|Thumbs up to Covansys: Subrahmaniam
(centre), flanked by jubilant employees, conveys a spirit
come to work on Friday in informal wear; the only caveat: jeans
aren't allowed. "They used to come in ragged and frayed ones,"
says K. Subrahmaniam, President and CEO of the Indian operations
of Chennai-based it company Covansys, with a wry smile. But jeans
apart, an air of informality pervades the air at the company.
The lack of bureaucracy is one of the factors
that makes working in Covansys a pleasurable exercise. It's common
to see the CEO walk into the induction room, where presentations
are made to new recruits, and chat them up. Several freshers later
confess that they hadn't expected to interact with him so soon
after joining. "This is a good place for freshers,"
says J. Shyamala, a Project Associate who joined as a fresher
18 months ago, without hesitation. "There are opportunities
for growth, one has the freedom to take up projects of choice
and work flexi-time." Little wonder then that search firms
say it is easy to find candidates for the company. This is borne
out by its relatively low attrition rate of 18.59 per cent, compared
to its peer group average of 20 per cent; average career tenure
is also relatively high at 4.73 years. This is all the more creditable
because the 20-year-old Covansys is still not a top-tier it company.
But that hasn't stopped it from taking great pains at being a
"caring employer". K.K. Kannan, who joined as a security
guard in 1996, is a case in point. Kannan was, and is, a voracious
reader who spent several hours a day at the company's library,
reading whatever he could lay his hands on. Sarang Iyengar, Senior
Vice President (Administration), noticed this and recommended
that Covansys sponsor his graduation and post-graduation studies
(he will complete his Masters in Computer Applications in 2006).
Along the way, he was inducted as a full-fledged programmer.
"We try to create a joyful work"
president and CEO K. Subrahmaniam spoke to
What is your recruitment strategy?
We have a "Bring your Buddies" programme and
we give first preference to these people. This way, techies
can work with their friends and our expenses on headhunters
come down. We pass a portion of the savings to employees
as incentives. And the obvious advantage is that attrition
levels are lower.
What is your approach to people management?
We try to be approachable, direct and friendly. We have
set up power groups across the company which are non-hierarchical;
they are empowered to discuss any topic-including advising
the management on how to handle clients better. These meetings
can get riotous, but are very transparent. No decision is
forced on anyone; and the results are put up on the bulletin
board where just about anyone can read the same. Action
emanates from this. We also have unique employee recognition
programmes every quarter, where achievers are given awards
for their, and their team's performance over the previous
quarter. This has a massive impact on employee morale.
How do you ensure that communication channels from
the top to the bottom and vice-versa remain open at all
Apart from the structured route of "town hall meets"
(which do not happen as often as we would like because of
the huge numbers involved) and other layered meetings, we
also have an unstructured approach. I walk around, interact
with people, get to know their names, their problems, attend
their domestic functions when time permits and attend the
functions they organise within the office. One hears and
learns a lot this way. Our people do not expect office funding
for their fun and games, but they expect our involvement
and participation. I participate in rangoli competitions,
for instance, and can say confidently that I am quite good
Says G. Ravindran, Head, Global hr, at Covansys:
"Our culture has always been extremely down-to-earth and
friendly, but we tweaked it further to provide a sharper focus
on employee welfare earlier this year." A rapid growth in
manpower from 2,350 in April 2004 to 4,000 in April 2005 made
it necessary for Ravindran and his team to formalise these "soft
systems" and improve communications between senior management
and employees lower down the hierarchy. Its compensation structure
is also very competitive, and is driven by the principles of market
and internal parity, performance, role, experience and tenure.
REVENUES: Rs 1,645.6
PROFITS: Rs 96.8 cr (2004)
| Total employees: 5,935
(India), 7,500 (total)
Attrition (per cent): 18.59
Average career tenure: 4.73 years
Training budget (budgeted/ actual): Rs
2.13/ 2.5 cr
Training man-hours (actual): 140,000
There are, however, some crucial-even critical-areas
that need attention. On an average, promotions take a painfully
long time (7.5 years). The company needs to look into this aspect
of its hr architecture ASAP. And employees feel career counselling
at the company could do with some improvement. But for these,
it may have been ranked even higher than it has. Says Subrahmaniam:
"We are revamping our mentoring programme to ensure the large
number of new entrants have a clear growth path and plans."
"Fresh graduates undergo intensive training
and get promoted every two to three years and become fully responsible
for delivery after gaining about eight years of experience. We
also have a fast-track programme where leaders are identified
early and promoted faster."
If it can act on these, there's every chance
of Covansys improving its ranking in the years to come.
| A DAY
IN THE LIFE OF
UMA PALANIAPPAN, 39 Vice President
|So, how about a good south Indian
lunch? And that also for free! Now, employees certainly
won't mind even if it is a mere 10-minute affair
The first thing Uma Palaniappan
does at office is answer emails that have piled in during
the night. Then she's off to spend time with coders as part
of her company's "Break Down Tiers" programme.
Juniors and seniors work together here, jokes are cracked,
and personal queries are made, but a lot of work also gets
done. The atmosphere is light and the dress code informal.
This is followed by a quick 10-minute lunch; it's free,
but only south Indian food is available. Palaniappan then
gets down to the really serious business of discussing status
reports with project team leaders in India, the UK and the
US, often till late in the evening. And every evening, she
also plays mentor to employees in her own department. For
example, a colleague who had just become a mother, found
the late hours inconvenient. Palaniappan sorted this out
by extending the timing of the in-house creche from 7.30
p.m. to 11.30 p.m. These and other chores keep her occupied
till 7.30 pm. Then it's back home to unwind and get ready
for another day.