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.
is MD, Aptech Ltd.