|Let the good times begin: Venky and
his team get set for Hutch Delhi Marathon
|Party time: At Agilent, you can have
your cake and eat it too... it's all work and all play for
gossip, vacant work stations, a boss who's never in his office...so
that's what it takes to be one of The Best Companies To Work For
In India, you mutter under your breath after spending a few minutes
in Agilent Technologies' four-storeyed corporate office in Gurgaon.
It's true: Enter the building, and you stumble into people (presumably
employees) either lolling around or huddled together in a chinwag.
The 9-5 cycle has peaked, yet there are plenty of unoccupied cubicles.
Walk up to the Country Manager's corner room-and he isn't there.
"He's never at his seat," grumbles the good Secretary.
So what's going on? Plenty in fact, which
is what you realise soon enough. If there are many seats lying
empty, it's only because employees at Agilent have the option
of working out of home. If Country Manager Venkatesh Valluri,
aka 'Venky', can't be found by Madhu Loyal, his Secretary, that's
because he's on his daily office excursion; it usually begins
from the basement (where the canteen's located), moves on to the
terrace (the ubiquitous smoking zone), and further on to the adjacent
building that houses the research & development division.
"I like to move around, and catch people at their desks,
instead of talking on the phone within the office. It is more
fun to meet people personally," says Venky. Nobody seems
to mind, except perhaps Secretary Loyal. "He leaves his cell-phone
in his cabin, so I have to look for him all over the floors,"
REVENUES: Rs 500
crore approx. (2005-06)
PROFITS: Not available
| Total employees: 1,300
Attrition (per cent): 15
Average career tenure: 3.07 years
Training budget (budgeted/actual): Rs
6.9 crore/ Rs 6.7 crore
Training man-hours (actual): 140,400
It's all done in good humour, of course. For
a company that's into a fairly solemn kind of business -it makes
testing instruments for electronics, communications, chemical
analysis and life sciences-the air at Agilent isn't that heavy.
At the time of writing, Venky is preparing for the Hutch Delhi
Marathon by running 11 km daily in Gurgaon's Leisure Valley Park.
"These days I am trying to convince my staff to participate
in the marathon, and already there is a team of 30 people in place,"
says a proud Venky. "Every day there are some more people
joining me from office, so we might even top 30," he adds
If that sounds too cool for a company you'd
normally associate with esoteric test software and equipment,
it just keeps getting better. Zacharias Cherian, aka Zach, apart
from heading Agilent's Learning and Development portfolio, is
also busy practising drums with the rest of the 'Agilent Rock
Band' for the 'Family Day'. "I play the drums, though I am
equally comfortable with guitar, and though Saturdays are off,
we jam every Saturday in the office gym," grins Zach. Then
there's the Sports Club (in addition to the Performing Arts Club,
the Trekkers Club, the Golf Club and the Adventure Club!), which
practises every Saturday. "The cricket season is coming up.
We just defeated IBM Daksh in a friendly match and we are going
to be busy till March now," says Siddharth Chopra, Supervisor
(Accounts Payable), and also the captain of Agilent's cricket
team. Also "busy" in October is Parmeet Ahuja, Director
(Accounting Services), Global Financial Services. "It's not
the year closing that I am looking forward to," he grins,
"but the Family Day and the Diwali Party. The core team had
gone to Ananda for a couple of days earlier this year and we are
planning another such trip before the year ends," he adds
for good measure.
VALLURI, AKA 'VENKY'
COUNTRY MANAGER, AGILENT TECHNOLOGIES
"We Work On Emotional Attachment"
top boss spoke to BT's on how 360-degree evaluation is plenty
of fun. Excerpts:
What is Agilent's leadership philosophy?
It is all about transformational leadership. Leadership
that drives, a culture and a value system that fosters an
energetic, motivational & innovative environment succeed
in building sustainable organisations. Leaders who walk
the talk and base decisions on experiential learnings with
a strong foresight make a big difference.
What role does HR play in the company's vision?
The TEL factor-Technology, employees, leadership-works
here. Technology, inspired leadership and motivating employees
are the guiding principles here. The HR cost as a percentage
of total revenues is 0.10 per cent here, which itself denotes
the kind of investment we put in our employees.
What are Agilent's expansion plans?
India and China are the big focus areas and we are looking
at an investment of nearly $30 million (Rs 138 crore) within
the next two years in India alone. We are looking at expanding
offices in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore, apart
from a 'state-of-the-art' facility in Gurgaon. Revenues
from India stand at Rs 500 crore currently and we plan to
double them in three years. On an average, with 40 recruitments
every month, we will cross the 2,000 mark within two years
How do you create employee loyalty?
We are a niche company with value as the driving force.
We don't offer the moon (with average annual increments
of 12 per cent) but still our attrition rate is 15 per cent
compared to the industry rate of 25 per cent. The work culture
we have is so different that most of the employees who leave
want to join back and they do too since we don't have a
policy against them. We spend a lot of time and effort on
working on the new employees. They even have a 'buddy' assigned
to them who hand-holds them for the initial period. Instead
of luring the employees with monetary benefits, we work
on 'emotional attachment'.
Any new areas that you are looking at, apart from life
sciences, communications, chemical analysis and electronics?
Nano-technology. Agilent provides an extensive variety
of instrumentation to assist in the evaluation and characterisation
of nano-devices and we are planning to start a dedicated
unit in India too. Genomics is another niche area that interests
Venky isn't exactly the type to frown at
such apparent frivolity. The Country Manager flits between Gurgaon
and Bangalore when in India, which is every alternate month. He
tries to spend an entire week of a month-or at least every weekend-in
the garden city, where his family is settled. "A strict vegetarian,
Venky ends up having lunch and dinner in office; he makes us all
eat with him, just to give him company, so you can say we wine
and dine together," quips Ahuja, as they sit together for
lunch in the office canteen. "Apart from running together",
pipes in Deepak, one of the participants in the marathon. During
lunch, one of the jokes is at the boss' expense, as all at the
table guffaw about Venky's dance moves when he performed to the
tunes of Kajrare and Bunty & Babli at the 'Talent Day' held
last month. Almost everyone in the Gurgaon office took part in
the day-long programme. "Everyone was given a coffee mug
with the individual's performing picture on it; it's now displayed
proudly on every desk I check out. Even Venky has one in a Kajrare
pose," says Jayantika Dave, Director (HR), who jived with
him on the stage.
|It's all about team bonding: The river
rafting trip undertaken by the leadership team is one such
Along with the fun and games, Agilent must
be doing something more that's right on the human resources front.
After all, the attrition rate has plunged from 25 per cent two
years ago to 15 per cent today. And 35 per cent of the new hires
are referrals by existing employees. Well-defined performance
management systems-like My Accountability & Performance Standards
(maps)-360-degree evaluation, learning modules for future managers,
leadership succession practices across the company and the like
are all par for the course at Agilent. What makes it tick can
be summed up in two words: Commitment (of employees) and feedback
(of the boss). For instance, one manager travelled from Bangalore
to Delhi for a two-day client meeting with a fractured leg. Madhu
R. Nair, Head (Strategic Accounts), recalls the time he worked
late for an entire week on a deal, which he and his team eventually
struck. "My boss called up my wife to praise me. And the
entire team was told to go out for the evening," reminisces
Madhu. The bill, needless to say, was sent to Venky.
| A DAY
IN THE LIFE OF
DIPTI BHATIA, 33 Global Process
Manager (Cash Accounts, Treasury Accounts and International
Though Dipti manages to reach
office by 10 every morning, these days she gets delayed
as she is running 8 km daily to be in shape for the Hutch
Delhi Marathon. So, once in office, she starts her day by
socialising with her office pals, like a true Agilent worker.
"I look forward to coming to the office daily, even
though I have the option to work from home." Until
last fortnight, Dipti was in the United States, where she
was one of the four participants from Agilent's Indian offices
to attend the 'Global Leadership Forum;' the forum is held
for managers with potential to join the ranks of the integrating
manager (the next level). This CA, who joined Agilent two
years ago as a Supervisor (International Corporate Accounts),
has moved on to become Global Process Manager (Cash Accounts,
Treasury Accounts and International Corporate Accounts).
Work constitutes resolving issues such as transition of
activities, system enhancements, and system project upgradations.
While there are daily meetings with the team, peer and her
boss, Parmeet, there are calls from her overseas customers
as well; and also from subordinates from international offices.
Dipti's day at office usually ends by 7-8 p.m. but that
doesn't necessarily mean the work ends there. "There
are times when I get international calls in the middle of
the night." The rock climber, wine-taster and mother
of a four-and-a-half year-old works out regularly, and these
days she is busy planning a trip for her entire team to
Chaukidhani (Jaipur) in November. "My entire team went
to Rishikesh in February and it is about time we had another
one." On weekends, Dipti is either busy tasting wine
(her latest hobby) or playing squash, tennis or golf with
her office pals. Rock-climbing is another passion of this
33-year-old and during lunch breaks you may just catch her
attempting to convince her colleagues to join in.