An upturn in global technology spending is creating an employees' market for jobs in Indian outsourcing. That's why the impact on staff loyalty could be significant, says Saritha Rai.
India's outsourcing industry appears caught up in a ferocious, all-out war for talent. That fierce competition is entirely understandable, given the upwardly revised hiring requirements of India's top outsourcing firms in the current fiscal year: Tata Consultancy Services needs 40,000 people, while Infosys Technologies requires 36,000.
Clearly the industry is still wary of the bad economic news coming out of Europe. But Indian outsourcing's mainstay, the US outsourcing market, is rebounding faster than expected.
Desperate situations demand desperate measures. Recently, multinational Accenture kicked off its placement process early in some top Indian colleges, violating a pact with its Indian rivals. That move sent Wipro, Infosys and TCS scurrying to complain to India's IT industry body, Nasscom. They said Accenture had broken their joint agreement on only hiring students in their final semester.
Indian hiring trends
Such aggression is an indicator that hiring trends are tuning into the upturn in global technology spending. Workers are reaping the windfall. These days in the industry, the old trespassers-will-be-recruited joke is back in circulation. Pay raises, perks and pizza parties have reappeared.
"IT workers understand that they are playing in one of the most important and fastest-changing industries in the world," Vineet Nayar, CEO of New Delhi-based HCL Technologies, India's fifth-largest outsourcing firm, told me last week.
Nayar, the author of the recently published book entitled Employees first, customers second, says employee loyalty is an outdated mantra. No employee will stick with a company because he or she has a relationship with it. "That really isn't enough anymore," says Nayar, whose book about employee empowerment seems in tune with India's hot outsourcing jobs market.
Given the stiff competition, recruitment managers have to get inventive when chasing talent.
Poaching from competitors
Recruiters at TCS, Infosys and even mid-tier MphasiS, HP's IT services company, are busy enticing former employees back from competitors. Infosys, which spent $180m in training new hires last year, has formalised an ex-employee programme that it calls Green Channel. Through this programme, the company fast-tracks the processing time for hiring former employees. A similar programme at MphasiS is called Homecoming.
Large technology firms are using social networking tools such as LinkedIn to proposition and poach mid-level staff. MphasiS has created a Facebook hiring page, called The Great MphasiS Treasure Hunt to woo talent in application software. HCL has a Facebook page and directs prospective candidates to the company's YouTube videos.
It is getting infinitely tougher to recruit good talent for mid-level and senior positions, concedes HCL's Nayar. "We are competing in the global talent pool alongside strong companies from all over the world."
Social networking tools make it easier to ensnare contented employees or those not actively job-hunting, and also help recruiters connect with senior managers. It is certainly time-consuming but HR experts say it otherwise comes at zero cost.
Smaller outsourcing firms that are facing a staffing crunch are looking at alternative approaches and scouring geeky events such as hackathons and Code Jams for talent. Zynga, the creator of the Farmville and Mafia Wars games on Facebook, says hiring is no longer the sole responsibility of its human resources managers. Tech managers too are actively scouting for team members on technical forums such as StackOverflow.
Start a thread, throw a technical challenge and seek out those who offer the brightest and most innovative solutions, explains Deepa Naidu, HR manager at Zynga's India unit based in Bangalore. Companies use these strategies sparingly because they only work when searching for bright tech brains and not in mass recruitment drives, she says.
Whether companies are recruiting in the thousands or searching for that one key senior-level executive, the battle for talent could turn increasingly ugly in the coming months.
Saritha Rai is an India-based journalist and commentator who covers technology, business and society from her ringside seat in Bangalore.