HR in IT

There have been several discussions in CiteHR to understand how does HR work differently in the IT sector. These discussions took place with an effort to understand the behavioural competencies and professional skill sets, required for this role. The HR processes in this sector may not be very different to what is practiced in Consulting or Non-Banking and Financial domain. The integral difference lies in understanding the talent and technology. The escalations and concerns primarily stem from the two. Let us discuss each area in detail:


  • Education: The core talent base had started with engineering graduates who were certified to work on the skill sets. The trend started decades back, when it was differently oriented to what it is today. The major chunk of such jobs was in the US and in other technology capitals across the world. Hence the talents used to migrate. As the major IT giants evolved within the country, the talent behaviour shifted. The talent base initially remained focussed with an educational qualification of B.E and B.Tech for freshers at the entry level. As the companies grew, the talent requirement evolved with creating bigger funnels. During this time, the B.C.A and B.C.S were inducted to work on the skill sets which probably had a lesser developmental role but more inclined towards the testing. As the industry grew, the organizations coupled their growth plans by setting the internal universities. Eventually the talent base ended up wielding into one organizational brand, irrespective of their education. Here the growth continued, hence the inclusion of other graduates with Commerce or Humanities backgrounds were being certified with the same skill sets. This became the major amalgamation which later impacted the employee behaviour.
  • Behaviour: The mindset of the talent who had joined this sector is extremely competitive with excellent learning curves and flexibility in managing projects irrespective of the place of work and time-zones. They graduated as IT Managers and business managers. Generally, the talent would travel to the client location, referred to as the ‘Onsite’, only as per the business model. They are oriented to work in different cultures. Often, they learn new languages. The re-skilling and up-skilling are an order of the day, for them. Learning newer version of technology, working in different environments, communicating irrespective of the distance and barriers remains their strength. Survival is challenging as the threshold of the talent base remains equally competitive. The preparedness is quintessential to survive in a  cut-throat competition. The behaviour of the talent would vary if they have been working on a maintenance based project compared to what is found in a product-development environment. There is a natural progression through roles. Besides the technical genius, a high Emotional Quotient takes them to a greater success. The infrastructures have been panoramic with almost a competition between companies to have a better campus. Offering a comfortable work environment along with plush tennis rooms to a swimming pool within the campus! This created a difference in the lifestyle. The work which was supposed to be completed amalgamated the life beyond work within the office campuses. But, as the entrepreneurial eco-system developed within the country, start-up culture became acceptable. The brand association which had been the highest motivator so far, gave way to the idea development. It became normal to work in an environment without the freebies enjoyed in the plush offices so far. The vision to grow with work started dominating the environment. Though such an alignment is entirely behavioural. Hence, it remains segregated from the section that continues to look for stability in roles and many onsite experiences through working for the IT giants. There is a fair mix of talent who look for intellectual freedom to financial gains. The natural progression begins with a search for higher pay and greater monetary gain at a shorter span of time. It eventually settles down to a learning oriented approach to every role. Leadership roles are admired where as working on an expert role is considered to be good for a while. Business unit manager and CEO remains the dream role. CTO or CIO is coveting to the one who wants to grow technically rather than focusing on business acumen.
  • Work culture: Agility and scalability coins this environment. The offshore development centres work 24/7. Employees work till the project is delivered. Though few production teams may work for 8.5 hours. During the recession, the base hours at office were increased. The budget for each project calculates the bill-ability of the talents. The resourcing is done based on the skill requirement and bill-ability alignment. The ‘two-in-a-box’ workforce management strategy is used to deliver projects. This would have two different managers, one placed within the country with a team who would be working on the maintenance and development in India. The other would be placed at the client’s location, often a representative to the client. They may have a small team there only if it is required. Though the members of these teams would travel frequently from the Offshore Development Centre to the Onsite location.  The matrix structure has its own advantages. The talent have the option to interact and learn from different managerial styles at the same time, it increases the job-pressure if not responded rightly. The work remains thoroughly demanding. The project completion is prioritized over every other activity. Stretching to meet the target is normal. Though there are cases, when the company may maintain a talent pool and bench the talents who are not resourced into any live project. This stands as a very slow phase. But once the talent is resourced frequent training, client calls, project life cycle takes the centre stage. The interaction between reporting relationship and non-reporting relationship is kept formal, yet friendly. The reporting relationships may keep changing depending on the project. Though every employee is assigned to a manager who heads all these projects. The peer-to-peer relationship remains casual. Professional secrecy is maintained to support a healthy competition. Entrepreneurial efforts are encouraged when aligned with the environment. Every task is measured hence the ownership of the delivery is very high. The productivity dashboard remains live for the employees to see, where they stand vis-a-vis to their targets. Understanding the client environment remains crucial to the performance. Most of the companies don’t have a dress code. Though some may follow the formal dress code, with casuals on Friday.

HR – Processes and systems

Generally the HR processes are managed by a three leaf strategy. There would be HR Personnel on the company payroll. There would be some resourced through the vendor payroll and there would be contracted employees. The responsibility which has high level of confidentiality would be handled by the in-house HR Team. The tasks which are repetitive would be managed by HR on vendor roles. Whereas, the roles which are billed, for a fixed duration are put on contract. Such as a SAP implementation would be on Contract. This would be followed by training for all the in-house HR to use the software. The processes such as Recruitment are largely handled through the consultants. Here the candidates are resourced for the hiring process. The screening and hiring is done by the in-house Talent Acquisition team. Background verification has a major focus. The new hires are required to register with National Skill Registry. The training and development division is often managed as an internal university. Competency management takes a centre-stage which starts with the hiring stage and continues with the employee life cycle. The culture building and behavioural training programs are aimed during the orientation period. The Training is extensive with rigorous assessments. Once the talent clears the training, they are put on the resource pool from where they are inducted to different projects. Some training based on certain skill sets might be outsourced. Vendor-based trainers with rich experience would train the employees. In house trainings are generally based on the core product development. There are certifications at every level. A cost implication is attached to every program and certification. This allows the ROI on training to be calculated. The budget for the annual training cost is decided by the project valuation and the projected requirement. It is assigned from each project’s kitty. The audit at the end of the year needs to match the scheduled man-hours spent in training, reflecting the incremental development in productivity. Leadership development and succession planning remains an extensive program. Buddy programs, mentoring and sponsoring are popular practices. The transactional HR functions are largely outsourced. Payroll is one function which is majorly outsourced though it may be run in-house by few companies. The performance appraisal is done online through the software.  Benefit administration may require a study done by the third party agent. Different initiatives are taken to nurture innovation. Platforms are created to showcase capability beyond the scope of current role, such as Idea Platform, Volunteer program and trying a Pet/Hobby project related to the technology.  Expat management plays a vital role. Managing travel, Forex, and Visa processing may be done by the admin team. In case there are any bottlenecks in this process, the escalations would reach HR.

Few main HR escalations

The main escalations are towards dealing with the talent and its growth. Managing employee satisfaction, managing attrition, career progression and work life balance are few of the prime concerns. The average talent base is stable with a fixed employee -life cycle between 3-5 years in a company. When they stay beyond that , they graduate into senior levels. The promotions are initially horizontal. The roles would change but the level might remain the same. The progression through levels happen with business growth and technical maturity in the talent. Projects are valued over roles, depending on the vision of the talent. This often becomes a bone of contention, as the talent may feel stuck, due to the nature of their project. Onsite travel is a huge motivation. Though this, decreases marginally as the talent matures. The environment would differ from product development technology knowledge to the maintenance environment. This is an area, where most of the escalations, arise. The expectation and learning cycle of the talent needs to be in an alignment with the speed of the project and business model. If a talent wants to travel often to different countries, yet resourced to a project which is stationed, it’s most likely that the talent would resign for an onsite role. Financial demands depend on the stage where the talent is. Generally, majority buy a home or make a huge investment early in their career. This impacts their spending behaviour and their outlook towards the earning. Bonus and incentives are generally deferred over a year. This is done to reduce the business risk. ESOP is very popular and acts as a motivator. Superannuation was another practice which was a time-based compensation offered to encourage loyalty. Though many companies have changed this deferred benefit, for a higher take home salary. In Expat management, if the orientation program has not been an extensive one, escalation becomes an order of the day. Aligning to a new culture and environment is best handled with a rigorous orientation program and a support group at the client location. This group is often made by the employees who have already shifted their bases and have been working in that environment for long. Idea platform that nurtures pet projects and acts as an internal incubation centre needs to be handled very carefully. Here the visibility and the option to try an interesting concept needs to be balanced.

Knowledge of Technology

The understanding of the technology that the talent would work with is required differently for HR working in various roles. Talent acquisition team needs to be thorough with the technical skill sets, they would hire. The understanding about the job and its daily challenges is essential to hire the right fit. HR Generalist would know more about the project delivery and understand the escalations at work. As the industry changes with technology and business behaviour, HR Process of this sector would undergo similar changes. The focus of the HR would remain programmed to get the best for both the talent and the business.