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Strengthening Personal Contact Et30aug10

Strengthening Personal Contact Et30aug10

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Published by Dr Amit Rangnekar

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Published by: Dr Amit Rangnekar on Nov 26, 2010
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04/07/2014

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STRENGTHENING PERSONAL CONTACTLucky No. 7 to the rescueShelley Singh NEW DELHI ET, Mumbai 30 Aug, 2010
THE number seven has always fascinated those looking for growth, transition and perfection:Be it the seventh heaven, the seven seals or even circling the fire seven times. Nidhi Joshi (24), asoftware engineer, discovered it could also mean a memorable induction into a company.When Joshi moved from technology bellwether Infosys Technologies to the little-known ITcompany Steria early this year, she was greeted with a ‘welcome card’ handed out by thesecurity guard, in seven seconds.The card, signed by the HR director Shantanu Banerjee, says the employee will experience a‘7-Stage’ induction process.In the first seven minutes of reporting at the reception, she got her temporary identity and wasgreeted by the People Help Desk team. In the first seven hours at Steria, Joshi was taken on aguided tour of the office, given the company rule book, assisted with opening a bank account,making a permanent identity card and introduced to the internal help desk.The 7-Stage (7S) employee assimilation process is institutionalised at Steria India. Thecompany is part of the $1.6-billion, Paris-headquartered Steria with over 18,000 employees,about a third of whom are based in India.The idea of the seven stages — from the first seven seconds going up to seven quarters — isthe company’s way of managing an employee’s life cycle. The premise is that “people don’tleave companies, but bosses,” says S Ramakrishna, director (marketing), Steria India.The effort is particularly relevant in an industry that faces a high level of employee churn — attrition is at nearly 25% for some companies.The system was put together nearly two years ago by the HR team in India. The rational behind the seven stages was that a human brain can remember seven tasks at a time.“If you are hiring by the truckload (as the IT-BPO sector does), people can be reduced tocommodities. The 7S process is our personal touch, not just on day one or the first few weeks or at the annual appraisal, but beyond that,’’ says Ramakrishna.The process offers check points for the employee and the manager through the employee’sstint with the company. If an employee has an issue, it can be taken up at any stage; not just bythe department head but also by the HR department.“Ours is a service business. We have to fire minds through emotions as well,” addsRamakrishna.The induction touches an instant cord with employees. “It’s not always about brands andquality of work, but the way companies look at you. Mass recruiters often don’t know you anddon’t recognise you and employees are reduced to the identity card number. That’s where I believe smaller companies score,” says Ms Joshi.“It makes me feel I’m more than a resource for the company. It’s a process that makes settlingat Steria very smooth,” says Ankit Gupta, a 27-year-old associate consultant, who has been
 
through all the seven stages.The last stage, he says, was very detailed and gave him the opportunity to know his career  progression from his business leader and HR department. A career development plan was alsochalked out. “I don’t need an eighth stage, I’m well settled,” he says.Steria adds about 250-300 fresh recruits every month, keeping the security guards and the 80- people HR team, busy.While Steria engages more closely with employees, it hopes a lot more staff go on to completethe seven milestones, all the way up to the seven quarters. Apart from welcome cards, employeesare carrying home Steria momentos on their last day at work, rather than being packed off unceremoniously.“A cookie-cutting approach doesn’t work. You can’t just hire and forget. Companies have toengage constantly with employees,” says Ramakrishna. He says the company has met its goals interms of employee connect, but adds that outcomes may be hard to tabulate. “The evolution of ahuman being is very complex. But we believe 7S has worked,” he says.Steria’s 7S model may be unique in terms of how it handles the induction process, but most of its peers have fine-tuned their own processes.For instance at Sapient, a taxi is sent to pick up candidates for interviews and a bouquetdelivered home just before the first day.Accenture has a ‘buddy system’, assigning an experienced staffer to a new entrant, to take him past the initial few weeks. At Infosys, employees get a detailed e-mail prior to joining, andsettling in is smooth.CSC hands out an induction kit with stationery and a bouquet. At another Bangalore-basedcompany, elephants have been called in to shower rose petals at new recruits, with the CEO andHR head at the reception to greet them.“Companies do whatever they can to ensure onboarding is smooth. Such efforts become partof culture of an organisation, but may have no material impact on an employee,” says CSPandey, who worked at Steria and is now with Sapient as director of staffing.The difference, says Pandey, is that the 7S process can be audited at Steria — regular employee feedback indicates whether it is working — whereas in other companies, it is on a best-effort basisThe relevance of such efforts lies in strengthening personal contact. For instance, the $300-million Bangalore-based services company MindTree, used to interact with employees directlywhen it was small. “Every quarter, we had face-to-face employee interactions,’’ says Ashok Soota, executive chairman.When the company became big — it now has 9,000 employees — this interaction shiftedonline, with a virtual greeting and messages from top management to employees.“This lacked the reach and richness of employee and senior management interactions,” addsSoota, explaining that the company has reverted to face-to-face meetings. Business heads and topmanagement interact more often with employees.“In our employee-intensive industry, any step that ensures a better connect with employees has

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