Supply Chain is also a HR jargon

Shortly after the turn of the century, when bento boxes had become Japan’s best known contribution to the culinary world, came the wildly popular conveyor belt sushi restaurants. Also known as sushi-go-rounds, the customers, once in, could simply pick little portions of fresh sushi and sashimi of their choice from a moving conveyor belt.

The final bill would be calculated based on the number and type of sushi portions consumed. The idea combined Japanese minimalism, the ‘Just-in-Time’ philosophy and their loathing for wastage. In the India Inc of today, listening to HR honchos and CEOs holding forth on their single biggest concern talent management is a little unnerving.

It would suggest they’re readying to run a sushi-go-round rather than a BPO or a financial services giant. Just replace the sushi and sashimi with skilled workers or potential employees, and you get the picture. In a perfect world, businesses would like nothing better than a wide variety of talent flowing steadily on a conveyor belt giving them the freedom to pick.

And that assembly line lingo is rapidly becoming HR jargon in hyper-growth companies is confirmed when the folks at Wipro sing from the same score sheet. The talk is about how ‘Just In Time’ hiring has enabled the company to have new employees ready and lined up, even before the business realises that it needs those many more people. Large companies have a stable pattern of growth, and so we can start the process of finding the right people even before the business puts in a requisition for talent, resulting in shrinkage of cycle time.

Most companies have ambitious expansion plans, and to meet them, are hiring in unprecedented numbers. The numbers tell the story: In 2005, Wipro had an employee base of 25,000. Today, it is up to 65,000, and growing. Over the last three years, ICICI Bank has almost doubled the number of people on its rolls from 20,000 to 39,000 people, and the group at large, from 45,000 to 75,000 people. This year, it is estimated that the group will hire 15,000 people, or a quarter of the total requirement of entire BFSI (Banking, Financial services, and Insurance) sector in India.

Telecom-to-insurance conglomerate Bharti, which currently employs 35,000 people plans to scale up to 100,000 employees over the next five years. Clearly, the traditional time tested HR model where recruitment was synonymous with interviewing is not going to hold good.

That is when HR turned to the department next door for inspiration to the procurement division. The supply chain concept came into being once companies realised that raw materials comprised about 40% of their total costs and hence needs to be managed better. Similarly, in services, people comprise between 30-40 % of the company’s costs.

Group president, HR, Essar, who will be adding 9000 people to its payroll over the course of this year, says that the company realised quite early that recruitment was a limited way of looking at people. If people make a difference and are prime contributors to growth, how to bring them into the company should also be built as an organisational capability and not as a cost.

The group has shifted recruiting for all its group companies to a central Global Talent Acquisition Cell (GTAC) which was set up earlier this year. This 25-member team, which is made up of people who have had prior experience in the head hunting industry, is further broken up into specific functions.

Here’s how it works: One part of the team works only on mapping the available talent across different verticals and skill sets in the market and establishing links with various educational institutes. Another unit focuses only on vendor relations or interact with the ecosystem that aids recruitment.

The third team interviews the short listed candidates and works with internal stakeholders. In addition to this, the GTAC has added two new positions; one person focuses solely on carrying out reference checks for the prospective employees, and another hand holds new recruits till they join. It is this kind of structure thats increasingly being replicated in some form or the other by various companies, irrespective of the industry they are part of.