Indian tech tries to retain top workers

At a time when most IT companies are reducing employee numbers to cut costs, tech majors such as Wipro, TCS and Infosys are rechanellizing their manpower. Sabbaticals are more common and people on the bench are being asked to undergo longer and more rigorous training programs.

Wipro has asked some of its non-billable and skilled employees to move to subsidiary Wipro Infotech on the same pay package as earlier; but they will continue to be on the payrolls of Wipro Technologies.

"These are not under performers, but talented people we don't want to lose. The move to Infotech is currently for a year, and this will give them a chance to be productive," said Pratik Kumar, Wipro executive vice president of human resources. This will also help the company in sustaining high utilization rates.

The other option given to employees, who have been on the bench for over six months, is a special program which allows them to come to work for 10 days a month, at half their salary. "This allows them to take up certification programs, work on innovation projects and help in creating question banks for domain specific internal tests," said Kumar. "Once we see an opening for them on a project, we will transfer them immediately."

TCS has also put its benched employees on high-end training programs in areas such as enterprise resource planning, business intelligence and analytics. "We are building a larger skill set as we would like to be ready when the demand picks up," said a TCS spokesperson. The IT company has also invited its employees to write research papers on technology that can be used by the company.

Reducing employee numbers for saving costs is a short-term solution, said Nandita Gurjar, head of global HR at Infosys. "When demand picks up, we'll be hiring skill pools at a higher cost; there will also be the cost of extra training. Weed out non-performers, but retain talent even if they are not being utilized currently."

While Infosys has said that 50 employees, at any given point of time, can take a year off and work for an NGO at half their salaries, its peer Wipro has introduced project rejuvenate where employees, across all levels, can take a year-long sabbatical and pursue their hobbies.

This is not restricted to those on the bench, but also for those working on projects. Even though these people are asked to take a pay cut, it does not matter.

"As long as you get to keep your job and do fun things to de-stress, a pay cut doesn't matter," said a Wipro employee.