The unfolding story of Attrition welcome to the second episode of Product Dossier podcast. I am quite excited about today’s subject, the subject of attrition. Headlines like the great resignation and quiet quitting have become common. So, we thought why not take a deep dive into this subject and then discuss the unfolding Attrition story. Who better than someone who has inside out and outside in knowledge about IT industry? With us in our deep dive that someone is Sandy Kumar founder and CEO of Product Dossier. Welcome Sandeep!
Thank you, Hemant thank you so much for having me on this show today.
Sandeep before we take a dive can you please tell us about your experience in It industry in various roles?
Absolutely Hemant like when you said inside out and outside in so that particularly suits what I have done. Earlier I used to work in the IT industry, I was part of the project manager, program manager and so I do understand how the industry works and now we are providing services or our product platform to that industry. So now I have a little bit outside in experience so that has been fantastic, and my experience is IT and ITES industry today is going through a very exciting phase where on one hand they have tons of opportunity because of this the digitalization and suddenly the pandemic has thrown open that but on the other hand they are also struggling with some of the challenges. I talk to the management of at least one IT company on a daily basis and each one of them talk about the resources the Attrition and so these are the words which are top of their memory. I have never seen people talking about resources and Attrition so much before so that’s what I feel
That’s what I feel that’s very fascinating. So, I think we are going to have some very insightful discussion here on.
Absolutely looking forward to it Hemant.
Sandeep, can you take us back to the early days of IT industry and was it the hot subject, the subject of attrition?
Well, it is a hot subject in the sense if you see any of the IT company reporting and you know public companies and private companies there is always a metric with the track that Attrition is so much percentage and you know there is a mandate for the HR function to bring it down by a couple of points but like I started working in the early ninety’s and that time there were not many opportunities and we were lucky to have found a job if at all we get like I remember I started in Bangalore in IISC Bangalore and then Infosys was just coming up in the 92-93 and getting a job in Infosys was like a big thing. So, earlier it was more employer’s kind of market people wanted to get jobs so Attrition was high was a metric but it wasn’t that important or like the entire energies to control it wasn’t there. So, I think it was different then.
That’s true. I worked in another kind of industry and then we lost some people to IT industry and the issue was not really anything but to get trained people. That’s what I recall. And I remember some of my colleagues went to IT kind of jobs and they got trained there and then they started working there. Today I can see there are training opportunities are huge in terms of institutions, education institutions and also skilling institutions. So probably things have changed. How was it just before the pandemic?
Yeah, I think your question is very apt because we saw the ways of working or the ways of, they were different before Pandemic and after Pandemic. So before Pandemic people had opportunities, but it was never so good. Today if you see even an average person, I mean they can go out and they can get a couple of jobs with maybe double the pay package and things like that. And I think this is because the companies are getting a lot of opportunities, they just want to sort of place people and because it’s a T and M kind of project, so they just want people. But before Pandemic I have never seen this kind of, you know, talk about the Attrition and the interest in managing resources and all this was talk but it was not really, you know, subject which must we must find a solution. So, I think before Pandemic and now if you ask me what is it now? And now it’s very different where like I said, every leader wants to have a solution and basically, he needs help as to how I can control this Attrition. So, in my mind things are very different.
And another thing what I find is that and when you ask before and after earlier people were switching jobs for different reasons. They were either looking to add the work in technologies which they are interested in or because the financial benefit when you move from one job to another job wasn’t that huge. This was not the only thing. So, people were changing for different reasons. Some people were moving from startup to a more bigger company or vice versa depending upon the risk appetite of each individual. But it was never like the sort of peer pressure what people were having. Today I see many young people are leaving jobs and switching to another one. They have a good pay package they are getting. But another thing is my friends have changed jobs, so I am not changing. That means I’m not capable of and this sort of peer pressure also I think things are very different.
That’s interesting. That brings to my next question. We talk about these headlines like double digit Attrition and all that but how does it look on the ground? What do the exit interviews and these kind of things? What picture do they show us?
I think as exit I said today, the motivation for people to leave is very different. In fact, in my mind, people are not aware of what they are getting into because exit interviews, they will always say I want to work in new technology. Depending upon the situation, they will sort of manipulate the answers. So, today exit interviews really don’t give you the right picture. I mean, they may give you some indications, but as I said today, because there are a lot of opportunities out there with a big package. So people are jumping onto it. But as I said, there might be many cases where their pay package is more than their skill set and soon they may become unemployable by other companies and they will be in a very bad situation because they are not learning in this job and then the other company is not willing to hire.
So, there’s a golden cage kind of a situation.
You said it. Absolutely!
Are there any other factors which drive the attention these days?
Yes. So, one is the opportunity. But I think if I slightly tweak your question that what can you do to sort of reduce this attrition and what are the right things to do? I think that paradigm is quickly changing. Today, if you want to retain people, increasing salary is just one thing. It’s a hygiene factor. You’ve to be competitive; you’ve to pay that. But the problem is even after paying that, you are not getting people or people are then jumping onto the next job. Right. So, what you need to do to stem that attrition I think apart from these hygiene factors, one of the important thing is you have to sort of engage with the people and you have to engage them 24 X 7. Right. Still, I think what you need to tell people is or you need to show them that how their career graph, how what they are going to learn and because the learning which they do now when they are young, over the next 4-5 years, I think that learning will get them far better jobs than just your pace.
That’s very true. Let’s take a step back and try to focus on other factors other than, like you mentioned, the hygiene factors like pay and perks and all those things. Are there any other factors which drive attrition?
Yeah. So, I will tell you our own story at Product Dossier and my conversation with other leaders. One of the prime reason people leave and they may not be wanting to leave is when they feel they are not engaged, they are not working on projects which can at the end of each evening, they can feel that they have learned something more than learning. Everybody wants to have a feeling of contribution, that they have contributed something to the project, something to the company and they basically, they feel like it’s their esteem. Right. Even if I’m getting a very high salary but I don’t have a feeling of contribution, I will not feel good about it. And then the easiest thing for me is to change jobs because I think, OK, it is not working out, it may work out in the next place. So, I think this is one of the key factors. So instead of after doing all these salary and all those things, organizations and leaders should focus on this factor that how do we engage, how do we give them a meaningful work? And the output of that is that they feel that they have contributed.
That feeling is completely sort of missing and more so when people are working from home, you are not even seeing their faces. So, it’s very easy to get because you’re not seeing them. It is not on the top of your mind. And then people make their decisions.
That’s a very important, very useful insight that you’re provided. Working from home provides another situation where people are isolated, socially isolated.
And then they have less ways of getting involved. So, you mentioned about engagement feeling that they are contributing, you mentioned about learning opportunity, you mentioned about peer pressure. I have come across a number of surveys on Attrition and where one factor is coming, very big factor that is the immediate boss, the superior. That is a driving factor. Is that a major source of attrition?
I wouldn’t think so. That your immediate boss is the reason enough for you to sort of quit. Because today in the open world where you have access to almost everybody in the organization, earlier it was very hierarchical that you could speak only to your boss. But today in the digitalization world you have access to everybody and if you are a smart person, you are passionate enough and just this person is sort of blocking you and you have the right reasons. I think people speak up and then things get changed because the management always I mean earlier it was not like that. So, I don’t personally feel that that is the key factor.
That’s another change that has happened over the years.
Absolutely. People know that if this person is sort of not saying the right things, even though he’s my manager, they know whom to talk to and they do that.
That’s very good. So, then what are the other factors that contribute to admission? Other than, of course the hygiene factors?
Like I said, the engagement and things like that. Now the question is what can we do when we say engagement? Engagement is not like talking to a person 24 by seven. That is not possible. Engagement means one is the purpose of the organization. I think we have to go back to the basics because if we want a systematic long-term solution, we can’t be just making offers, large money and all. You have to be very systematic in your approach. So, what you have to sit down and figure out that the purpose of the organization is it attractive enough for your people who are going to work with you because I think people are looking forward to that. So that is certainly a one way where you can get them attracted to your organization. So once that’s done, because as I said, I want to contribute if even I don’t feel I’m contributing regardless of whatever money you gave me, I will quit. So that is number one particularly if I am good, particularly I’m good, average person or below average person may stick to you because there is nothing for that person but if I’m good, I’m looking for a purpose so that is the first thing organization should do.
Second thing in my mind and in my experience working with people today we have people who are working with us for 15 years, 20 years and things like that so I think people always remember how you treated them, what was your behavior with them, right? And one of the key factors is the trust. Now, trust is people say that we trust you and all those things but in my mind that doesn’t work. Trust is seen in actions and in actions and over time you have to be consistent with your actions and once people trust you, they develop trust then they are likely to stay with you because now you have a purpose and also they feel that this is a trustworthy organization, whatever they say they will do it. So that is number two and the third thing you have to really and when I say trust and because like when we hire people we said that you will do huge learning, you will become so and so and things like that but how do we show that in action? So what organizations have to do is they have to sort of show the people that look what progress as an individual you have made over the last twelve months.
So simple example is that you have learned two new skills in the last twelve months and these are like a grade skills in the market today. So when people see that they feel yes, I’m learning right. Or you show them that look, because of your contribution that customer has created so much value so I think we have to go back to that and that is where leaders and organizations have to start using the technology to show people that what organization has done for them, what is the opportunity and how they have progressed seeing is believing.
That’s true. Before we go to technology, it’s a very important point. In fact, that would be the next point for discussion. I would like to get insights from you on about the generational shift. Is there a generational shift.
Last five to ten years? You talked about your experience in ninety s and even 2000 plus 2010 and over 2015 onwards do you find a different kind of people coming in or there is not much shift in that.
In the short term it may look like that whatever people called millennials, though I don’t like that word so much, but they want instant gratification and things like that. But I think it’s just a matter of time. They are also getting matured and depending upon whom they are working with, they also realize very quickly that this very quickly shifting from here to there is not going to serve them.
And learning and deep learning is even more important for their long term career goals. So I think I don’t give so much to that’s.
Very good to hear. It’s very comforting to hear because then as you said, going back to basics is what you need.
And the basics remains the same.
That is the one important change in basics has come. However, is the technology. Absolutely. So can one use technology to help leaders to address these non hygiene causes of attrition which are workrelated, which are their career related and all that technology, this technology we used, digitalization technology particularly, you lead a company which is right at the heart of this technology, the professional services automation. This kind of technology can help leaders.
Absolutely. So in fact, in my mind this is technology is the only way where you can create sustainable solution to problems like this. Right. So today if you look especially in the case of ItIts kind of companies, there are three key factors or other, maybe four. One is the resources, the employees and there are two sides of employee. One is how do you onboard that experience on behalf to retire kind of cycle. But another very important piece is that what those people do in the organization, that is where their projects execution and everything happening. So I think what organizations need to do is they need to sort of digitize this entire thing. And then for example, today I speak to some leaders and they say what is going to come is they have to create differentiated salaries or differentiated how you treat people based on their skills. Right. So you need to create a digitization platform where the performance thing of the individual is not like an yearly affair or it’s not like a formal 1 hour meeting. But whatever they are doing, I mean what skills they are upgrading themselves, it has to be a continuous thing.
And if you can make that visibility to the employee in real time and not wait for twelve months to know like how I am performing, then people get very engaged. Because now what is happening is, like I said, the trust, the trust doesn’t come by talking. Trust doesn’t come by when they see data.
And what I see is my colleagues is my boss.
Absolutely. So, you have to create sort of healthy competitiveness among people. You’ve to create a culture where people know that if you perform you will be rewarded. And I think that’s a very healthy culture. So I think the technology, the digitalization where you sort of show to the people, what they have done, what they have learned, what is the graph? It’s upward, downward, what it is. And when the data speaks, people accept it and then they see the data of their colleague and if it’s upward, they want to sort of get inspired, right? So I think this is where I see a lot of use cases how you can actually reduce the Attrition.
So is this technology there, is it off the tap kind of a thing or it requires a lot of customization, a lot of coding and such kind of things?
No, I think today this technology is very much available. Whatever I’m talking there is a HR tech, what they call it, that hire to retire. That’s pretty sophisticated. There are many platforms available in the market and then there is, as I said, the operations part, that opportunity to cash, where resource management, how it is linked to project, financial. So all of those things are very much available. It is just that they have to sort of put their mind to that. They want to digitize it. And it is not that leaders don’t know it. I see a lot of organizations have already sort of started talking about it. Some are in the process of implementing and some want to go for it because they want to create a long-term sustainable solution. They don’t want to react to this situation. Rather they want to create a proactive, very sort of sustainable solution. And another point I would like to make based on your earlier conversation today, what is also happening is because we are not able to sort of make it visible that these are my top 10% people and then there is a middle layer and then there are poor performers.
So there is something like sometimes some Attrition is actually good for the organization, right? But what is happening today because of the lack of the data, we are more focused on Attrition, which actually we would have liked to happen. And we are not focusing on people who are very good performers, we are not focusing on rewarding them. And then the culture becomes you perform or you don’t perform, you’re going to be treated. Same averaging now. So because people don’t have time, people don’t have data and so that happens. So I think we need to think different. We need to be more positive in rewarding people who are performing and then I think others will get inspired and that is a more positive way of doing it.
That’s very interesting. Can we take a quick peek into the future? How do you see this Adrian story developing in coming few years, if not too distant in future, but let’s say yes.
So I think whatever has happened so first of all, the ways of working or how people work has I think to some extent change forever. We are not going to be like what we were before the pandemic. Some change. It is a permanent change and we have to accept it. But what I see are we going to deal with this kind of chaos? And where my answer is clearly no. I mean, no situation can be too extreme. It sort of balances out in a short period. It may be up and down, but ultimately it will balance out and people will realize that they need to invest in learning. And I don’t think you can learn by doing five jobs in five years. It takes a little bit of effort consistency before you learn that subject, whatever you are working on. And everybody will understand it because then they will see that some of their friends have become unemployable because they had a fat package and now no company is ready to take them and they have also not learned. So I think this will all balance out. I’m very confident about it. And that is why we don’t have to worry about this situation.
We have to invest in long term, systemic, sustainable solution and culture building.
That’s very fascinating, Sandeep. So you have talked about going back to basics. You have said that generational issue is not there, it is similar. And you have said technology is available to deal with the challenges. Both the individual has, an organization has and you are extremely positive that the chaotic situation is just a transient thing. It is a period of adjustment to the changes that are happening. So that’s a very fascinating and also very reassuring coming from you.
Sure yeah, and also we never have to talk about that, whether it’s an employer market or it’s employee market. I don’t think that makes sense. So we have a collective purpose where we as a team we have to win. So we always have to balance it out. We have to create a win win situation for everybody. And ultimately, at least if I take my individual case, money is just one aspect. But what will stay with me is that what I did as an individual and I think that is true for everybody. So we don’t have to organizations who have kept their calm and balance out in every situation. People do recognize it and that’s the only solution in my mind.
This has been a very illuminating discussion. Sandeep and beyond the headlines attrition clearly is a leadership issue and technology is there to help. Thank you so much for your time and the great insight that you’re providing. Thank you so much. Sandeep thank you.
Hemant thank you so much. And I wish you and your audience a very Happy Deepawali.
Happy Deepawali to you all and thank you to listeners for joining us today and we look forward to having you with us in our next episode.
Thank you very much. Hemant look forward to that.