A Study on the Worklife of BPO Employees and the various Human Resource Practices in a BPO - A Case Study of Convergys By Dr. Kumuda Tripathy M.A., Ph.D. Faculty Member ICFAI Business School Pune, Aundh-411 007 Introduction Striking a balance is the real fulfillment to life. In the rat race of our present day existence, especially in the long working hours ethos of our industry, we forget to maintain a balance between work and family. The result is devastating: high levels of stress, trauma, and even nervous breakdowns. The phrase worklife balance was coined in 1986 in USA .Until 1999 it remained on the fringes of corporate usage and public dissemination. Post 2000, work life balance has gone mainstream, with hundreds of dedicated internet sites, including those of mega corporations, helping spread its usage. There has been legislation enacted in many countries making worklife balance crucial to the functioning of a corporation. All this translates in the HR departments paying more and more attention to the aspirations of every employee and creating parameters of social interactivity to enable them to constantly discover their true potential. The BPO industry and other IT based businesses are constantly reframing their worklife policies because of high attrition rates. Objective of the Paper To study the worklife of the BPO employees and the various problems faced by them while working in the BPO sector. 1. The paper also gives an insight on the various human resource practices carried out in the BPO sector. 2. This paper would give a detailed report on the employees and their benefits and disadvantages in relation to their worklife 3. The paper would throw light on the human resource functions, practices followed by the HR department in relation to a BPO unit-Convergys Some Statistics of the BPO Industry Over 25,000 people are employed in the BPO sector Revenue of the sector touches $ 3.6 billion Burn out Stress Syndrome is common among BPO employees BPO industry lacks a regulatory framework from Foreign Direct Investment The Government and the corporate sector should look at employment laws as different from the labor laws for the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. There is a need for a forum to redress the grievances of employees in the BPO sector. At a public meeting organized by the Union of Information Technology and Enabled Services ,participants rued that the BPO industry lacks a regulatory framework from Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) regulations to issues of security, technology transfer and employee welfare. Various call centre employees and non-governmental organization activists expressed concern about the non-implementation of the universal charters prepared pertaining to the security of women working in night shifts. The absence of such a regulation leaves employees open to machinations of unscrupulous employers, cases of fraudulent salary cuts, collection of deposits in the name of training, arbitrary fixing of salaries and fear of reprisal. The number of people employed in the BPO sector is currently upwards 2,50,000 in the country and expected to reach 1.1 million by 2008.( according to a NASSCOM Report)The business has grown by 46 per cent, with the revenue touching $ 3.6 billion and has added 70,000 new jobs in the year 2004. The NGO workers are apprehensive about the sustainability of the employees in the BPO industry because of the haphazard work shifts. "Though BPO industries have been a boon in terms of employing a bulk number of unemployed graduates, it is difficult for them to sustain. The stress, working against nature and the safety and security factor plays a major role. Though a job in the call centers is all about "big money," the future of the employees and their educational opportunities five years down the line is a million dollar question. The employees cease to be social beings and often get isolated from their family and friends. BOSS — the Burn-Out Stress Syndrome — is a common syndrome among the BPO employees and includes chronic fatigue, insomnia due to the complete alteration of 24-hour biological rhythm of the body. Crossing lines of gender, religion and caste, anyone can fit into this type of work, assuming they have good language skills. Lamenting on the stress factor, many call centre employees called for longer breaks during work hours and an insight on loss of identity of employees is also a rising question. Worklife Balance Strategies in BPOs BPO companies have lined-up measures ranging from realignment of shift timings to people-oriented initiatives such as Diwali fests complete with firework displays, to ensure that business continues during the festivities. "We have realigned our timings to allow employees to go back early. Also, advance planning for critical functions such as online interactions has been done. We will be finishing the shifts by late afternoon to allow employees to be with their families in the evening," said Mr Rohit Arora, Chairman of eMR Technology Ventures. Exëvo, a Knowledge Process Outsourcing firm, has offered a deal to its employees — in case they come in on Tuesday, they would get two compensatory offs. UNDER fire from various sections on labour-related issues, the woes of the BPO industry seem far from over. Nature of Work at BPOs In recent months some rather perceptive attempts have been made, one of which — associated with the V. V. Giri National Labour Institute in Noida — seeks to lay bare the nature and structure of employment in BPO call centres in particular as objectively as possible. Among other things, perhaps the most important point which this study seeks to emphasise is that the work conditions to be found in call-centres (which account for 65-70 per cent of the Indian BPO sector) are different from conventional industrial mould .In the service sector, "customers in particular are considered integral to the work organisation, either due to simultaneous production and use of many personal services or due to a strong client-led definition and even co-production of the actual services. This customer-oriented nature of work often challenges the traditional conceptions of control and coordination, especially those of manager-worker control relations. Further to this, `informatisation' of work also creates possibilities for novel modes of conceptualising and organising work, leading to discernible changes in work cultures." There are widely divergent views on what the nature of call-centre work is really like, but attention is drawn to a "wider consensus that the work in call centres characterises some deep-seated contradictions — contradictions of pleasures and pains in the experience of work, and conflicts arising out of the competing logics of customer orientation and rationalisation". There is little doubt that work at Indian call centres is "unskilled, repetitive and monotonous". As the NLI paper says, "the workers are subjected to a work regime, which is based on a high degree of computer-telephony integration. The use of such technology, along with use of standard scripts allow the firms to keep the `free time' between calls to the bare minimum". The system also allows managements "to examine the performance of the employee quantitatively — average call time, number of calls and so on, besides allowing the supervisors to listen remotely to the agents' call, with or without the knowledge of the employee, to ascertain whether the work is being done within the stipulated norms and standards". Dwelling on this aspect of work in some detail, it says the "entry of the employees is strictly restricted to their work area and the common spaces earmarked for recreation and refreshment. For each entry to and exit from the work bay, the agents have to punch their electronic identity cards... During the working hours, the agents are directed to observe punctuality in taking the admissible breaks, which are also tracked continuously, through computers. The agents are supposed to be logged in and attending calls for a certain number of hours per day, which prevents them from too many toilet and coffee breaks. For each break, agents are required to log off, while leaving the work-bay and log in again at the time of resuming work. Those who are away from the work bay for longer durations or unable to attend calls for more than certain stipulated minutes are instantaneously warned through intranet messages". Basing itself on this premise, the paper has referred to comparisons made by some commentators with "the situations of nineteenth century prisons or Roman Slave ships", which has raised the hackles of a whole range of Indian IT personalities. To critics, such management practices have evoked scenes of call-centres being nothing more than "`modern sweatshops' or `bright satanic offices', where the exploitation of labour is ensured through increased rationalisation and Taylorisation of work". The paper also refers to what it calls the `emotion burden' on call-centre employees which results mainly from the requirement of employees being expected "to display customer oriented attitudes and feelings to facilitate a smooth interaction with the distantly placed consumers". As the paper says, employees "are required to `manufacture' relationships... Quite often, aspects such as moods of the agents (employees), facial expressions and words are subject to monitoring. The agents are even found forced to either express some feelings, which they do not feel or suppress certain feelings, which they genuinely want to share. In both the cases, the employees find the job depressing and leading to emotional dissonance". The conclusion is: "Emotional exhaustion adds to the physical and mental strain of the workers, leading to higher levels of stress and burnout under the electronically monitored work and tightly bureaucratised work regime". To temper these adverse effects, call-centre managements arrange for "structured socialisation" of the employees such as organising consultative forums, arranging gettogethers, etc, the main objective of all this however being the "(striking of) the `right' balance between work and fun, thereby creating a `productively docile' workforce". There is also the weapon of "illusory empowerment" through the projection of the image of "superior work, vibrant ambience of workplace, attractive designations, impressive salary structure", etc, which is meant to enable employees "to cope with the pressures and pains of emotional labour". The above characterisation of work in BPO outfits does not paint a rosy picture of the working conditions, which leads one to the second question, namely, whether employeeunionisation has not taken place as yet because of the absence of effective leadership. This may, in fact, be the case but it is also true that, if reports are to be believed, an attempt to unionise the 350,000 employees in the sector (80,000 more jobs are to be added this year) by the Union Network International (a global alliance of 900 unions) has till now not met with any success. The obvious question to ask is: Why has this happened if working conditions in the Indian BPO sector have a lot of scope for improvement? Does the prevailing demand-supply situation have any role to play in the answer? As one outsourcing employee is reported to have said: "A union would make sense if there was no job security. Here jobs are more, people are less — companies are trying all means possible to keep employees happy so that they won't leave". The entire controversy over BPO working conditions, at this particular point of time when the country is taking rapid strides towards expansion of the sector, could not have come at a more inopportune moment for the BPO establishment, as represented by Nasscom. Tactically, it has done the right thing by rejecting outright the allegation. On a strategic plane, the emphasis on minimum standards has been most sensible as also the gradual framing and adoption of a self-regulatory agency "for laying guidelines on a range of issues, including data protection and work conditions of employees". It can be no one's case that the BPO sector is uniformly employee-friendly in the country. On the contrary, it should be the universal appeal that the sector should be strengthened further if the nation is to make the most of its IT potential. Hr challenges in the BPO Industry 1. Managing large number of people at a short span of time 2. Development of soft skills and dearth of development in other areas 3. Inter BPO poaching and the supply vs demand gap is another major challenge in the BPO sector. 4. Attrition rate, recruitment is also some of the challenges seen in this industry. 5. HR policies should address challenging issues. HR Practices Human resources (HR) as a function is fast changing since it works closely with senior management, business segments, line management and functional leaders in an IT organization. HR management is undoubtedly one of the major challenges ahead for Indian IT companies. The BPO industry is already under stress on account of persistent problems like attrition, confidentiality, loyalty, etc. Managing HR in the knowledge-based industry is not a cakewalk for HR managers as it a multi-task responsibility. In the present scenario, HR managers are performing a variety of responsibilities. Earlier, their role was confined to administrative functions such as looking after manpower requirements and maintaining rolls for the organization. Now it is more strategic in keeping with the demands of the industry. Bargaining power Managing people in the knowledge-based industry is critical as the human resource is the soul of the organisation. Since there is a high demand for knowledge workers, talented professionals often enjoy high bargaining power due to the knowledge and skills they have. The attitude is different for those who are taking up responsibilities at a lesser age and a lower level of experience. These factors have resulted in the clear shift to individualised career management from organisation career commitment. Managing the pool of people talent is essential for the growth of knowledge-based sectors like IT and BPO. Motivating the workforce As global competition is growing rapidly, a technological edge supported by talented manpower has become crucial for survival in the market, which is why organisations give top priority to technology advancement programmes. HR managers are now performing the role of motivators for their knowledge workers to accept new changes. Competency development The success of the knowledge-based industry is dependent on its manpower talent pool. Hence, human capital is the real asset for any organisation. This makes HR's role critical in recruiting, managing and retaining the best people available. The HR department has a clear role in this process, and determines the success rate of any organisation. If HR managers are not competent enough, this will have a direct impact on the organisation. There is now a need to develop competent HR professionals who are sound in HR management practices with strong business knowledge. Recruitment and Training Recruitment has become a major function from an important sub-system in HR, particularly in the IT industry. HR managers play a vital role in creating assets for the organization in the form of quality manpower. Another challenge for HR managers is to put systems in place to make people a perfect fit for their jobs. Skill obsolescence is rapid in the software industry. To overcome this problem, organizations give utmost priority to training and skill enhancement programmers' on a continuous basis. Many IT companies are providing technical training to their employees on various platforms every quarter. Most find this regular training quite useful, apart from the feeling of security it provides. The Trust Factor Low levels of trust inhibit knowledge sharing in the knowledge-based industry. Concerned over recent reports about an employee of an Indian call centre who allegedly sold bank account details, Nasscom is gearing up to face unforeseen challenges regarding confidentiality in the IT industry. It is working closely with legal authorities in Britain to ensure those responsible for criminal breach. Any case of theft or breach of confidentiality should be treated seriously. Such malpractices would pose a serious threat to SMBs in the BPO sector. Most of the small and medium companies in this segment do not have enough capabilities to tackle the situation themselves. Lt Bipin Chandra, Vice-president, India operations, Knoah Solutions, does not believe that this will severely affect the BPO industry in India. He says, "We have enough security measures as far as data security is concerned. Accessing the database should be needbased only, and if, without necessity, anyone tries to access it, our system will alert us. We have been strengthening our security policies; in any case, our existing system does not allow employees to browse through the data. Going by recent reports, I don't think there will be any significant impact on BPO companies. Our clients ask for higher levels of security on information systems. Every organisation needs to have a fool-proof security system, apart from building loyalty and commitment among employees as part of good HR policies which are common for all types of organisations." Critical Factors At Wipro they believe that the knowledge-based industry faces five critical challenges. One of the most important is talent management and development. Professionals bring with them a lot of aspirations, and to be on the competitive edge they look out for three important dimensions—learning, technology and early opportunities. A recent study conducted by Wipro showed that people join the company because of the above, and these act as a differentiating model for the organisation. In the IT industry, the best practices of today may not be the best practices after some time, so it is imperative that the company constantly improve its own business-aligned HR processes to be at the leading edge. Another dimension to the challenges faced by the industry is the growing pace of talent acquisition, which creates with it the challenge of smoother assimilation of new employees into the organisation fold. The pressure of delivering the best quality service in reduced time-frames calls for ensuring that employees maintain a work-life balance. Another important issue, which will continue, is retention of existing employees. Addressing the issues Manjula Rajoli, Manager, Talent Engagement & Development, Wipro Tech-nologies, elaborates on how Wipro manages the challenges. "Wipro's talent management and engagement has a two-fold approach. We contain the challenges by following best practices in two areas—compensation and non-compensation. Challenges arising due to compensation reasons are contained at Wipro by continuously benchmarking our salaries with our competitors and providing merit-based salary increases. In addition, for middle and senior management, we have equity-based compensation through Restricted Stock Units. We also have various employee benefit programmes. These ensure that we stay competitive on the compensation front." (For non-compensation issues, see box alongside.) Employee care is a top priority. Elizabeth Mathew, Head, HR, TCS (Deccan ParkHyderabad), states: "At TCS, we value every associate and invest in their personal and professional development. We have a number of associate engagement initiatives that bring associates and their families together in learning, fun and social activities. This enhances the bonding and commitment to the organisation. We also continuously revise our HR policies, listen to our associates' opinions, make our policies more people-friendly, and cater to varied needs of a diverse workforce." The following, according to Mathew, are some of the key issues faced by the industry in general: attracting and retaining talent, meeting volume and quality needs, providing multiple career opportunities, aligning and integrating policies with market needs, and coping with the constant pressure on compensation. Mathew points out that a survey by Hewitt-CNBC TV 18 rated TCS as the best employer in the country. The company has associate-friendly policies, a dynamic focus on people as an asset, and a work environment which is challenging and rewarding. "Career growth and clear career tracks endear the organisation to its people. The focus on Economic Value Added (EVA) to calculate variable performance pay makes TCSers among the most competitively paid in the market. TCS has a strong Academic Interface Programme for creating synergy and forging strong relations with educational institutes, which brings TCS closer to the budding software engineering community," adds Mathew. Hanneke Frese, an HR consultant based in Zurich, believes that in order to increase the quality and capabilities of employees it is better to align professionals with the business strategies of the organisation and create an organizational culture that attracts highly competent employees. She was recently in Hyderabad to participate in an interactive session organised by Nasscom. Frese advises IT companies to achieve the best possible fit between the aspirations of its people, the organisation's needs and its clients' expectations. "Productivity in the knowledge-based industry will be another challenge as some key issues are still uncertain. These issues are—who will own intellectual capital, how will knowledge be patented, and what new business models will emerge to make organisations more competitive." Employee Benefits Provided By Majority Of the BPO Companies A part from the legal and mandatory benefits such as provident-fund and gratuity, below is a list of other benefits…BPO professionals are entitled to the following: 1. Group Medi-claim Insurance Scheme: This insurance scheme is to provide adequate insurance coverage of employees for expenses related to hospitalization due to illness, disease or injury or pregnancy in case of female employees or spouse of male employees. All employees and their dependent family members are eligible. Dependent family members include spouse, non-earning parents and children above three months 2. Personal Accident Insurance Scheme: This scheme is to provide adequate insurance coverage for Hospitalization expenses arising out of injuries sustained in an accident. This covers total / partial disablement / death due to accident and due to accidents. 3. Subsidized Food and Transportation: The organizations provide transportation facility to all the employees from home till office at subsidized rates. The lunch provided is also subsidized. 4. Company Leased Accommodation: Some of the companies provides shared accommodation for all the out station employees, in fact some of the BPO companies also undertakes to pay electricity/water bills as well as the Society charges for the shared accommodation. The purpose is to provide to the employees to lead a more comfortable work life balance. 5. Recreation, Cafeteria, ATM and Concierge facilities: The recreation facilities include pool tables, chess tables and coffee bars. Companies also have well equipped gyms, personal trainers and showers at facilities. 6. Corporate Credit Card: The main purpose of the corporate credit card is enable the timely and efficient payment of official expenses which the employees undertake for purposes such as travel related expenses like Hotel bills, Air tickets etc 7. Cellular Phone / Laptop: Cellular phone and / or Laptop are provided to the employees on the basis of business need. The employee is responsible for the maintenance and safeguarding of the asset. 8. Personal Health Care (Regular medical check-ups): Some of the BPO'S provides the facility for extensive health check-up. For employees with above 40 years of age, the medical check-up can be done once a year. 9. Loans: Many BPO companies provide loan facility on three different occasions: Employees are provided with financial assistance in case of a medical emergency. Employees are also provided with financial assistance at the time of their wedding. And, The new recruits are provided with interest free loans to assist them in their initial settlement at the work location. 10. Educational Benefits: Many BPO companies have this policy to develop the personality and knowledge level of their employees and hence reimburses the expenses incurred towards tuition fees, examination fees, and purchase of books subject, for pursuing MBA, and/or other management qualification at India's top most Business Schools. 11. Performance based incentives: In many BPO companies they have plans for, performance based incentive scheme. The parameters for calculation are process performance i.e. speed, accuracy and productivity of each process. The Pay for Performance can be as much as 22% of the salary. 12. Flexi-time: The main objective of the flextime policy is to provide opportunity to employees to work with flexible work schedules and set out conditions for availing this provision. Flexible work schedules are initiated by employees and approved by management to meet business commitments while supporting employee personal life needs .The factors on which Flexi time is allowed to an employee include: Child or Parent care, Health situation, Maternity, Formal education program 13. Flexible Salary Benefits: Its main objective is to provide flexibility to the employees to plan a tax-effective compensation structure by balancing the monthly net income, yearly benefits and income tax payable. It is applicable of all the employees of the organization. The Salary consists of Basic, DA and Conveyance Allowance. The Flexible Benefit Plan consists of: House Rent Allowance, Leave Travel Assistance, Medical Reimbursement, Special Allowance 14. Regular Get together and other cultural programs: The companies organizes cultural program as and when possible but most of the times, once in a quarter, in which all the employees are given an opportunity to display their talents in dramatics, singing, acting, dancing etc. Apart from that the organizations also conduct various sports programs such as Cricket, football, etc and regularly play matches with the teams of other organizations and colleges. 15. Wedding Day Gift: Employee is given a gift voucher of Rs. 2000/- to Rs. 7000/- based on their level in the organization. 16. Employee Referral Scheme: In several companies employee referral scheme is implemented to encourage employees to refer friends and relatives for employment in the organization. 17. Employee Stock Option Plan Now, the actual question, why people are leaving? What types of retention strategies are required? What is expected from HR Professional and how they can address this issue? Retention - A Big Challenge Fundamental changes are taking place in the work force and the workplace that promise to radically alter the way companies relate to their employees. Hiring and retaining good employees have become the chief concerns of nearly every company in every industry. Companies that understand what their employees want and need in the workplace and make a strategic decision to proactively fulfill those needs will become the dominant players in their respective markets. The fierce competition for qualified workers results from a number of workplace trends, including: 1. efficiency that saves the company money. 2. Set Clear Expectations o How often do you appraise your employees/team-members? o What are your expectations from your employees/team-members? What are the parameters to measure their performance? Have you communicated to them? o What will be the consequences, if they fail? o What will be the rewards, if they exceed the expected level? If you are not having any expectations, how you are going to appraise, your employees? Yes, you are going to be biased, because you don't have set standards. The role of a CEO, HR Manager is like a director of a movie; choreographer of a stage show, where there is a defined role for each character, each participant. Setting expectations initiates the process. Managers need to sit down with each employee and clearly define what's expected of them. Management consultant, Kenneth Philips, states that when expectations are not clear, employees may not be in sync with their job's current demands and priorities. Setting expectations is not a once and done activity. Jobs change. Priorities change. Resources change. Managers need to revise and set new expectations throughout the year. Setting expectations revolves around the following three areas: 1. Key job responsibilities 2. Performance factors and standards 3. Goals Why is a setting expectation important? Quite simply, this process can be the cornerstone of improving the motivational climate within your sphere of responsibility. If your employees know what is expected of them, it allows them to focus on results and to monitor themselves against the set standards. Environments in which expectations are not clear, or change from week to week, seldom create high-performing work groups. The three principles that should drive expectations are clarity, relevance, and simplicity. Clarity: Expectations should focus on outcomes, not activities. In other words, you achieve clarity when you identify the expected results rather than the method for achieving them. Managers often make the mistake of attempting to direct the process that an employee will use rather than being clear about results. The advantage of identifying the outcome is that you, the manager, focus only on the goal; after all, the employee will develop the method for achieving the desired results. Defining the objective often requires some thought on the part of the manager because it is easy to fall into the "activities trap." While developing a strategic plan for a department or division is a worthy activity, it does not represent an outcome. In the activities trap, developing a plan is the goal, rather than increasing your market share. Relevance : The principle of relevance helps define the "why" of the assignment. If your employees have a full understanding of the project's importance, they can make adjustments as unanticipated factors crop up within the process. They probably also will be more committed to the result because they can see more easily how it fits into the big picture and how their efforts impact the company. This understanding typically is accomplished through dialogue between the manager and subordinate, which allows for a more thorough review of the situation and for feedback and discussion. This process builds good will with the employee and sets the stage for additional responsibilities. Simplicity : Simplicity creates a sense of grounding for employees as they endeavor to carry out assignments. If managers identify the work in simple, straightforward terms, employees will find it much easier to follow through on managers' wishes. To accomplish this, a manager must identify the key message in a fashion that the employee can embrace. Proper Rewarding A research reports says that in today's scenario, 70% of your employees are less motivated today than they used to be. 80% of your employees could perform significantly better if they wanted to. 50% of your employees only put enough effort into their work to keep their job. As you might be aware of Employee Reward covers how people are rewarded in accordance with their value to an organization. It is about both financial and non-financial rewards and embraces the strategies, policies, structures and processes used to develop and maintain reward systems. The ways in which people are valued can make a considerable impact on the effectiveness of the organization, and is at the heart of the employment relationship. The aim of employee reward policies and practices, if any in your organization is to help attract, retain and motivate high-quality people. Getting it wrong can have a significant negative effect on the motivation, commitment and morale of employees. Personnel and development professionals will be involved frequently in reward issues, whether they are generalists or specialize in people resourcing, learning and development or employee relations. Keep following parameters in mind, while designing a reward policy: Build a high degree of recognition value into every reward you offer. Recognition is the most cost-effective motivator there is. While the high cost of other rewards forces us to give them sparingly, recognition can be given any time, at very little cost. Some very ordinary items and events can be imbued with extraordinary motivational significance, far in excess of their monetary value. I am constantly amazed at how motivating a pizza or movie tickets can be if is given with sufficient appreciation. A sincere thank you can be delivered at any place and at any time, costs absolutely nothing and can be more motivationally powerful than a substantial monetary bonus. Organizations can provide innovative recognition in an infinite number of ways. For example, (A Hypothetical Incident) a small manufacturing company made its employees feel like heroes when they attained a major safety milestone - 100 days without a single accident. On the morning of day 100, it was announced that a catered lunch would be served the next day, if they made it to the 5:30 shift without an accident. At 5:15 anticipating was building. Managers took confetti and streamers to the balcony overlooking the shop floor. When the 5:30 whistle blew, there were congratulations all around, confetti flew through the air and banners were unfurled. It was a great moment for everyone - and one that was not soon forgotten. The recognition value of this celebration was extremely high, while the monetary cost was relatively low. Highly motivating organizations even celebrate small successes. A health-conscious company distributes fruit bowls to employees' work areas when key personal milestones are attained. Another company uses a more fattening approach: fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies to say thank you. Reduce entitlements and link as many rewards as possible to performance. Clearly the traditional "pay for loyalty" systems in most organizations need to be changed. Don't let attendance be your major criterion for rewards. Most employees resent those who only put in their time and yet receive the same reward as those who go the extra mile. Today's employees have higher expectations for what work can and should be, and they want to receive rewards that reflect their personal efforts and contributions. This is why so many companies are moving toward performance-based rewards, including performance bonuses, gain-sharing and non-monetary recognition. Although not a panacea, companies are finding that these new reward systems do allow them to give substantial rewards to those who really deserve them. Smart organizations are looking for opportunities to reduce across-the-board entitlements, and thereby find more resources for discretionary performance-based rewards, without increasing the total cost of rewards. Troubleshoot your reward system to make sure that what it is rewarding is what you really want to happen. The Law of Rewards - "What you reward is what you get" - Is extremely powerful. No matter what your orientation materials or job description might say, it is the rewards your organization gives that communicate the real expectations. The most important question to ask in evaluating the reward system in your organization is, do the rewards we are giving elicit the performance we want? Start with the results you want to achieve and then pinpoint the types of behaviors needed to achieve them. For example: If you believe teamwork is going to get you the results you want, make sure you reward teamwork, and not internal competition between departments. If you want quality, make sure that productivity isn't over emphasized. And, If you want long-term solutions, don't reward quick fixes Reward promptly. Rewards should be given as soon as possible after the performance has taken place. This is why the most successful gain-sharing programs pay employees monthly, rather than quarterly or annually as in the past. There is a well-accepted law of behavioral psychology, that if you want someone to repeat a behavior, you should positively recognize it immediately. From this law, smart supervisors and managers can learn a vital lesson: Look for any employee doing something right, right now, and recognizes it. "When a senior manager in one organization was trying to figure out a way to recognize an employee who had just done a great job, he spontaneously picked up a banana (which his wife had packed in his lunch), and handed it to the astonished employee with hearty congratulations. Now, one of the highest honors in that company has been dubbed the "Golden Banana Award"." Give employees a choice of rewards. Rewards are as different as the people who receive them and it doesn't make sense to give rewards that recipients don't find rewarding. For example, some people prefer more pay, while others prefer more time off. A promotion might be more rewarding to one person, while a job-sharing arrangement might be more rewarding for another. Some people are excited about sports events, others about movies. Some employees would love a dinner in a romantic restaurant, others a book by their favorite author. Food, fun, education, improved work environment, gifts, travel, familyoriented activities - the options are endless. How do you know what will be rewarding to employees? Ask them. Smart organizations are also letting employees choose their own rewards from reward menus and catalogs. Personalizing rewards shows that a company cares enough to discover what "interests" each employee, rather than just distributing generic items. It also reduces the following danger: In one organization I was visiting, an employee opened a big drawer in his desk and disdainfully showed me all the "worthless trinkets" he had collected over the years. Increase the longevity of rewards. This can be done in a number of ways: One of the keys to reward longevity is symbolism. The more symbolic an item is of the accomplishment, the more likely it is to continue reminding the employee of why it was given. For instance, a T-shirt of coffee mug with a meaningful inscription will continue rewarding those who wear it, or use it, long after its initial receipt rather than reward in the form of cash. Non monetary rewards such as promotions, an encouraging pat on the back in front of other employees is much more motivating than just a cash reward. Worklife of BPO Employees with Special Reference to Convergys About Convergys Convergys is the global leader in providing customer care, human resources, and billing services. With Convergys' help, any company can gain a deeper understanding of each of it's customers, how to serve them better and more knowledgeably, how to process payments faster, and how to make each transaction more profitable. It's headquarters in Cincinnati, OH Convergys by the numbers: Fielding more than 1.2 million telephone and Internet-based contacts every day on behalf of our clients through 40,000 toll-free numbers and 24,000 Web-enabled workstations across such diverse markets as wireless, cable and broadband, Internet, financial services, technology, and employee care Processing more than 50 billion wireless call detail records per year in Convergys data centers Providing billing for video clients representing contracts for 34 million subscribers worldwide Processing cable telephony bills for more than 2 million access lines around the world Creating massively scalable software platforms that collect, rate, and consolidate diverse and complex data streams Transforming customer data into strategic insight that helps clients build and maintain strong, long-term customer relationships Developing employee skills and knowledge to continually provide clients with forward-thinking responses and anticipative solutions. Mission statement Convergys provides billing, customer care, employee care, and transaction management software and services that add value to our clients' customer and employee relationships. Vision statement Convergys will be the recognized global leader in providing innovative billing, customer care, employee care, and transaction management software and services to the markets we serve. We'll provide our clients leading-edge products and services that offer a compelling value and create competitive edge. We'll achieve for our shareholders returns in the top quartile of Fortune 1000 companies. We'll create for our employees an environment that attracts, develops, and rewards highly effective people and is recognized as one of the best companies to work for. Locations Convergys has locations throughout the world. : United States Canada Latin America Europe Middle East Asia Australia Facts about Convergys Convergys Has: Nearly 600 clients in more than 60 countries Over 50 service centers worldwide Operations throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia 21 years of experience providing HR outsourcing solutions; and 10 years of outsourced learning solutions Every Year We: Serve over 2.5million employees and 7,000,000 retirees worldwide Manage over 20 million employee interactions annually Image over 31 million personnel documents Process over 1.2 million job applicant inquiries Enroll over 5 million learners and deliver 8.5+ million course hours Process more than 100,000 potential application inquiries each month Convergys' Offerings Billing Convergys offers proven, real-time billing solutions customized for the convergent communications marketplace, including real-time, transaction-based rating and billing for wireless/mobile, Cable/Broadband/DBS, wire line and next-generation service providers. Specific billing capabilities include: Fast, accurate, real-time billing solutions Bill stream consolidation Switch management Service order and traffic processing Receivables management Credit assessment and collections Customer targeting and acquisition Interactive billing technology Service set-up, provision and pricing Usage processing Electronic bill presentment and payment. Customer Care Convergys offers comprehensive customer care and contact center services, including: Customer acquisition and retention Web-enabled customer service Technical support Market research and customer value management Database marketing services Interactive customer services (IVR, advanced speech recognition and Internet) Campaign management Lead generation and dealer referral programs Business-to-business telesales and Internet account management Accounts receivable management Business intelligence HR Services Convergys Employee Care services enable improved care of employees in such areas as: Benefits administration Pension Payroll Mergers and acquisitions Learning Other HR services. Working at Convergys 1. Culture:Convergys fosters an environment that attracts, develops and rewards highly effective people. Convergys is continually recognized as one of the best companies to work for. Convergys commits through its focus on: Technology: Convergys work with, or are supported by, the latest computer and telecommunications technologies. Atmosphere: Convergys work in an exciting and enjoyable team-based environment. Most of us wear business-casual dress. Personal Growth: We have dedicated resources to help you develop a wide variety of skills and knowledge. From an organizational level to an individual level, significant learning and development opportunities abound. Employees have unusual flexibility and options for advancement, with numerous and varied career paths. Benefits of working in CONVERGYS: Overview Convergys cares about the health and well-being of our employees. Our benefits plans reflect this and offer our employees competitive options. As plans and eligibility may vary depending on position, this summary is intended to provide a general overview of many of our plans. A complete summary of applicable specific benefit plans will be provided during the employment process. 1. Protecting Your Health 2.Insuring Your Life and Income 3 balancing work life 4. Saving for Your Future 1. Protecting Your Health Convergys is committed to providing quality healthcare benefits that are affordable for employees and the company. Medical options may include an Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) plan or Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan and/or a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan. For dental coverage, options include a base and comprehensive plan, depending on the level of coverage you need. A vision care plan is available for expenses associated with routine eye examinations, contact lenses and glasses. 2. Insuring Your Life and Income Life and Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) Insurance Convergys provides basic life insurance and basic accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance at no cost to eligible employees. Employees may select and pay for additional life coverage of up to five additional times pay. In addition, employees have the opportunity to select and pay for life insurance in various coverage amounts for a spouse and/or dependents. Employees may select and pay for additional AD&D insurance in various coverage amounts for themselves and/or spouse/dependents. Assist America, a benefit included with basic AD&D insurance, covers employees and their dependents. This service offers worldwide emergency assistance for personal and business travel. Time Off for Illness or Disability. Eligible employees whose illness or disability extends beyond seven calendar days are provided with benefits under our disability plan. Coverage is for up to 25 weeks with 60 percent or 100 percent of income paid, based on length of service. Should the condition continue, an employee may be eligible to receive 60 percent of monthly earnings under our long-term disability plan for the duration of the condition or until age 65. Various types of leaves of absence are also available to employees, including family/medical, military, or personal. 3. Balancing Life and Work Reimbursement Accounts. These accounts allow employees to contribute money on a before-tax basis to cover eligible expenses, per Internal Revenue Service guidelines. There are two accounts: the Health Care Account for healthcare expenses for employees and dependents, and/or a Dependent Care Account for child care expenses employees incur while at work. Life Balance (Employee Assistance) Program. Convergys provides, at no cost to employees, Life Balance - a program to help manage the demands of everyday life. This assistance includes consultations, referrals and educational services to help keep work and life balanced. Paid Time Off (PTO) and Holidays. Paid time off includes vacation days as well as personal days. PTO eligibility per year depends on employees' length of service. In addition, Convergys recognizes seven company holidays for eligible employees: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Day after Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Tuition Reimbursement Plan. Convergys is committed to employees' personal development. In addition to an extensive in-house curriculum, employees are encouraged to further their education at any accredited institution and are eligible for tuition reimbursement for related expenses. 4. Saving for the Future Retirement and Savings Plan. Employees may participate in this plan by electing to contribute up to 16 percent of their pay to a pre-tax 401(k) plan. After one year of service, Convergys will match 100 percent of each before-tax dollar contributed up to three percent of pay per pay period plus 50 percent of the next two percent of pay contributed per pay period. Pension Plan. Convergys offers a cash balance pension plan and pays the full cost of providing benefits. Employees are vested in this plan after five vesting years (a vesting year is equal to 1,000 hours worked in a calendar year). Employee Stock Purchase Plan. Employees may purchase Convergys common shares by electing to contribute up to 20 percent of their pay through after-tax payroll deduction. Convergys will match 15 percent of employees' contributions toward share purchases. Diversity Convergys believes individual differences will produce genuine competitive advantages in a global market. Leveraging the diversity of our workforce, we will maximize our productivity and enhance the quality of service we are able to offer all of our clients. through Convergys' Diversity initiatives, it will establish and maintain an environment that: Values individual differences Fosters consistent, mutual respect and open communication of ideas Attracts, develops, supports, and retains a diverse workforce with the ability to compete in the global market Increases our competitive advantage by leveraging the knowledge, skills, and unique talents of our employees Enhances career opportunities for all employees by working to develop each employee to his or her full potential Provides a richer, more fertile climate for creative thinking and innovation Is recognized by employees, clients, and the community as a fair and rewarding place to work. Community relations Since it's inception in 1998, Convergys has remained committed to improving the quality of life in our communities around the globe. This paradigm is proudly supported by our employees and is embraced as one of Convergys' seven core values. Convergys values, unparalleled client satisfaction, teamwork, respect for the individual, diversity, shareowners' trust, integrity, and corporate citizenship, guide the corporation and its employees in all decisions and behaviors. Some insights about work life of convergys employees Name: Anudeep Beniwal Job Title: Manager, Transport "Convergys has helped me grow in many ways. We have been educated in terms of establishing comprehensive, thorough systems and procedures, which go a long way in the successful operations of any organization." I've been at Convergys for just over a year, and I ensure that employees are given transportation to and from the workplace. This is more difficult than it may sound. The traffic in this part of India is very thick and any delay in a particular vehicle reaching the office leads to production downtime, which we have to ensure does not happen. The best thing is that the amount of trust and faith bestowed upon oneself is tremendous, which gives a feeling of having matured and being responsible, answerable. These factors have helped in creating an environment of mutual support and camaraderie. Name: Peter Fox Job Title: Section Manager "There are always interesting and significant projects to contribute toward. It is particularly rewarding to see projects come to completion and to be able to think I contributed to that success." I have a software development team of five people reporting to me. They produce a range of components that are used by other internal software development teams. It's challenging work. Much of my day can consist of managing immediate and critical issues raised by various software development teams. My time with Convergys has included international travel and I have also been able to work in a variety of roles. These opportunities have enabled my career growth and provided me with an ability to manage projects in the whole. Name: Kumar Shailesh Job Title: Manager, Coordination "The beauty of our organization is that it extracts the strengths of the diverse and multinational workforce and combines them into a formidable force." I have many responsibilities in Coordination, including working with government agencies, handling logistics and more. All of these responsibilities can become quite challenging. But this challenge acts as motivation. I strive hard to live up to the expectations and consistently deliver good work. The true concept of multinational ethics is being followed here. All of us are working toward accomplishing a common goal and everyone's contribution is being fully appreciated. I feel proud to be a part of Convergys. Name: Jennifer Price Job Title: Associate, Network Services Knowing that management values my opinions, respects my decision-making and trusts my skill allows me to work effectively." My core responsibilities include providing PC and phone equipment support for end-users; providing support for servers, networking equipment and a phone switch; and working with my on-site partner as the primary contact for technical support for all users at the Coastal Carolina site. Convergys stresses the importance of goal-setting and personal development. I can look back at goals and plans and quantify what I have accomplished. We are all encouraged to be innovative and to think about how we can do things better. The dynamics of our business are changing rapidly and require informed and empowered employees. I know that at Convergys I have more than a job, I have a career. Name: Vylma Fredrick Job Title: Senior Telephone Sales Executive "Convergys provided me the opportunity to grow a client's business from day one." I have many responsibilities in my current position. I primarily handle sell-in promotions. Each call is unique and may result in a variety of actions. As this work is varied and multitasked, the day goes by very quickly and creates a great deal of job satisfaction. Management provides good two-way communication and offers positive feedback on results achieved. Name: RAJESH SHARMA Job Title: Administrative Assistant "My co-workers help me remain motivated and challenged. It's great to get feedback from employees that a motivational card made their day or the call center decorations are just what they needed to keep them going!" One of my key challenges is keeping employees motivated, keeping recognition on the front burner. With such a diverse group of employees it's hard to come up with motivational activities/incentives that will interest the majority of employees. My management team helps me do my job more effectively by not just supplying the tools I need, but by being there for me and backing me up. And management lets me express myself through my talents and creativity to help make things better. There's a lot to like about working at Convergys: benefits, growth potential, online courses, and above all else, great friendships Apart from the above views taken from the employees of Convergys, Convergys provides a number of facilities for its employees. They are provided with good cafeteria facility where in employees are given coupons every month worth a fixed amount. They have an entertainment zone where any employee can go relax himself by reading a book or a magazine in the library or even play video games, caroms or table tennis, snooker or can even exercise in the gym. The dress code is informal so that the employees are at ease while working .The floor areas are well decorated and a very informal atmosphere is observed. At Convergys each and every festival is celebrated with lots of effort from the hr department for the employees benefit. CONVERGYS teams are staffed with some of the highest quality and seasoned talent in the industry, demonstrated by an attrition rate below 20 percent. Conclusion Work-Life Balance is more than a buzzword – it's for real. Employers who have responded to the changing social and business environment and built Work-Life Balance policies into their culture have benefited tremendously. Recent research has further validated the value of flexible work options with 46% of over 4000 job seekers in the UK admitting that they would choose flexible work hours as the benefit they would most look for in their next job, and 60% saying that they would view Work-Life Balance as an important factor in assessing a potential nenew job. Organisations that do not introduce Work-Life Balance policies are at a distinct disadvantage. In the UK, fairly rapid strides have been made in introducing Work-Life Balance policies. Industry initiatives have been supported by Government legislation, trade union debate and industry association advocacy to ensure that Work-Life Balance policies are more pervasive and effective. However, there are still some fundamental issues that need to be addressed or myths that need to be shattered by both employee and employer. Some of the more important ones are: The myth parents The myth The myth there is a that Work-Life Balance policies are relevant only for women or working that Work-Life Balance policies cannot work for senior managers that employees are empowered and work in environments where culture of trust and openness. Organizations must address these issues while developing their Work-Life Balance policies. Further, these policies must be enshrined in an organisation's vision or values and supported by a culture that encourages flexibility. This is further outlined in the following framework for making Work-Life Balance work in organizations: Identify the key need or reason for introducing Work-Life Balance policies Build the commitment to Work-Life Balance Policies into the organisation's vision or value statement. Set up a Work-Life Balance Task Force Examine current practices in the organisation Hold joint discussions with employees to evolve policies, while also identifying possible barriers Communicate policies through handbooks, newsletters, Intranet and other forms of communication Hold workshops to help Managers implement and manage policies Begin with a few "quick win" policies Monitor implementation and put feedback systems into place. In India there is a starting point in that organizations have recognized the need for and value of Work-Life Balance policies. But the debate has to now move into implementation and the Government could play a critical role in being a catalyst of change. An advantage that Indian industry will however have is learning from the experiences of other countries in what has worked and what has not. But as discussed earlier, there's no 'one size that fits all' and Indian companies will have to adapt policies to fit in with not just the nature of industry, profile of workforce and other such factors but also with the local culture and environment. This study has been limited in that it has been done with a fairly restricted sample size. The author has tried to address this shortfall through sourcing secondary data to support the findings. There are some areas however that are not supported by too much research like the impact of Work-Life Balance policies on senior managers which would be an interesting area for further exploration. It would be interesting to trace how policies evolve over the next few years to include a larger cross section of employees. To conclude with Peter Ellwood, chairman of Employers for Work-Life Balance, 'It is clear that many UK organizations have taken on board the messages that work-life balance can be good for business. However, there stubbornly remains a perception that work-life balance is limited to parents. This ignores the external drivers behind it. Demographic and societal changes, globalization and advances in technology are a valuable tool in this transformation. They offer a win-win situation, engaging employees on the basis that there is 'something in it for them' too, and humanizing the process of change.' Findings After questioning some BPO employees there were issues such as loss of identity, drug abuse and health related problems such as eye problems due to long hours of work, permanent night shifts, high work targets. Health concerns Long hours of work, permanent night shifts, incredibly high work targets, loss of identity are these the dark clouds that threaten to mar the 'sunshine' call center industry in India. The odd timings and nature of work roots people to a chair 9 hours a day, reading pre-scripted conversations on the phone endlessly - often to irate customers from across the globe. Where every single second of an employee's time is recorded, measured and automatically logged onto a computer for praise or censure on a weekly basis. Where walking down to the water cooler for a drink and a chat with a friend messes up performance metrics, salaries, and hikes. Where the three acts of listening, watching and talking - all at the same time never get a break. This performance monitoring also puts enormous stress on the employees. India is situated 5 h ahead of UK, 10 h ahead of New York and 13 h ahead of Los Angeles. US and UK companies can claim overnight response capability because during their night time, it is day time in India and agents in India can respond to emails during Indian business hours. This is known as follow the sun model. It is this working at nights that requires adjusting the biological clock and social practices to a different time, which is turning out to be a major cause for health-related and social problems. About 30-40% of the employees working in the call center had complained of eye problems. Soreness, dryness, blurred vision, light sensitivity, headache, all these put together is labeled as the Computer vision syndrome. This problem is more acute with the team leaders who need to come in early and go back late. Digestive disorders are common among employees in the call center. Thirty-four percent of employees had complaints on this count as revealed by the HR managers. It was also pointed out that the employees are facing the possibility of losing their voice. The problem known earlier as 'the teacher syndrome' is now being found in the young workers of call centers. Some of them may face the acute manifestation of this in the form of permanent loss of voice. In the chronic form it is characterized by inability to speak pain, croakiness of voice, irritating cough, poor vocal power, inability to modulate and breathing difficulties. Staffing troubles One prediction is that by 2008, India will employ two million people as call center operators. The only obstacle to runaway growth may be finding enough high-standard recruits with good enough English to meet demand. Today, most top executives acknowledge that a steady turnover of staff is an inevitable aspect of the industry. The reasons for this could be boredom with the job, seeking better prospects or a change, better monetary benefits lack of career opportunities especially when it comes to vertical growth which is minimum, or even the failure of the call center to effectively train employees to stay at the job. Because the work is so repetitive, most employees leave within 2 years. Ambitious youngsters, out to make a fast buck, hop skip and jump across BPO companies, making staff turnover the single largest issue for business leaders and boardrooms. Turnover rates as high as 30% have created a major problem for the call center as they have to compete with each other for a slice of the business cake. And some have found a unique way to meet their growth numbers by turning to the "been-there-done-that 40 plus" generation. The greying of the BPO sector began a few months ago and is a newly emerging trend in India. There are fears about the social impact when within a couple of years the first crop of young 19-20-year-old employees slogs it out and inevitably suffers burnout. They are less responsible people, their maturity level is low, and thinking power towards planning their career is also low. Recognition is not so high for those who work for call center in our society for various reasons. Some time they themselves hinder to introduce to the society that they are employed in a call center. As a result of work pressure to meet the target day and day out and competition among the group they get frustrated and quit these jobs. Because of minimum qualification, they cannot compete with out side world and they are blank when are out of this job. They have given up on higher studies for the seemingly lucrative call center job. Legal support The picture that emerges is the absence of any notion of work protections and guidelines. In an industry being touted as the magic wand that will ward off unemployment, no one wants to discuss establishing an equitable and gender-safe work culture. In countries like the UK and Australia, where the call center industry a lot older, there is a great deal of understanding on what this unique workplace entails and what needs to be done about it.. In Australia, some call center companies have signed onto a call center charter that includes, among other things, a minimum standards code of the workplace. As of now, no understanding of the problem exists in India, leave alone a minimum standards code. Some call center and BPO companies in the country have got together under the aegis of Nasscom to address common areas of concern - but so far these have largely centered on deciding how not to poach on each other's employees and what to do with the Shops and Establishments Act. Employee stress - and its impact on the bottomline through high attrition rates - is not even on the horizon of concerns. Although the fundamental elements of a call handler's job are the same as a typical computer-based office job, the close combination of these elements results in a unique job often of an intensive nature, hence the need for appraisal of dangers that are lurking in the corners of well furnished BPO offices. 2. Recommendations * There is a need for more explicit, detailed and relevant regulations, guidance specific to this industry. * Health risk assessments both pre-employment and periodic for employees should be conducted especially eye and audiometry tests. * Call handlers should be provided with information on the risks identified in the risk assessment and how these risks can be controlled. * Length and frequency of breaks should be adequate. * Need for full time counselors to strike a balance between physical and mental rhythm to synchronize body clock. * Establishment of welfare committee where in employees are an important part where they can voice their concerns. * Ergonomic assessments of work station for 24 hours occupancy should be done. * Need for more detailed study to collect data from larger number of employees working in a broader range of sectors spread over a wider geographic area, so that the research findings will be useful to provide initial advice to this industry. References ILO (2001) World Employment Report, 2001; ILO, Geneva. Mattingly, D. J. "Indian Call Centers: The Outsourcing of 'Good Jobs' for Women", Centre for Global Justice, 2005 Conference Mattingly, D. J. "Indian Call Centers: The Outsourcing of 'Good Jobs' for Women", Centre for Global Justice, 2005 Conference Papers. NASSCOM Directory of Indian IT Enabled Services – 2002, NASSCOM, New Delhi. NASSCOM Indian ITES-BPO Industry Fact Sheet, ASSCOM, New Delhi, 2004. Ramesh, B. P. "Labour in Business Process Outsourcing: A Case Study of Call Centre Agents", NLI Research Studies Series No.51, V.V.Giri National Labour Institute, Noida, 2004. Singh, P. and A Pandey (2005) 'Women in Call Centers', Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.40, No.7, pp. 684-688.
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