An impatient workforce – Crawl before you run

Today Infosys announced that its employees will have to work in  areas of technology for at least 6 years, master it,  before they become supervisors or managers. However this action was not a proactive one, but reaction to a number of customers complaining of shoddy and bad quality work. There is a lesson here, for all associated with the software services business.

Infosys has a challengethey  have over one lakh employees on their payroll, many of them hired in the last 3-4 years, a phase of rapid growth. In a previous article, I had predicted that  delivering consistent quality will be a challenge as the size of the workforce increases. The fundamental problem with the service business has been, and is, that to increase revenue, you have to increase employees. Globally, things have slowed down; customers are experiencing top and bottom line pressures and reevaluating all their expenses. They want a better price for what they are getting, or better quality for what they paying. They can no longer afford or tolerate shoddy work.

Professionals are not developed overnight. For any professional, be it an engineer, doctor or lawyer, building competence and a good resume is a 10-15 year process. The last 10 years made subquality employees feel they are invaluable because many companies were trying to hire them, not because they were good, but because of huge hiring targets adopted by many companies to support their growth.  This, in turn, led to hiring managers resorting to poaching from one another.  Needless to say, young employees got a big high, a “I am a legend” feeling, since anyone and everyone, would get multiple calls from headhunters every single day.

Today’s young generation has got used to rapid response and instant gratification. Thanks to the internet, their ability to get information, talk to someone, chat or message is pretty much instant. This gratification is causing an expectation mismatch in the real world, where they now want to be instant experts, instant managers and even instant CEOs.

I was told by a child expert that if a child starts walking directly without crawling, there are serious implications in brain development. Certain parts of the brain does develop when a child crawls; and other parts develop as the child transitions from crawling to walking.  The view is that any child will be challenged in certain attributes if any stage of the normal growth process is bypassed.

Similarly, competence, character and a value system grows when appropriate amount of work is done at each level.  Infosys has defined the first stage of the career pipeline any fresh hire will do real technology work for six years. I sincerely hope the rest of the industry follows this lead, especially headhunters, who are mainly responsible for distorting employee expectations. Fresh hires who had hardly finished one year in their job were lured with higher salaries and better positions and multiple companies hiring them, all of which is only doing disservice to both clients and these new employees.  If the whole software services industry aligns to this methodology proposed by Infosys, then in six years, we will not only have a very competent workforce, but also position India as the first choice to outsource to. For now, there must be a candid recognition and admission that we are definitely challenged.  It is time to get off the treadmill and crawl a bit.

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