ICMR (IBS Center for Management Research).
The major challenges being faced by the ITES or BPO industry in India can be classified into internal and external challenges. The internal challenges include shortage of competent managers for the middle and senior management and the high attrition rates. The external challenge is in the form of opposition from the US politicians and the UK labor unions against shifting of the BPO operations by local companies to India. The threat of real competition from other players like Philippines also exists, but doesn't seem to need our immediate attention. Let us look at some of these issues.
Entry-level recruitment and employment has not been a problem with so many fresh graduates with good language skills, available readily in the job market.
The problem is more intense for the third-party outsourcing companies which have just ventured into this business. They cannot even invest in training, given their financial and other constraints. Captive BPOs like GE and American Express, which are established players in the business, have no such problems. They in fact invest substantially in training their managers. However, they have been facing a problem of a different kind. Their middle and senior level managers are being poached by the new entrants to the industry. Reports say that large and established players face an attrition rate of 45% against the industry average of 35%. Everyone agrees that hiring from competition is a cyclical process and will not help the industry grow, but with very few options available, they resort to the easiest solution - poaching.
That brings us to the next issue - high attrition rates. Attrition means not only loss of talent, but also includes the cost of training the new recruits. The attrition rate in the industry has been hovering around 35%, which is quite high for any industry. An average Indian call center employee works with a company for 11 months, where as an average UK call center employee stays in a company for 3 years. It is expected that the attrition rates would come down once the growth stabilizes. Steep growth is one of the reasons for the high attrition rates, according to many in the industry.
According to a survey by People-One Consulting, an employee's leaving the organization happens typically in the first couple of weeks of joining. The reasons are many -- high stress levels, monotonous nature of the job, demand-supply disparity and lack of career growth potential on the professional front; loss of identity, mismatch with normal cycle, complete change of life style and lack of comfort on the personal front. Add to this, the 'poaching' strategy being adopted by the players in the industry. What else can we expect, but an attrition rate of 35%?
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