Attrition And New Recruits

June 01, 2008
Tanay Behera

Attrition is a growing concern for many the firms across various sectors in different corners of the world but today the pain is felt more in India. This bruise gets highlighted more in an Indian context because of the growing gap between the growing economy and the engines which are partners in this ride to deliver. Because of employee attrition few initiatives are put on the back burner. The HR managers are having a tough time locating a suitable replacement with required experience and ability, to fill up the vacancies created on account of exit of key employees.

The points that I mention here as to why employees, especially new joinees leave the firm, a little after the embryonic stage of their job career cycle are from what I have seen in the real world corporate dynamics, heard about experiences from friends and few from the learnings and readings from various articles, journals and blogposts. These points are mostly centered around those who have spent their time and energy in the industry (mostly IT/Tech/Tech Services/Engineering) from a range of one year to four years after their graduation from an engineering school or a technical institute. Even few of the points apply to those who don a much higher number of years experience hat. The points mentioned below are not in any order of significance or priority and is just a compendium of views.

1. Opportunities available: The present economy has opened up the doors of opportunities. If a person is skilled, smart and is an inventory of ideas, s/he is like an appetizing cake, waiting for the market to react. Present day progressive forward looking youth aspire to see their career advancement as well as improvement in his financial earnings in the shortest possible time. Demand for smart talent is always there, so when an individual doesn't find his/her present place of work to offer a hotfooting atmosphere, there are other avenues to explore may be in another firm, a start-up or a similar place.

Thanks to his own ambition, and to the Indian outsourcing boom, he escaped. He gained admission to the best engineering school in India, then landed a job that he could hardly have dreamed of as a child: writing software for Oracle, the U.S. technology giant.

"I fell in love," he said, recalling his first visit to Oracle's campus in Bangalore.

But Jain's zest eventually fizzled under the repetitive rigors of the Indian back office. So he did what a parade of burned-out functionaries in Bangalore have begun doing: He quit outsourcing to create his own start-up - in his case, designing cellphone software that blocks calls from telemarketers.

2. Incorrect picture painted in campus placement talks: Many global firms work as different legal entities/operating units but under one global brand umbrella in India. To make things clear, let’s take a fictitious firm 'Desicritics Corp', which has under it many legal entities such as ' Desicritics R&D Center', ' Desicritics Software Services Center', ' Desicritics Consulting Team', ' Desicritics Technologies', etc. In most campus placements, ' Desicritics' would go as a single team for hiring but the offer letters are delivered by the different groups under its canopy. To a campus recruit, who is not aware of all these internal corporate crosswords everything appears to be the same. But after working in the industry for a year or two, when s/he realizes that s/he was offered a cozen pill, looking for opportunities elsewhere is the most pragmatic option.

3. Big names don’t matter much anymore: Today big brands in job market do not draw as much awe as it used to few years back. Big names are subtly occupying increasingly lower positions in a candidate's priority list. Individuals are perfectly fine working with small and mid tier firms because it's a known fact that sometimes the biggies cannot match the salaries offered by successful second-rung companies which functions to an extent on a start up blueprint. More so many big firms have even now withdrawn ESOPs, which were the main draw a few years ago. In contrast smaller companies are able to offer profit-sharing plans, interesting projects and more responsibility at an early stage in the candidate's career. This is like a ready made dish for a candidate working in a big firm shrouded with global policies, indefinite/infinite processes, layers of politics, and most important lack of visibility in a big crowd.
In just 3 short years, the world has changed. When I wrote this column for rediff.com in June 2004, it was still a big deal to join one of the Big Five. Except, perhaps at an IIT.

With the rising aspirations of fresh grads the same jobs have lost their sheen. The net has to be spread wider and wider, to tier 2 and tier 3 colleges, which would not be on the recruitment map at all a couple of years ago.

At a lesser known college it is a matter of pride that 'Infosys picked up 6 students'. The feeling is that of having 'arrived'.

But next year when 60 join, and then 100, the same 'we are being recruited like alu and pyaaz' feeling sets in.
Bottom line is: 'Aapne kaam se maatlab raakho, yeh big brand maain rakha kya hai'.

4. Company and personal goals clash: Many of the smart recruits in many local and global firms are hired through campus placements in engineering schools during the pre-final year days. Placement talks are like major brand shows and each of the hiring firms tries to outshine others in the fray by attractive presentations in diverse formats. Company goals and visions are put forward to candidates and these tastes like the best recipes to accelerate one's career. The message that is sent is: 'With the company's goals, all measures are taken for an employee's personal development also'. I am not denying the fact that there are companies who do orchestrate company's goals and employees' personal goals but the number is less. Come to the work place, the real world is not that hunky dory. This is completely out of phase, of WYWPIWYG assurance (what-you-were-promised-is-what-you-get). In short most of the cases of attrition thrive on the thread that firms place their priorities ahead of employees' goals, without understanding the employees' basic aspirations resulting in friction.
Although their HR depts claim that they have systems which ensure a smooth induction, training and deployment onto projects that isn't quite the case for everyone.
An interesting post related to this ishere.

5. Change in mindset, among individuals and society: Gone are the days, when one stuck to a job even though it was not satisfying, solely on grounds of monetary benefits. The present young generation wants money, no doubt about that, but it's just not money, it has to be enwrapped with stimulating job assignments and responsibilities that tickles one’s tastes. More often than not, the most heard verdict among individuals is.
Besides, they soon learn, the job is not really about programming at all... One such dude sums up the average IT career path on a Pagalguy forum:

There is not much of a ladder is S/W industry as such. For most life is quite typical. One or two years in a company. Then a chance to go onsite and see some money. Then back home. Another 2 years and then one becomes an analyst and after 5-6 years, a manager. And your engineering branch is the last thing that would matter here.
Even parents and family members, do not evaluate much when they realize that their children are not very happy with their professions and wish to pursue something that is completely out-of-the-box and divergent to their present occupations. These parents stand as pillars supporting their individuals realize their dreams. I know of few people who have left their regular 9 to 5 jobs in tech firms to work full-time for a NGO, to practice as a freelance photographer, to run a restaurant, etc. The attrition resulting from this is miniscule but it is happening these days. This case is more like pre-caution is better than cure. So when one realizes that s/he had boarded an in-correct ship that would never reach the destination s/he had sculpted in their mind, so better get down in the initial phase before it’s too late.

6. Higher studies plan: A sizeable number of campus recruits move to the U.S. or other countries to pursue higher studies and explore more attractive career opportunities after working in the industry for a year or two after their graduation. They form a small pool of the attrition camp. Few go abroad for their Masters degree, few for their PhDs and few others stretch their stay in India to apply later for an MBA program abroad later. It's not that foreign lands are the only destinations, these days many prefer to go for a Masters program in the IISc, IITs, NITs, or even BITS in the engineering and tech stream and to the coveted IIMs and other top ranked B-Schools after clearing the CAT in the domain of business management. Even ISB with its global tag in business education along with many other private schools in India partnered with other western schools of Business Management is an irresistible destination for many who wish to put their lives on a fast track road. Every year just before the admission season, many managers wait dumbfounded to see how many of the ambitious wickets would fall.

7. Manager-employee Relationship: A smart manager is one who can understand the aspirations of his/her employee and can harness the true capabilities and potentialities to the last drop, brusquely pointing the areas of improvement among the team members. Now that appears as a picturesque and cheeky definition never to be realized in reality because a greater chunk of IT related work in India is service and maintenance oriented, which in turn is purely dependent on margins and numbers. More often than ever, a manager can't do justice to both numbers and fulfilling aspirations and finds him/her self in a Catch-22 situation. For some inflammation or misunderstanding arising at work, involving the manager and employee, mostly the bosses chalk up the tension to a personality clash. There is a tendency, according to management experts, to think that personality is the cause of organizational discord rather than perhaps an effect of it.
Ben Dattner, an associate at Dattner Consulting executive coaching firm, believes that personality conflict might be a symptom of a larger organizational issue. "When I work with my clients, I often try to get them to see how it is not just a conflict between two people. I try to get them to see that it is also potentially a conflict between two visions, two agendas, two constituencies or two visions for the future."
The most applied remedy in this case by young employees is to nip off the problem at its root, just leave the job and find a job elsewhere that suits to one's personal liking in most aspects. Quite a number of exits happen in many firms because of the above mentioned reason.

8. Team one works for: Fresh out of engineering schools, many graduates have a swelled head for being a product from a top school in India. This is very much human and expected behavioral pattern that this crowd aspires to be a part of best of the available work/assignments in any organization in the initial days of his/her career. But since most of the IT industry in India is doused in services and maintenance layer of the entire business cycle as stated in Point. 7, easy to follow processes are defined to streamline the execution segment with élan and efficiency. After doing the same work in repetitive cycles, it's no rocket science and even a normal graduate can tackle that in the most cost effective way without necessitating the presence of smart engineers who demand higher pay checks for the same job.

This air of exclusivity and clannishness lingers in the minds of many for the initial few years. Unfortunately if they happen to belong to a team that is of a different clan/tribe than their's in many vistas, they connect with their friends and settle in zones that match their bandwidth. A sizeable number of exits in many firms fall under this category.

As I mentioned here, the points stated above are my personal views and are collected from various sources. This is definitely not intended on any organization, firm, group or for that matter anybody and everybody. This is an open post and would love to hear other diverse views, if you have any.

Tanay, a simple person. Has four simple needs in life: to read lots, to meet lots of people, talk and interact, to have his laptop connection in place always, to travel anywhere and everywhere.Wants to work for United Nations soon. You can read my blogs here .
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June 1, 2008
11:15 AM

I think all your points are valid and have been the case for the last 15 years or so. The big difference during the last 5 years is point 1.

June 1, 2008
11:57 AM

Very good article, most points are valid and worth reviewing by HR types

June 1, 2008
12:36 PM

@chandra, yups do agree with you to an extent... but with the advent of IT/Tech/Services industry in a big way in the last few years, the picture frame has expanded, and so are its problems.

@aaman: thanks, that you found this post relevant. but
don't you think the HR chaps just have time to view and most likely have no time to review :)

June 1, 2008
01:58 PM


As I said before. In my work, we have been working with HR folks aout these problems. The challenge is in finding solutions, everybody knows the problems......

June 1, 2008
06:36 PM


since you read and acknowledge here are some comments on the first paragraph only...:)

Attrition *1 is a growing concern for many the firms across various sectors in different corners of the world but today the pain is felt more in India.*2 This bruise gets highlighted more in an Indian context because of the growing*3 gap between the growing*3 economy and the engines which are partners in this ride to deliver. Because of employee attrition *1 few initiatives are put on the back burner. The HR managers are having a tough time locating a suitable replacement with required experience and ability, to fill up the vacancies created on account of exit of key employees.*4

1: Use a synonym the second time around

2: in this first sentence: Attrition is a growing concern for many the firms across various sectors in different corners of the world but today the pain is felt more in India.

the first sentence is more important than the rest....pay special attention...grab the reader...avoid appearances of convolution...(growing, many, various,different)...when lost follow the "KIS" formula - keep it simple!

*3: see #1

*4: try KIS


some more:

* try and impose a word limit and work within

* if above hampers creativity, then write the longer one first and then prune and edit to a limit ... once you practice this...you will also notice an improvement in presentation and learn to see things differently... most times less is more!

* chandra's point #4 is valid...try to hint at solutions as well


June 1, 2008
08:53 PM

@temporal: yes, sir, will take note of the points that you have raised. thanks a lot for commenting those and putting my mistakes on the improvement trajectory.

temporal, you are a smart manager :), you know why ?

A smart manager is one who can understand the aspirations of his/her employee and can harness the true capabilities and potentialities to the last drop, brusquely pointing the areas of improvement among the team members.

Engineering Services Outsourcing
June 4, 2008
02:05 AM

An excellent article. I must say you have done a good analysis of most situations before penning them down..
and apart from all these ... I think another important criterion for attrition is the " work environment " ..
No one wants to work (just for the money)in a place where there is too much work politics, casteism , discrimination ,and where seniors are just waiting to pull you down so that their seat is safe (especially if you are a fresher) .
No wonder most companies are changing their policies regarding work environment to try and maintain equality ... but in how many companies does it actually work ???

Peace of mind holds a bigger priority than pay packets these days.. atleast for most people ... don't you think ??

June 8, 2008
09:37 AM

Very good article. But there are two other points that you have addressed only tangentially - (i) immaturity and lack of professionalism of "freshers". Inability to work in a team or apply themselves during the training process; (ii) high expectations right from the word go.

June 8, 2008
10:29 AM


interesting point.....but what u say has been said for the last 100 years....bosses always feel new generation are 'screwed up'.....:)

June 10, 2008
01:42 PM

Thoughtful article Tanay. Here, in the US, this is an equally big HR nightmare. The cost involved in getting a person and then "training" them, only for them to leave has become expensive. There are some sectors who like to employ people with a "varied" job list- this means they have jumped many jobs in a short period of time. In certain others, it is frowned upon.
The new graduates think they are invincible and there has been recent study to show just how unrealistic their expectations are from their employers. They want "pizza" parties and "downtime", ALL the time! All this affects the productivity of any company.
The problem today is the "MBA" syndrome. When honest, hardworking office managers ensured proper utilization of every cent or paisa, they were paid a pittance but the company was healthy (mostly). The MBA chaps are paid astronomical amounts that is not reflective of the "value" add to their company in terms of revenue and long term value-add. Time for a pay revise- world wide.

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