New HR incentives of BPO firms


MSR works for four days every week and gets to put her feet up for the rest of the week. MSR is part of a 20-member team at a leading BPO, WNS Global Services.

While the company claimed every employee followed a five-day week, an insider said that the new four-day system has been introduced as a pilot project for an US insurance firm. The insurer apparently offers a similar option to its call centre employees in the US.

Workers opting for the four-day system get a normal weekend off and another holiday mid-week. However, they have to work for 11 hours on normal workdays compared to nine hours that their colleagues following a usual week put in. The pay is no different either. MSR says that she finds this comfortable as she is in the office for most of the day or night. It does not make much of a difference if she stays on for another couple of hours making it 11 hours a day. But she is happy to have a full day off that gives her more time to be with her family.

Experts say that such incentives could be the only way to retain employees at BPO firms battling high rates of attrition. Companies do not openly admit it but four in every 10 new recruits leave within days of joining. One Source says that the industry has experimented with different kinds of shifts and variable timings, but longer work hours have not really given good results. The efficiency levels tend to flag and employees start feeling fatigued. This is an industry where you require high levels of efficiency at the beginning as well as at the end of the shift.

The explosive growth of the industry has made competition cut throat and brought in its wake, tremendous work pressure. A Call center trainer who has worked in the industry for several years said that after taking calls, mostly from angry, frustrated and sometimes abusive customers, for nine hours every night, the call center executive may feel like a zombie and by the third day the employee is on the verge of a depression and longing for the day off. Therefore it is not a surprise that people do not stick around for long in a call center.

A source involved in recruiting and training employees at a BPO said that in their eagerness to get business, top executives often ignore the need for careful screening. They just sign up clients and then the burden of recruitment falls on the HR department, which is sometimes asked to take on hundreds of people within a few days. Some services, especially financial services such as insurances and banking, require a certain flair for the subject. But under pressure to quickly find hordes of people, HR departments are sometimes forced to employ under-qualified workers.

BPO companies have tried many incentives such as encouraging people to get their family to work in the same place or creating recreational opportunities.

A senior professor of organizational behavior at XLRI, India observed that after a point, money would not matter and personal life becomes very important. Companies are trying to reduce the gap between official life and personal life. They are trying to take care of employees’ personal life as much as possible. That is why the employers are trying to make the call center a fun workplace, offering facilities like gym, sauna and games. Some companies also arrange to take care of errands such as paying electricity and telephone bills to help the employees reducing their personal work loads.

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