Article (August-2020)


Re-skill or up-skill the teams, not lay them off

Mihir Gosalia

Designation : -  

Organization : -  Mumbai


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1- There is no work culture in the company. It is hire & fire policy. When work is there & manpower is needed, you are welcomed with flowers and roses & bouquets of dreams and shown that sky is the limit for growth opportunities within this company. There is no walk the talk. Ground reality is somewhat different. Lots of operational issues exist as can be seen by the incompetence of project team leaders to provide solutions to the software engineering team and poor team handling manners exhibited by them. Also just because the company lost a client project due to current covid-19 emergency scenario although client cited poor work quality & dissatisfaction at the progress rate of project, the team working on it was fired. Project head informs termination decision to HR & next day CEO also confirms the same citing organizational cost cutting reasons. Hence there doesn't exist in the company any proper HR Policy or Culture. HR's role is only to recruit people, train them for client's project requirement & exit formalities. HR has no say in organizational policy matters & decisions. It is purely a support function.

2- On Saurabh's part, he just went by hearsay from the Project Head Kulkarni about aggressive growth, hiring at rapid speed with one sided employee bond, training the software engineers, etc.The first thing Saurabh as HR Head should have done is asses the company's organizational or work culture, what is it working here like, how are teams managed, what is the retention policy and career progression, etc. Saurabh didn't do any of this nor demonstrate leadership in his role as Head HR. He was merely following instructions from his other functional colleagues.

HR should have been called in early to help shape the discussions and steer the actions.Neha on her part responsible for training should have escalated or brought out in appropriate forums, the treatment meted out by project team leaders to her batch of trained software engineers. This way she could have come out in support of her trainees when client issues surfaced over the speed of project, delays, poor quality of work, and delay in resolving queries. The problem was not with the software development team but with few team leaders who were not co-operative, squeezing their team excessively and unable to provide them technical solutions of issues rose by members in daily meetings resulting into increasing disengagement and absence from work among the software project development team members. Neha had informed this feedback to Saurabh, but somehow Saurabh did not apprise Kulkarni of the matter nor to the CEO resulting in the disastrous scene of their termination. They became the scapegoat of someone else's lackadaisical attitude. This was the second thing that went wrong. Had this been handled properly and timely, the disaster could perhaps have been avoided.

3- Absolutely not, this type of hire and fire policy is not good for any organisation in the long run. Slowly by word of mouth these type of practices & culture will spread in the industry and the company will be unable to recruit good quality talented people if such practices are prevalent. If the company does not support its employees during bad times or in times of crisis, how can they expect its employees to support them when they require.

Kulkarni turned to the HR when it came to facilitating recruitment needs, and company policies like in this was the requirement of 3 years bond; however he did not realise that the HR team also be actively involved in growing the business and having an input into important business decisions. HR can assist in scalability of the business in the future as was also tried during this time. The IT Company had hired the software engineers and trained them. They were on the team. Company had made an investment in them, with financial and emotional components. Hence it wasn't the right decision to rush them out of the door.

It also depletes organizational talent, which is any company's most valuable resource. A chronic labor shortage from layoffs puts a business behind its competition. It also weakens its position in the labor market, given the toll that mass firings have on an employer's brand. Organisation's results depend on its talent and the talent is scrolling through company reviews.
4- Saurabh as HR Head may have to be more assertive about becoming involved, develop a track record and building trust to prove value of HR in the organisation.

Saurabh should have one on one meeting with Kulkarni, the IT project head and try to iron out the real reasons as to what went wrong with the client who abruptly terminated the project Maybe the plan was not clear, or the topics that desperately need air time like few team leaders were not co-operative, squeezing their team excessively and unable to provide them technical solutions of issues raised by members in daily meetings. Many a times the team leaders bounced back on them who raised the queries and expected guidance and solutions which resulted into increasing disengagement and absence from work amongst the team members. Basically the supervisors were incompetent. This won't be known, either, unless Saurabh asks or raises this question. Have clear, forthright performance conversations with project team leaders in front of their reporting head. Typically managers don't like having those conversations. They're uncomfortable and that can result in lack of clarity. Saurabh can help the project team leaders clearly define goals, objectives and performance expectations from the team members allocated to them for the client project. HR also can follow up to make sure the employees clearly understands expectations and next steps. Clear communication, a well- documented process and early HR support can eliminate the firing surprise factor for employees. This is one way Saurabh as HR head could look at salvaging the situation and abrupt firing of the newly recruited hires.

Another option that Saurabh could look at is building targeted talent pipelines from the already recruited team to meet future client needs of the organisation. Already a lot of investment has been made in training them and they have also got on the job client end work experience. So the team is market ready. Hence rather than letting them go, better to make use of the time for upskilling or re-skilling. This will also make the new hires more valuable to the organisation.

Going forward, as one of the lessons learnt from this catastrophe of hiring & firing at will, Saurabh should look at having a typically have a well-defined process for performance reviews and employee termination and this should be communicated & made known to everyone in the organisation. This was one of the loopholes in this IT organisation that enabled key functional heads take advantage of it and thus salvage themselves.