Over the last few years our industry has had very high attrition rates. Some of India’s top IT companies have had attrition rates as high as or even higher than 20%. At Gislen Software we have at the same time only had a very low attrition rate of 2-5% per year. Many of our staff has stayed for more than 10 years and some has even been with us almost from the beginning 20 years back. While we, in no way can claim to have found any silver bullet on how to keep a low attrition rate, we do believe we have been doing something right.
Of course being a smaller company is an advantage. It is much easier to see every individual when the crowd is small. Employees get broader perspective. They are able to see the wholeness rather than a small part. This is often not possible in large businesses. Since personal relationship are important a low attrition is more to be expected. At the same time a small company does not have the financial muscles and brand recognition in the employment market. Therefore it is more challenging for a small company to recruit. Someone recently told us that the big companies have given up on retention and are instead trying to recruit good people and getting the most out of them as fast as possible. We believe that this is a short term solution. We believe clients will appreciate to work with a supplier who have a low attrition rate and can ensure less cost and time lost on knowledge transfer over the year.
In this article, we have tried to reflect on what we are doing right. Aspects such as paying market-salaries, fairness, transparency, integrity and equal opportunity have to be in place. If not, then management will not be seen as credible by the employees. It doesn’t matter what initiatives or focus areas are implemented, if these things are not in place, simply said – you can’t fake it. a low attrition rate doesn’t come without effort.
We don’t use a formal appraisal system. Instead we try to make it a point that managers set aside time to speak and interact with every single person reporting to them. Since we work with agile methodology, the self-managed teams are themselves giving recognition to team members. The informal communication of a non-hierarchical organisation creates natural support-networks where every person is seen and valued. We also try to add a fair amount of fun into the way we work and even outside work by different activities.
We recognise that people have different needs and we try to understand these. Young people may not mind working extra hours monitoring client’s system during late evenings, especially if they get some extra income as a result, while married staff, in particular women in the Indian context may value regular work-hours and/or working from home or bringing children to office.
While freshers in our company certainly go through formal training over the first few months of their time with us, we don’t believe that class-room training or formal training is the best way to learn. Rather learning is something which happens all the time and mostly on the job. However to ensure that our staff learn new things which may not be required on the projects they work, they can become part of a tech-group which jointly study and research a topic and build some proof of concepts and end up presenting their learnings for their colleagues. It is also important that staff have the opportunity to rotate and get exposure to new technologies over the years.
Values and making a difference
We decided quite early to be a different company. That does not mean that we can’t learn from others. But we are not in the business of copying what others do. We wanted to lead. Therefore we decided from the beginning to be an ethical company in as many ways as we could. This has been a journey and we are by no means ready. We can always do more and do better.
A few initiatives that stands out over the years:
- Our CSR initiative where we donate and support the less fortunate in our community mainly via Little Lambs School.
- Instead of getting a diesel generator to manage power cuts, we invested in solar panels and inverters.
- We wanted to lead in moving towards a more sustainable and environment friendly business and we are involved in keeping the export zone we are located in cleaner
- We want to inspire our staff and others to live a healthier lifestyle. To do this we have a gym at the office and conduct daily training sessions and participate in various marathon races in the city.
We do believe that the company being active in such non-business areas as these makes us a better place to be at for our existing staff and also to attract new staff who value the way we make a difference. At the end of it many of these areas create pride and while as a small company we may not be able to get as strong brand-recognition as the larger, we may be able to create more pride due to other reason than larger companies can ever do.
Recruiting the right people and growing the right way
Obviously just having low attrition would not be the only way of being a great company. Unless we manage to recruit the right people and train them in the way we work, it would not make any difference. We do believe that we should recruit most of our future leaders from our own company. This puts a limit on how fast we can grow. However possibly that is a good one. We want to retain our unique culture and atmosphere and continue to stand out in all we do and even improve day by day.
Conclusions for why we have low attrition
This is an ongoing journey. We are constantly learning how to become a better company. We want to constantly engage with each employee. We want to ensure that employees are treated as individuals and provided the flexibility they need. They should constantly be learning and growing both as professionals and individuals. It is also important that they are feeling part of an organisation who wants to make a difference. Each of our employees should feel that they are working together with great colleagues. We believe that we can become a greater company every year.
During 2014 we were rewarded for excellence in our sector by D&B, Federal Bank and Times Group. We feel it is an obligation to take it as a challenge to improve on where we area and never stop searching for a higher level of excellence. In the process we hope we can continue to retain our great staff and even more stand out as a great company. We are working hard to continue to maintain our low attrition rate.
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