by April 15, 1998 0 comments

In the last column, we had discussed the
extreme frustrations faced by Human Resource (HR) managers as well as software company
CEOs in dealing with the attraction and retention of the modern-day programmer and
analyst, who are perpetually in search of more money, newer technologies, and newer
countries. An entirely new management style seems to be called for when dealing with this
new breed of people in systems departments as well as software companies.

In the software industry, the paradox of HR
starts right from the time the potential employee walks in for an interview. In most
cases, where experienced people are being considered, it is more the interviewee
interviewing the company than the candidate being interviewed, and recruiting teams have
to prepare to sell the organization to the right candidate. And this wooing process
continues till the time the person actually comes on board, for changes of heart can take
place right till the end. Stories abound of consultants being put on a plane to the US by
one organization only to see them being met at the other end by a different company,
leaving the original company”s receiving team literally holding the NameBoard.

But there are still some good firms who not
only attract but also retain good talent. This is by looking for high quality in the
hiring process as well as having all senior people up to the project leader level fully
trained in the science and art of motivation, career planning, and HR development. Some
good practices that have helped in building some loyalty in the software consultant to the
organization are mentoring, 360 degree appraisals, six-monthly appraisals, and the
existence of a true meritocracy where performance is respected above all else. Of course,
once the basic trust is built in the employee, successful organizations can be built and
sustained only if the ”Iron Fist in the Velvet Glove” policy is adopted. The whole
organization must know that while informality, flexibility, and openness are encouraged,
there is a line of behavior, conduct, and professional ethics which will not be
compromised, whatever the circumstances.

The problem is even more acute in systems
departments of organizations where the HR function is faced with two major challenges. The
first is with the motivation of the systems group themselves, who often regard working in
user organizations as a second choice vocation and many prefer to be in consulting houses
with their newer technologies, multiple projects, and opportunities for faster salary and
designation growth. The second issue is the rules of the establishment itself, which will
not permit exceptions to retain the many brilliant mavericks that expect a different
treatment to sustain their motivation. The best modus operandi here is to go for stable
and seasoned professionals who have had their share of excitement and quick movements and
are looking for more stable responsibilities. It is also extremely crucial that the
organization does not treat the systems folks differently and every effort is made to
integrate them into the mainstream. The CIO role, which is so highly respected in
corporate US, should be given the stature and powers that it deserves, which will also
become a worthwhile aspiration level for many persons in the systems group.

Managing the systems professional is always
going to need special skills, but it is well worth the time and money invested by the
organization to ensure that a stable environment is created where high and consistent
performance can become the norm.

GANESH NATARAJAN
is MD, Aptech Ltd.

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