Buck the trend
Burdwan University, in partnership with Acclaris, a Calcutta-based software firm, has started a finishing school for students to prepare them for challenges at the workplace. “The outsourcing world is very dynamic and one has to be innovative to stay ahead of competition,” says Kalyan Kar, director of Acclaris. “Since this is knowledge-driven industry, we have attempted to focus on the human resource aspect,” says Kar.
The finishing school was started to fulfill four goals — recruit the right people, recruit at the right time, retain the low cost advantage and retain the recruits for a long time. The Burdwan University Acclaris Knowledge Laboratory (BUAK LAB) serves these purposes by recruiting fresh postgraduates from the university with prior project training. The students are under contract to work for at least a year.
Acclaris wanted to ensure that the training programme was not only in line with the company’s business strategy but also innovative and futuristic. Acclaris had recruited some students from
University in 2005 and, encouraged by the competence of the students, decided to forge a partnership with the university. Subsequently, the programme was started in June/July 2007.
The centre of human resource development (CHRD) of
University has been at the forefront of this partnership. Professor A. K. Mullick, vice-chancellor of
University, says, “The motive behind the scheme was to serve the interest of postgraduates who would get into the KPO (knowledge process outsourcing) sector. We deemed it fit that there should be greater interaction between industry and academia and thus started the partnership with Acclaris.”
WHAT IS IT?
A finishing school for students set up by BurdwanUniversity in collaboration with Acclaris, a Calcutta—based software firm.
WHO’S THE BOSS?
Prof. A. K. Mullick, vice—chancellor of BurdwanUniversity.
ARE THERE ANY SCHOLARSHIPS ON OFFER?
There are five scholarships, each worth Rs.2,000.
WHAT ARE THE PROSPECTS?
Students selected for the programme are offered jobs by Acclaris.
WHERE IS IT?
The University of Burdwan, Rajbati, Bardhaman—713104,West Bengal. Phone: 342-2533913, 343—2533914.
“We approached Acclaris with a proposal to recruit students from the university and received a positive response from them,” said Shantanu Ghosh, director of CHRD. The tie-up provides a job guarantee for students who pass all stages of the training. The scheme has been praised by Debesh Das, the state IT minister, he said.
The trainees spend two months at
University and spend the final month working with Acclaris. After the third month, an examination is held and on passing it, an appointment letter is given to the students. The university charges Rs.2,000 for the two months’ training. There are five scholarships available from Acclaris, each worth Rs.2,000 and students undergoing the training in
Calcutta are given a stipend of Rs.3,000.
The scheme is open for postgraduate students from the university’s department of commerce and economics. The selection is based on an aptitude test and a personal interview conducted jointly by
University and Acclaris. There are fifteen seats in each course and the programme is in its third batch.
“Students are taught various skills, including the basics of BPO/KPO practices,” says Ranjan Sarkar, associate vice-president of human resources, Acclaris. Elementary mathematics, English speaking and writing skills, elementary statistics and specific software technologies are imparted to students and the syllabus and course content are framed by Burdwan University and Acclaris.
The programme enables students to interact with different kinds of people and not feel wayward or lost in job hunting efforts. “The scheme is of importance in the age of private tuitions and the marks oriented educational system,” says Shantanu Ghosh.
Students are optimistic about the course. Sourav Mukherjee, a process associate at Acclaris and a trainee at the finishing school, feels the course serves the needs of the market and enables students to polish their skills.
“The course provides the right kind of exposure to commerce students who form the bedrock of any industry,” says Mukherjee. Biren Das, a trainee, says the course helps the students to enter the industry straight from an academic institution without work experience but with the required training.“More universities should come forward for similar collaborative work,” says Das.
Infosys to join TCS in 1-lakh-employee club
A key milestone is just weeks away. The country’s show-piece software giant, Infosys, is set to cross the one-lakh-employee mark, catching up with industry leader Tata Consultancy Services. While the twosome together would be within kissing distance of worldwide headcounts at IBM or Accenture, the two global leaders are also putting pressure at home with their own aggressive hiring.
Infosys now has 82,000 employees on its rolls, but clearly sights 100,000 after job offers made in 1,050 engineering colleges across India.
“We have given 18,000offers. This shows our confidence in the business. We will soon employ in excess of one lakh people in India,” TV Mohandas Pai, director, human resources, Infosys told reporters in Mumbai. IT and business process firms together employ 20 lakh workers in India.
While IBM has 3.68 lakh employees and Accenture has 1.72 lakh people on its rolls spread worldwide, TCS and Infosys have most of their employees based in India.
Thanks to lower costs in India, IBM and Accenture have been expanding in India, prompting a war for talent that is yielding fruits for employees and mid-level managers.
Infosys is overhauling its manpower strategies to battle attrition. Under the new performance-linked pay structure, the difference in compensation between average and top performers would be 35 to 40%. This difference earlier was 15-20%. “Our attrition is 13.4% and we want to get it in single digits,” says Nandita Gurjar, group head, HR, Infosys.
The new Infy HR recipe
Individual performance-linked bonuses replace role—based incentives.
Top performers to get a hike of 40-45%
Across-the-board hike of 11-13%
Free movement across functions.
The company is planning to go for stringent employee assessment standards. “We are tightening our assessment of top performers. We would also introduce variable pays for middle and senior-level management,” said Pai.
Infosys has embarked on a hiring spree when there have been retrenchments in the IT sector due to a slowdown in the US economy (which contributes 70% of Indian IT companies’ revenues). “Headcount addition is in line with their guidance and shows the business confidence despite question marks over the US economy” said Apurva Shah, an IT analyst with Mumbai-based brokerage Prabhudas Lilladher.
Out with the old, in with the new
Your next job may be the beginning of a fresh adventure. Here’s how to face the daunting challenges ahead
Starting a new job means you may be confronted with a range of challenges that might include new software or a fresh operating system. You’re sure you’re up to, but suddenly you’re faced with a learning curved that seems as steep as Mount Everest. Don’t panic. Remember those first days on your last job? You probably felt just as nervous, but after a while, all those intimidating tasks became second nature. Here are some tips to get you over the mountain.
Bosses sometimes expect employees to be psychic, but it’s best to ask about expectations upfront. In today’s job scenario, with more and more workers reporting to multiple bosses, remember that different people may have different preferences. You also may be assigned a particular person, a supervisor or a coworker, to whom questions should be addressed. However, in many offices, no one person holds all the answers or is always available. Therefore, it pays to identify your best sources for questions on different topics. If you’re on a team where each person’s tasks are similar, you may have lots of people to choose from. Other information sources could include IT specialists for computer matters, mailroom clerks for shipping instructions and human resources personnel for protocol questions.
In a really busy office, you may begin to feel like your constant questions are becoming annoying. Pay attention to what others are up to before you interrupt with a question. Consider their body language and tone of voice. Does your coworker or boss appear harried or in the middle of something? If yes, can the question wait? Can you drop that task and work on another until a more convenient time? Consider going to another source or accumulating multiple questions so you only have to bother the person once. Ask for a convenient time to set up an appointment, or email questions so they can be answered easily when convenient.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the trick to ramping up at a new job is accessing information when you need it. Make sure your how-to instructions and various lists are well-organized. If your job requires some moving around, it’s no good to have a helpful post-it back on your bulletin board. Use a portable notebook or accordion folder with labeled dividers that you can even take home for review.
If you’re not sure how to fill out a form or craft a document, ask for an example you can keep on file. File these samples in your notebook or folder as well.
Many companies offer complimentary courses to help employees pick up speed on a variety of tasks, from software to customer service to specialty skills such as medical coding. Many firms post class descriptions and schedules on intranets. Your new workplace has factored in the time for the learning curve. When filling a key spot in a fast-paced environment, you may feel pressured to catch up quickly. But if you do new tasks too fast, you’re liable to make mistakes. If you’re concerned about taking too long, talk to your supervisor and communicate your appreciation of the importance of doing tasks correctly
Phone-wallets for masses by 2012
The new technology which enables small payments from mobile phones by just flashing the handset is likely to reach masses only around 2012, when one phone from five sold will be equipped with the technology.
Customers will be able to use a phone as a wallet or as an access card simply by waving it over a wireless reader — and in some cases punching a
PIN number into the phone — similar to how travelers in
Tokyo and London access public transport.
The technology is ready and Nokia has introduced four products using it so far — but the limited offering and high costs are hampering the take-up, which could help transport firms to cut costs and cell phone makers to support prices.
“When the 20% level is reached it starts to feed itself. That is the critical point,” Jukka Suikkanen, R&D manager at top Nordic telecom operator TeliaSonera, said in Helsinki.
Research firms Strategy Analytics and ABI Research have forecast the 20% penetration would be reached in 2012.
Mikko Saarisalo, a technology manager at the world’s top cell phone maker Nokia, declined to comment on the out-look for the technology, but said 30% of phones enabled text messaging (SMS) before it took off.
ABI Research has forecast 6.5 million NFC (Near Field Communication) phones would be sold this year, up 10 fold from 2007, but the growth is hampered by costs stemming from an extra chip needed in phones for data security.
TeliaSonera’s Suikkanen said additional costs are likely to start falling next year when operators start to add security features SIM cards, ending the need for an additional chip
Just a click away
The concept of eco-friendly, electronically savvy homes and offices are making waves in the Indian realty arena due to their distinctive features. Rai Umraopati Ray reports
I distinctly remember the ‘tales’ that my cousins from the US used to tell me on their frequent visits to India. From popular takeaways, to hip-hop music, we were alien to it all. But as years passed and India moved ahead becoming more and more a part of the global arena, almost everything they used to talk about became a part of our surroundings. The latest addition being the concept of eco-friendly, electronically savvy homes popularly known as Smart Homes or e-Homes.
How many days have you sat in office worrying about whether you had switched off the geyser in the morning after your bath? Or were tense about your kids being able to handle the gas stove? Well, electronically savvy homes are the answer to all your queries and worries. Not only new, but a very unique concept in the housing industry in India, e-Homes are better understood as web-enabled houses that give you the advantage and freedom to operate and handle your home even while you are away from it.
The smart home is not just automated but also secure. Only a valid smart card holder can open the front door. In case of forced entry, the owner is alerted through SMS, e-mail or even a phone call anywhere in the world. The security person at the gate is also informed automatically. On making a valid entry inside the house, a welcome greeting message is given.
Explains J.K. Jain, CMD Design Arch that has launched two residential projects in Vaishali and Greater Noida on the same lines, “The concept of e-homes usually involves components like eco-friendly features, electronically savvy, earthquake resistant etc. It is a complete package that aims at making life easy for our residents. From working on green buildings to technology integration to water and energy conservation, both the projects have unique features like foam concrete blocks that reduce the weight on the structure by 50% so that the building is better equipped during an earthquake, energy efficient water and fire pumps, water recycling plants, UPVC German windows etc.”
Simply using your mobile or laptop or the touch screen panel if in the house, you would know whether your air conditioner, iron or any other electronic item was safely switched off or not, you could keep tabs on the gas being used and could also switch it on/off from where you were sitting. Draw your curtains to let the sunshine filter in or switch the fridge off when the electricity bids goodbye. So, even in the away mode, you would have complete control over your apartment wherever you were in the world, via your cell phone or laptop. You would instantly receive a message if there was a fire or water leakage or if somebody had entered your house. Not only this, you would also get pictures of all your visitors.
Keeping the hectic lifestyle of the urban populace in mind, Indian builders are also slowly and steadily making an entry into this housing segment. From mere talks to sketch-board plans, the concept of intelligent homes is now taking shape in brick and mortar but for a price. A three bedroom or a four bed—room house can set you back by Rs.65,lakh to one crore.
Take the case of Mahindra Life space Developers, which has come up with their residential project Mahindra Chloris, located on the NH-2, near DPS Faridabad. Their project is built on the same concept of Green Buildings under LEED guidelines and is safeguarded with IEC security.
Informs Pawan Malhotra, Managing Director, Mahindra Life spaces, “It is an exciting concept. Our project is a unique residential complex that has IEC security. These homes are electronically savvy with special emphasis on earthquake resistance. E-connectivity allows you to control the apartments from anywhere in the world. Some features are remote home access, video visitor tracking systems, door sensors, fire detectors, motion control lighting, touch screen display panel and motion sensors in the bedroom.
Avers Vijay Jindal, SVP Group, whose project Gulmohar Greens is making use of the same technology, “With the Indian realty sector getting international exposure, newer and more innovative concepts are making a foray into this sphere. People look for value added services like these as they make living a lot easier.”
The concept seems to be a success in the realty arena as more and more developers are imbibing its features in one way or another, but there are apprehensions like maintenance, durability and the efficient handing of the system and of course privacy as there would be a common server monitoring all these functions. Though Jain insists that, “There would be no issues as every aspect has been taken care of and the system would be maintained by professionals. We also have an Intelligent Building Management System in the control room that would monitor all the activities in the premises.”
Tata Comm designs security service
Amid growing concerns of cyber attacks on Indian government and private computer networks, Tata Communications on Thursday said it has designed a ‘Detection and Mitigation’ service to defend such attacks on critical network infrastructure and business applications. A distributed denial-of-service attack is an attempt to make a computer resource unavailable to its intended users. Although the means, motives and targets may very, the attack generally consists of the concerned, malevolent efforts of a person to prevent an Internet site or service from functioning efficiently.
WARNING LIE DETECTOR AT THE OTHER END
Acting sick for leave? Boss may call your bluff
They have tried office spies and closed-circuit cameras. What will companies do next to keep employees in check? In Britain, companies are trying long distance lie detectors that try to tell from the tone of a worker’s voice if he or she is lying to feign sickness.
That’s a bit like a possessive girlfriend or zealous mother using some extra-sensory intervention to call the bluff. In Britain, “pulling sickies” is said to cost billions of pounds to companies with one of every eight sick calls thought to be bogus, PTI says in a report on computer that checks a voice to find. Out if it is steady and reliable. The process is called voice risk analysis—and claiming you have a hoarse throat may be the best way out for desperate leave-seekers.
Employers also have now network technologies that enable the computer screens of workers to be monitored remotely.
“Take control of any user, log off/disconnect any user,” says an advertisement by Mumbai-based Enjoy Network Solutions. In India, call centre have an absentee problem, but the industry has odd working hours that make many excuses circumstantially valid. “Absenteeism is more of a problem in manufacturing industries,” said Rajesh A.R., vice president at human resource firm Team leas.
“Legally, there is a question of whether a recorded voice would hold against a person in court. At best, this would work to scare people off,” said Vishal Chhiber at human resource firm Kelly Services India. “This practice also goes against business ethics and employee rights,” he said, adding absenteeism may be the symptom, while lack of motivation may be the disease.
The Buddha’s stress management
Back in the 6th Century BC, young Siddhartha, prince of the Sakyas, developed deep metaphysical anguish about the human suffering caused by aging, ailments, defilements and death. Is life no more than this, he wondered? Renouncing everything, he moved from place to place in search of an answer, studied a lot and thought deeper and deeper with incredible austerity. Ultimately, the cycle of life, its cause, and way of cessation were revealed unto his adamant will. Thus he became the Buddha, the perfected and enlightened one. It is an astounding episode of an intense spiritual quest leading to the discovery of a sunlit path.
The essence of his doctrine is that there is nothing in the universe, which can be identified as me or mine. There is neither a doer nor a sufferer, but merely a flow of phenomena. Hence, hold on to this idea and be a witness to the universal flux. Neither addiction to sense-pleasures nor self-mortification can end suffering, so he prescribed the middle path of nibbana (nirvana), which is the noble, eightfold path, of wisdom (panna), virtues (sila) and concentration (Samadhi). Right mindfulness is the key to existence and eventual enlightenment. The Buddhist meditation of mindfulness develops clear comprehension and complete awareness through contemplation of the body and breathing, feeling, mind, and mind-objects, a marvelous method of meditation.
The good, bad and ugly
All bosses can be slotted. If you know the kind of boss you have, things are easier to handle. Here are some of the common types
Sound ‘n’ fury: The screamer boss seems to think that he will get his way if he raises his voice to an unconscionable level. How does a screamer end up as a boss? Some clueless hiring managers equate screaming with managerial skills. All in all, screamers just want to know that they’re being heard, and they want recognition. If you can get along with your screamer boss, and gain his respect and trust, perhaps you can help guide him to lower tones.
Fear factor: People do what a “fearsome” boss says because they’re afraid of him, which actually encourages further intimidation. He always threatens, and he constantly follows through with that threat in order to keep his employees acquiescent. This boss has a high turnover rate as he fires employees to keep up the fear factor, and good employees leave him, refusing to work for such an ogre. A fearsome boss cannot last. Eventually, he will burn out every employee, and an organization’s bottom line cannot sustain the costs involved.
The manipulator: Also known as the Machiavellian boss, this type is extremely intelligent and one of the most dangerous. The manipulator boss is highly focused, very motivated, and always has a secret plan. He looks at people as a means to an end. The world is a giant pyramid and the apex is his. People he touches or runs over on the way to the top are casualties he writes off. If you work for a manipulator, watch your back. Your best bet is to be open and honest with him. Volunteer information. Your boss, who has long forgotten what truth is, will be left impressed by it.
Busy bee: He is someone who impulsively demands control over situations and then cuts off your answer in two minutes because he doesn’t have the time to discuss it. He frequently asks you to write reports on your progress, but will rarely remember that he’s asked. The two-minute boss constantly gives the impression that he is way too busy to bother with details. His head is always somewhere else—somewhere more important. Working for this boss is an exercise in the art of speaking concisely. Try to fit everything you have to say in a two-minute time frame, and see what happens.
Power crazy: He is a true megalomaniac. You’ll notice the engraved gold plate on his office door, desk, and chair proclaiming his rank. He might take outrageous liberties like having an employee clean his car. When you question him, he’ll just point to the gold plates. Rest assured that his cloak of power hides great incompetence. How to get along with a god boss? Humour him. Follow his rules, and create the illusion you’re doing things his way. Remember, he’ll never control your mind.
Mr Bumble: The bumbling boss is the dunce of the bosses. The best way to deal with a bumbling boss is to help him get promoted. When they get promoted, they are notorious for promoting people underneath them. Besides, sooner than later, executives will see your boss for the dunce that he is, and he’ll be shipped off somewhere else.
THE SEVEN DAYS PITCH
Want to find a job in a week? Follow these tips and you will
Tell it right: Write a resume incorporating two or three paragraphs about a problem you faced, the intelligent way you approached it and its positive outcome. Get feedback on the draft from people you know in your target field. Craft your elevator pitches; each one must explain why you’re looking for a job, what you’re looking for and prove that you’re good. Here’s an example of a 10-second pitch, “The company downsized, so I’m looking for another CPA position. I never thought I’d be looking for a job. I have always got great evaluations”. In the 30 and 60-second pitches, say more about the kind of job you want and provide credible evidence of your competence.
Quick scan: Identify 25 employers you’d like to work for. Focus on small, growing companies in your target industry within a reasonable commuting distance. Long on to major employment sites for companies you’ve never heard of with multiple job listings. These are usually small companies in growth mode. Email or phone the people in your network who are most likely to help you get a job, give your 10 or 30-second pitch and ask, “Do you know someone at any of these 25 companies, or elsewhere for that matter”? If appropriate, ask if your contact would review your resume and cover letter or do a mock interview with you.
Tackle tactfully: Follow up on the leads from your networking that are not among the employers you’ve targeted; deliver your 30-second pitch enthusiastically. After that, listen more than talk. Ask questions about the employer’s needs. If you have an idea, propose it tactfully. For example, “Listening to you, it seems that I could help you by doing X. What do you think”? If it would impress the interviewer, tell about your performance in your earlier companies. Visit each of the 25 employers’ websites and apply to any on-target jobs. Start your cover letter by mentioning your reference, if any. Then explain, point by point, how you meet the requirements in the listing. Your goal is to apply for 10 openly advertised on-target jobs by the end of the week.
Mail matters: Send a brief email to the CEO of one of the companies to which you wish to apply. Here’s an example: “I’m an operations manager who’s just been part of a downsizing at Big-Whup Widget. I’m attracted to your company because I have experience in your industry, liked what I saw on your website and, I must admit, because I live just 10 minutes away. I’m attaching my resume. I’d welcome the opportunity to speak with you or a designee to see if and how I might be of help to you”. If, within a week, you haven’t heard from the people you’ve contacted, follow up. Leave voice mail, saying, “I’m the manager from Big Whup Widget who was just part of a downsizing and phoned you. I’m assuming that, not having heard from you, you’re too busy to respond. I can understand. But I know that sometimes things can fall between the cracks, so I’m taking the liberty of calling to follow up. If you are interested in talking to me or can offer advice as to where I should turn, I’d appreciate a call”.
You won’t hear back from most people you contact, but you’ll get at least one bite, most likely from an employer who has been thinking about hiring but hasn’t gotten around to it yet. Sometimes, an employer will find it easier to vet you, make you an offer and be done with it. If that’s the case, the time and effort you will have invested in your one-week job search will have paid big dividends.
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