that have resulted from that. The best improvement is rewarded. “There is no need for the boss to project his team. Individuals can talk of their achievements on their own,” points out Guptaa. In addition to this, it is the colleagues who rate an employee and not the bosses, thus ensuring acceptability as well removing apprehensions of favouritism and bias.

“I also wish my employees personally on their birthdays, wherever they may be,” says Guptaa. “It takes just about 15 minutes of my time since with so many employees, the number of people to be wished can vary, but, it adds to the positive energy,” he adds.

Recently, Organic India has also introduced a new initiative: Whenever there is a vacancy, first it is advertised internally. Anybody can aspire for any post, with or without the qualification required. The company will provide the training. As a result, two workers have become shift managers, and sales persons, territory managers. This boosts confidence of the employees and also gives them an opportunity to shift their jobs if they have the interest and the aptitude.

“We know our people, we know our problems, we work out the solutions. What is required is that I should make it a personal agenda to see it work,” says Guptaa, clearly indicating that the buck stops with him.

Personal involvement

The need to find approval and recognition and to be able to work in an atmosphere free of fears and insecurities, clearly, are far more important than the money involved. A clear growth path along with transparency creates a healthy work environment, encouraging performers to stay on and derive the benefits.

Organisations that realise this and let this sense of belonging and togetherness percolate the ranks, along with providing meaningful benefits, emerge as leaders in containing attrition.