Keeping employees happy

in India are plying staff with benefits such as steam baths and Jacuzzis, and
family social events in a bid to retain talent, writes Helen Rowe

Indian company Infosys appears to have solved the attraction and retention
problem. No-one seems to want to leave the technology firm where staff benefit
from everything from stock options to policies aimed at keeping their family
life running smoothly. Apparently staff – known as Infoscions – do gripe from
time to time, but mostly about the amount of tax they pay.

earlier this year as India’s best employer by HR consultants Hewitt Associates,
the company is widely admired and its policies emulated by competitors. Like
other leading South Asian companies, Infosys knows attracting talent – and keeping
employees happy where they are – is vital given the particular challenges firms
in the region face.

main problem for HR practitioners in South Asia is that the skills of the most
sought-after employees are so easily transferable across borders. Staff with
crucial skills can find employment almost anywhere in the world, particularly
in the US. Indeed, they continue to be in great demand internationally and
command high salaries.

Asian-based firms have to provide this group of employees, most notably IT
specialists, with good reason to stay. Infosys has largely achieved that aim
with an ambitious range of policies that leaves virtually no staff need unmet.
In particular, in a region where the extended family unit is still strong,
there is heavy emphasis on policies that benefit the family members of

to Infosys’ head of HR, Hema Ravichandar, those who do leave do so largely for
unavoidable family reasons or to return to higher education. Many of those
later return to the company.

biggest challenge has been to recruit, empower and retain the best and
brightest talent," says Ravichandar. "To do this we’ve designed a
comprehensive compensation and benefits package. We provide loans to employees
at all levels from the day they join to address their needs – whether it is for
housing, or to buy a car or personal computer.

on joining, every employee is granted stock options, and there’s medical
insurance cover for employees and their families that does not curtail expenses
under any of the heads that a normal insurance policy would."

its "campus", as it is known, in Bangalore, Infosys has also aimed
high. Its aim, according to Ravichandar, is holistic, to enrich employees
"intellectually, physically, emotionally and materially".

site boasts food courts, gyms, saunas, steam baths, tennis courts, an outdoor
Jacuzzi and a 5,000 sq ft swimming pool, to name just a few of the facilities.
Social events include employees’ families, and children explore their parents’
workplace through the firm’s "Petit Infoscion" days.

Misra, a consultant with Hewitt, says the attractive working environment at
Infosys is an example of the way companies operating in south Asia have raised
their game over the past 10 years to prevent staff being lured to Europe and
the US.

has happened in South Asia is that the mobility of the top talent has forced
companies to increasingly adopt global practices," says Misra. "This
has led to top companies such as Infosys setting global standards that have
been followed by others. It is about addressing employees’ needs and HR keeping
its ear to the ground in terms of any changes in those needs and requirements
to keep the policies effective. That is the way it is going to continue."

says policies that provide benefits to employees’ families are particularly
effective in South Asia, a region in which even Bollywood stars are heard
talking constantly about "honouring" their parents. In contrast to
many regions, family has never been anything other than central to the lives of
the vast majority of the population.

leading companies have also tried to focus on enriching the family life of
their staff as an attraction and retention tool. At Procter & Gamble’s
Indian operation, the company will meet the cost of any retraining expenses for
the spouses of relocated staff to help them gain new employment. After the
extent of late working became a concern several years ago, a taskforce was also
created. The result was a host of flexible working options from compressed work
weeks to job shares.

Hewlett-Packard, there’s an annual family ball and a day off once a year to
mark a special occasion of the individual employee’s choice. On this day, each
member of staff has the option of taking their family out for a meal paid for
by HP.

initiatives include bank ICICI’s Saturday morning kids’ club, as well as
scholarships and a monthly "learning" excursion for employee’s
children, while Hindustan Lever helps children gain places at good schools and
provides holiday homes at a nominal cost.

Madhavi Misra says the success of these family-focused policies means they will
increasingly become the norm for skilled staff in the region. Given the surplus
of unskilled manpower, however, it is unlikely that smaller employers will feel
compelled to go down the same road for many years, if ever.

approach in relation to the families of staff is almost overwhelming,"
adds Misra. "Policies are very much aimed at integrating the family and involving
them in the company too. There’s a level of involvement that probably wouldn’t
be tolerated by staff in other countries where they might prefer to keep more
of a distance between their home and work lives, but these are countries
without the particular cultural background and family focus that applies in
South Asia."

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