Saturday, July 24, 2010

Do you believe there is a glass ceiling for pure technical people in Indian companies?

A lot of IT people returning to India have rich technical experience because they have worked as developers/designers/architects while in the US. Is this technical expertise appreciated in India and can a pure technical person earn as much if not more than a manager?

The reason I pose this question is to start a healthy conversation in this area because I am hearing from quite a few bright experienced tech people interested in returning to India that they are being asked to take on roles in line with their years of experience rather than in areas of their strengths.

As you know, in many projects executed by Indian IT companies, the design and architecture is substandard (I have seen and talked to others who corroborate) and the word "executed" sometimes takes on a completely different meaning!

This is because, as soon as somebody has about 3+ years of experience in a tech role, they get bumped up to become module leaders and soon on to project leader/project manager/account manager etc. These guys end up being neither technically proficient nor capable of managing people/projects/customers. Those of us in the IT industry have seen this time and again over the last 20 years or so.

Today, many of the more proactive IT companies are realizing this and are wooing experienced, technically sound Indians from the US. But the question is will they then allow these tech proficient people to continue being techies and treat them well or will standard business practices and mindsets try and convert them or force them to become "managers" (in order to move up within the company), and thereby continue to relegate design/architecture to sub-three year experienced engineers?

Will the returning engineers have the courage to stand up and fight for the "tech" status so that their contribution to successful projects are duly recognized and rewarding appropriately?

Obviously, I am not saying managers are not required. All I am saying is that seasoned tech architects are also required.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Managing work and time

I spend a lot of time these days talking to IT companies about ways of supercharging employee referral programs and improving the participation levels of their employees.

One common refrain I repeatedly hear is that their employees are already working long hours and thus don't have the bandwidth to think of the right candidates to refer.

While we, at, have build systems to help improve employee referrals without taxing the employees (by way of brainwork or time), I cannot but help wonder how an entire population can be continuously overworked.

Obviously, working longer hours does not necessarily mean higher productivity. And some of the snide comments from managers and above clearly illustrates the fact that there is not any significantly higher productivity. So I think it is time for all of us - as individuals as well as companies - to take a look at how we work.

A good debate on this would be illuminating and to start off, I will put forth some of my observations.

1. Many of the employees are bachelors, in the age group of 23 - 27, who are not yet married, and live in bachelor pads. They usually don't have girlfriends/boyfriends, or a interesting life outside of office. No one ever told them to have fun, only to get a good job and work hard.

2. The next category of employees are the recently married ones who are torn between wanting to go home to their spouses early and continuing their well-trained long standing behaviour of staying late. Compounding their dilemma is the fact that the younger group continues to stay longer hours forcing them to leave while (nearly) everyone else is working.

3. The managers also look askance at people leaving early (on time, actually) with conscious or sub-conscious repercussions at appraisals time. The managers themselves cannot leave early for fear that once they leave, the rest would just up-and-leave resulting in productivity loss. So they remain back to lead by example, which is what makes the bachelors stay late in the first place!

With India churning out more and more of the younger generation, the demographics of this crowd is not going to change anytime soon. And today, we have enough data to clearly show that neither productivity nor quality of work (or of life in general for that matter) is improving because of working longer hours.

I have always felt that if people had a life outside (a love life, a hobby, active sports, some other time sink), they would plan their work hours better and this will automatically correct the situation. However, culturally all these non-work activities are anathema to us and that has been ingrained into us from a very early age. So to change the behaviour of an entire generation is proabably not going to be feasible.

Instead, what if companies demanded that their employees should not stay beyond 8 hrs and started to penalize their employees for either not completing their work or for staying longer hours. Would this not force people to plan their work day better leading to higher productivity and a better life?

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Recruitment firms provide sub-par services.

As part of my job, I meet a lot of HR Heads and talent acquisition managers. Most of them whine about their empanelled recruitment vendors. Yet I can see that most companies rely quite heavily on these placement agencies or recruitment firms to find their talent. It seems to me that companies can't live without them nor live with them.

The feedback from companies is obviously bad because the results clearly show that success rates for each of the vendors is actually abysmally low. However, is the blame squarely on the shoulders of the recruitment firms? I think not. I will explain below what happens day in and day out between companies and their empanelled recruitment firms and you will see that the whole process is completely out of whack. It is a miracle that a few get placed at all out of all this wasted effort.

Here is how it goes:

A large company empanels a few hundred ( between 100 to as high as 500) recruitment firms to help them find candidates. Whenever they have an opening, they inform all the recruitment firms. The recruitment firms immediately login to their respective naukri/monster/timesjobs accounts and search for candidates. As everybody knows any search criteria on these sites results in thousands of matched candidate, thanks to keyword padding employed by most candidate. Obviously no recruiter has the time to go through 100s of resume, leave alone the thousands that are returned. So they look for the candidates who have updated their profile in the last day or so (under the assumption that anybody who has updated their profile recently must be actively looking for a job). This narrows down the results to around about 100 candidates, many of them professional job seekers who update their profile everyday to remain in the top 100 (this is the candidate's version of SEO). Then the recruiter starts calling all these candidates and lines them up for interview.

This exact process is happening simultaneously across all the hundreds of empanelled recruitment firms! Which means that a few hundred recruitment firms are all calling pretty much the same 100 candidates neglecting the remain tens of thousands of relevant candidates who did not feature in the "recently updated" 100 list.

It has been know for a single candidate to fend over a 100 calls from different recruitment agencies about the same job! The candidate says yes to everyone or refuses to answer his phone or feels that there is too much competition for that job or thinks he is in great demand and starts to put up his price.

Each recruitment firm then downloads all these 100-odd resumes and sends them off to the company HR. This is done as soon as possible because if a candidate gets selected, only the recruitment firm that first mailed the resume gets paid. So there is a clear race condition here and many of the empanelled firms would have sent the resume even before calling and verifying with the candidate if he/she is interested at all in the position.

The company which advertised the opening now has 100s of copies of pretty much the same 100-odd resumes, which of course they have to de-duplicate (de-multiplicate actually, if there is such a word) and then find any good ones out of this.

Once you realize that these are not even the top 100 candidates in terms of fitness for purpose (but just the top 100 that had updated their profiles recently), it does not take a rocket scientist to realize that the number candidates chosen will eventually be abysmally low.

And yet, this has been happening for years now and is happening right now all over India. Go figure!