Monday, January 9, 2012

Oy vey!!!

I’ve been off the grid for a while now. A whole fork in the road/career shift/re-evaluation of priorities type of situation kept me busy. A little back story here... Alchemy shut down in June 2011. The next month was spent trying to get the team placed and negotiate a takeover with the help of a couple of buyers. Although most of the team did get placed eventually, the buy-out negotiations fell through and Alchemy ended up being taken over sans its sales, research and dealing teams. A few rejoined under the new management, a few walked. Either way I decided this was it for me in sales. NO MORE. I had spent enough of time and energy in a profile I didn’t like, the money was fun but that was about it. Being diagnosed as insulin resistant a bare fortnight before the company closed also tipped the scales against getting back into sales. So although I did attend several interviews that my bosses and a bunch of well meaning consultants set up for me, my heart wasn’t in any of them. While the sudden cessation of a very fat salary was scary, listening to my interviewers drone on about what they felt Alchemy did wrong and how they would do it right, despite their glaring lack of empanelment’s, just made me feel incredibly tired. I was nearing 30, had spent the previous 6 odd years doing something that brought me no joy, was sitting on a ticking time bomb of a stress related medical condition and was looking at two options, quit now or struggle on and risk being one of the masses to be caught in the retrenchments to come. I chose the former, naively thinking that shifting careers while difficult would not be impossible. Serves me right for forgetting the teachings of Scott Adams!

I have to say here that although I hated being a sales woman, my clients were a godsend. The moment Alchemy announced its closure a gratifyingly large number of them rallied around me offering advice, support and most importantly contacts. The first thing I did was have a session with one of my ‘mentors’  his advice was first figure out what you want to do and then decide how to go about doing it. So to figure out what I wanted to do I spoke to a number of stalwarts in various industries about various job profiles. I used family contacts, client contacts and Linkedin. Other than learning about what various jobs entail and even trying out one alternative, I also got an insight into sheer stupidity that is rampant in the whole recruitment process in corporate India.

First off, everyone wants to hire young minds that can be easily moulded. All that crap about being hungry and being foolish... yeah riiight, I’d like to see clients responding to a hungry and foolish sales or research team. I remember my hungry and foolish days, let me tell you, being hungry and foolish didn’t bring in squat. It was experience that got me client support and therefore deals, big deals that then got me money. Second is the whole lateral move. If you are moving from industry into financial services that’s good. You can become a sector specialist of sorts. If you’re trying the reverse, you have to do an MBA or an EMBA because, and I have this on good authority from several sources, “Recruiters don’t know how to fit you into the existing structure if you come to them as a lateral.” Apparently ‘recruiters’ will poach from their competitors or hire from a B-School campus. Hiring from any other source will cause the universe to implode. Third... and this one left me speechless... although you may have the skill set required by a particular profile but may need a basic amount of training, NO ONE IS WILLING TO GIVE IT TO YOU UNLESS YOU ARE HIRED FROM A B-SCHOOL CAMPUS!?!?! I don’t know about you but when I heard that I was stunned. Are you freakin serious? So over-hiring, offering crazy salary hikes and fabulous packages is fine when the goings good, but let the business cycle turn down and suddenly those must have hires are too expensive and low cost resources are needed, fat needs to be trimmed, belt tightening etc, etc.

Here’s an idea, how about planning your resource requirement? No matter how hard you pray, you cannot do away with downturns. They will come. So instead of alternating between binge hiring and downturn bulimia, here’s a novel idea. Hire talented people. When things are good, don’t hire more, make do with what you have or hire sparingly if absolutely necessary. When the inevitable downturn comes around, here’s a novel idea.... instead of retrenching people, retrain them for different positions within the company. Perhaps offer employees an option to do career assessment tests to find their ideal ‘fit’, perhaps even offer them a chance to take a year off to study or train and come back. There are companies that offer this in limited quantities, like the IT firms, most of the PSU companies, heck even LIC. In the overall scheme of things, it’s a minority that leave and move to higher paying jobs, a number of extremely capable people stick around and make it to the top and go on to do great things for the company.
To my knowledge no one has patented this idea, yet it’s just a handful of companies that actually practice it. And even they have the established ‘recruitment’ systems in place. I find this whole thing totally daft. I mean doesn’t anyone realise that stupid s*** like this doesn’t engender loyalty at all? You have an entire mass of talent that doesn’t stay in the same company because they are either convinced that they will get better increments by joining the competition or that sooner or later they will find themselves retrenched.

Quite frankly in the last 4 years, I haven’t come across a single Indian who thought beyond the next 5 years. For some even 5 was a stretch. My clients abroad were a whole other story. The attrition in India baffled them so much that they began favouring foreign brokers over local brokers when dealing in India because the foreign teams were so much more stable. Don’t Indian bosses realise that they’re losing business because of this foolishness? I mean is planning for the long term, training your staff, recruiting internally, allowing internal shifts... is it so debilitating that it cannot be implemented anywhere? Heck, forget about the training for the time being, how about long term planning for a start?