Employees are less happy with their jobs today and the task to retain key performers is tougher than before, research by consulting firm Mercer confirms. Prithvi Shergill, chief HR officer at HCL Technologies, concurs and quotes a survey that states high performers are three times more likely to seek a new opportunity today than they would a year ago.
So, how do you make sure your top talent does not succumb to the lure of fat pay packets or greener career pastures? While companies are putting differentiated increments in place and enhancing stock options, some are going that extra mile to keep their top performers happy.
Citi's Breakthrough Strategy
Last year, Citi India launched a breakthrough strategy for retaining high-performing womenofficers. Their strategy helps new mothers secure performance ratings during their six months' maternity leave.
"It was launched with an intent to reduce potential unconscious or other biases that come in the way of providing women an objective rating for the targets achieved during the period of work in a year," says Anuranjita Kumar, country HR officer.
The policy secures a woman's rating by considering the current year rating (when she takes maternity leave) as well as the average rating of the previous two years. The better of the two ratings is considered as the final performance rating for the year under consideration. It helps women officers with top ratings maintain their performance status even while on maternity leave. The programme addresses the twin objectives of pursuing inclusive growth in an environment led by meritocracy.
Bhanu Singhal, assistant VP at Citi India, has been a beneficiary. "I was worried about being perceived as a fringe-performer on my return to work. The enhancement performance guidelines put me at ease with the firm belief that my performance rating will not be compromised even if I go on leave," she says.
Citi has also put in place diverse succession and development plans to prepare people for leadership positions and reduce reliance on a small group of individuals. The plan includes identification of talentacross three categories: high potentials, specialists with domain expertise and promotables or professionals who can be promoted for one or more positions in the current or related fields. This means assessment of and development of current incumbents being fit for the job and development of successors in the 2-3 year term, including targeting external candidates. Anand Selva, country business manager, consumer bank at Citi India, has used this talent designation and successionplanning module. "The recently concluded talent designation and succession planning exercise is done in great detail and allows for an in-depth analysis of available talent for critical roles," he says.
At Microsoft, the talent strategy is built around two key stakeholders — high potentials (4% of the employees) and key talent (another 16% of employees). The key talent component was introduced last year. "These 16% employees have the potential and ability to grow faster," says Rohit Thakur, head of HR, at Microsoft India. The company has 6,500 employees in India.
For the high potentials, the company has different benches — the emerging leader bench, leader bench, senior leader bench and executive leader bench. The benches are a function of experience and, more importantly, the impact of the role.
Grooming talent at the emerging leader bench involves building selfawareness, abilities and delivering on results. At the level of the leader bench, the focus is on increasing the influence of high-potential talent. "These professionals are already leaders. So, we work with them in building their capabilities in strategic execution," says Thakur. The company also helps these leaders expand networks within and outside the organisation.
At the senior leader bench levels, the company works on building capabilities to lead broad teams and functions besides setting up a crosscompany network.
The executive bench focuses on building enterprise-level leadership and corporate stewardship. The focus is on how the high potential talent leads on a much bigger scale. High-potentials are constantly engaged in career discussions. The company has internal succession planning charts that the 4% highpotential talent knows about.These charts are transparently discussed with candidates who are given a two-three-year scenario. "It's not a committed career progression, but the person is made as a top choice. It helps the company plan and set employee expectations," says Thakur. "The more transparent companies are, the more aspirational the employees become."
M&M's Succession Planning
At Mahindra & Mahindra, career development plans of top performers have been closely and directly linked to succession planning over the past year and a half. "Now, the focus of the career development plan is on developing top performers in the context of where that person will be twothree years down the line. If the top performer is perceived as a successor to more than one position, which is likely, he will undergo an extensive job rotation in those positions," says Rajeshwar Tripathi, chief people officer, automotive and farm equipment sectors, M&M.
Tripathi says the group has very aggressive growth plans and aspirational business targets which require a very strong pool of talent and a healthy leadership pipeline.
The group also focuses on learning opportunities through leadership development programmes from institutes likeMichigan University and Harvard Business School. To extend learning opportunities for top performers at senior levels, the company started participating in the Fulbright Scholar Program sponsored by the US governmentlast year. Fulbright scholarship involves an 8-12 week programme which is a mix of classroom learning and onsite visits to organisations across North America. The company sent about four-six senior level performers for the programme this year.
For young talent, the company has a six-year long resource intensive "Emerging Leaders Program". Empowering employees is a critical aspect of the retention strategy.
"When we set stretched goals and targets for top performers, we decide on the target. But, how they wish to achieve the target is open to individuals. How they work within the value system is up to them. Employees are engaged when they are empowered," says Tripathi.
Shergill of HCL Technologies feels the company has built employee programmes and policies that reflect their 'employee first, customer second' strategic model. Shergill says the company fosters a culture of idea-preneurship that enables employees to generate creative insights and helps retain top performers.
Their HCL Value Portal provides a forum for HCL employees and customers where HCL employees identify problems in a product and provide solutions that are predefined by quality, timeline and available budgets.
"The ideas are co-created and co-implemented with a very tight collaboration among working group members and, hence, it becomes much easier for the customer to measure the value realised through such initiatives," says Shergill.
MAD JAM or Make a Difference Jamboree is not just targeted at young leaders across India, but is also a bottom-up initiative for frontline employees at HCL. Its aim is to recognise innovative ideas at the company. Shergill feels idea-preneurship facilitates employee-led grassroots creativity.
"In an external environment characterised by change and uncertainty, organisations which make such a culture central to their way of working will shift the balance to multiply the impact on high performers so they stay and strive," he says.