The ‘great attrition’: It’s a difficult time to be a boss

Managers on a desperate hunt to retain talent as jop offers galore
The ‘great attrition’: It’s a difficult time to be a boss

NEW DELHI: A record number of people have either quit their organisations or are planning to. The ‘great attrition’ is real and it’s happening now, particularly impacting the IT industry. As companies see record attrition, now is a difficult time for managers, as they have to adapt to a cultural shift, where the focus has shifted from work to workers. For months to come, all eyes will be on the bosses.

Spoilt for choices
According to research firm Gartner, the attrition rate rose from 10% in 2020 to 20% in 2021. Some IT service providers are even battling higher attrition rates of up to 30%. Another survey by the firm between May and June 2021 found that nearly half of today’s applicants are considering at least two job offers simultaneously.

During the July-September stretch, attrition at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) — the country’s largest IT firm — was at 11.9%, up from 8.6% in the April-June quarter. Both Infosys and Wipro’s attrition rate is as high as 20% quarter-on-quarter, according to exchange filings. In the September quarter of FY22, Noida-based HCL Technologies’ attrition rate rose to 15.7% from 11.8% in the June quarter. On the other hand, the Q2 FY21 attrition number for TCS and Infosys was in single digits at 8.9% and 7.8%, respectively; whereas, Wipro had reported an 11% talent loss.

Tech Mahindra, which saw its attrition climb to 21% at the end of September as against 14% in the year-ago period and 17% in June, flagged supply side challenges as demand for talent increases and blamed those for restricting its operating profit margins which stood flat as costs due to attrition and sub-contracting went up.

Managers and team leaders have no time to sit back, as they are on a desperate hunt to find and seize talent in what seems like a war-like situation. In fact, according to a survey of 572 HR leaders in July 2021 by Gartner, with employees having more job opportunities to choose from, 91% of HR leaders are increasingly concerned about employee turnover in the coming months. “In this experience level, people are still not emotionally connected with the company and sometimes, it is easier to move around,” Pravin Rao, Chief Operating Officer and Whole-time Director, Infosys, had said during the company’s earnings call.

Retention plans
Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp clocked the highest attrition rate of 33% among IT peers in the quarter ended September, even as CEO Brian Humphries said that “the company is putting tremendous effort to address both the hearts and minds of employees through compensation as well as sense of belonging, training and development and a career path to retain them”.

IT firms are facing high attrition across levels over the last few months, says Neeti Sharma, Senior Vice President, TeamLease, as a result of which, managers are facing challenges in executing and delivering projects on time.

Companies, she says, are also focusing on value-based retention factors such as higher retention bonus, 100% variable payout, performance incentives, rapid promotions, upskilling & reskilling, certification opportunities, career enhancement programs, mental wellbeing amongst others. “We have all heard that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Well, that might have some truth to it, but the recent spurt in attrition is pointing to reasons that are beyond just the immediate supervisors, and indeed, beyond the company too,” says Sanju Ballurkar, President at Experis IT, part of ManpowerGroup India.

This makes it all the more difficult for bosses to understand and adapt, but they are not left with many options but to pivot, as attrition, according to various studies, is only going to accelerate. Ballurkar adds that the people managers, while still very instrumental in controlling attrition, have to look for a multi-dimensional approach to address the impact resulting from attrition. “Global triggers, like what we are experiencing now, can produce unprecedented levels of attrition in specific industries. Hence, people managers have that extra responsibility to do their part in managing attrition in such a scenario,” he says.

For Ashish Bhambri, Talent acquisition lead at ZS, India, the new landscape that is evolving since the pandemic has brought forth the need of  looking beyond immediate requirements of specific business units. “Initially, it was challenging to make that transition from the old ways of hiring to new, alternative, and unconventional recruitment practices that are more technology-driven. In that period of uncertainty, what really helped me was pivoting my conversations with business leaders to focus more on the needs than just the roles and align those to the long-term hiring strategy of the firm.”

He added, “Another interesting development for me has been the gradual shift of focus towards non-monetary aspects such as learning, culture, and flexibility. I am personally invested in leveraging the confluence of these three aspects and fine-tuning the overall employee experience at ZS.”

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