For engagements that last

Recruitment and HR personnel in Asia share some practices that will not only land the best candidates, but keep them as well.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

Businesses, on top of worrying about bottom lines and doing more with fewer resources, constantly face the perennial issue of talent management.

Attracting the right people into the organization is no easy task, but beyond that, it is equally--if not more--important to retain the resources that make the business tick.

A recent study by global recruitment consultant Robert Walters noted that two in three workers in Singapore would leave their jobs due to a failure by management to recognize their efforts and a lack of career progression.

Good remuneration is not the ultimate solution, as a Hudson report in January indicated. Despite rising salaries and bonuses in Asia, turnover rates are still significant in countries such as China and Singapore.

So what can companies, in the face of rising costs, do to attract and hold on to the best candidates for their business?

Executing the "pull"
According to global recruitment consultant Robert Walters, there are various facets that companies need to consider when it comes to recruiting the talent they desire.

Adam Bowden, consultant for IT and telecommunications at Robert Walters, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview that businesses need to pay attention to building brand awareness and promoting the organization as an ideal employer. Companies should pick out their unique selling points, and reinforce them through platforms such as networking events and corporate Web sites.

Senior executives and managers also need to be equipped with proper interviewing techniques, said Bowden. "Many hiring managers know what they are looking for but without the necessary skills or training in interview skills, they may not be able to extract relevant information [during the interview with a candidate]," he pointed out.

When using an external recruiter, the organization must ensure the recruitment agency understands its business and corporate values, said Bowden.

Companies such as Satyam place emphasis on internal referrals to bring in the right people. Mukund Menon, Satyam's head of talent acquisition and engagement, said over 30 percent of the company's hires are referred by employees and such hires typically bring about greater value-add. In addition, recruitment and search agency costs are significantly reduced.

In 2007, Satyam was ranked among the best 20 employers in Asia by human resource consultant Hewitt Associates. The IT services provider also emerged the second best employer in India, and says it has one of the lowest attrition rates in the industry.

Knowing where to look is also important, said Menon. Every year, Satyam visits over 800 engineering colleges in India and overseas, as well as more than 50 top-rated management schools, to hire from the graduating cohorts. On average, over 9,000 candidates in the engineering, science and business fields are recruited.

Hold and mold
To retain valuable resources, companies employ various means to provide a conducive and motivating environment.

Robert Walters' Bowden said career progression, regular compensation benchmarking, recognizing employee efforts and offering more challenging tasks to high achievers should be part of a company's talent retention strategy.

Over at Intel, a great deal of emphasis is placed on inculcating the right leadership, according to its Asia-Pacific human resources director Collin Tang. "As the saying goes, 'people join companies, but [they] leave managers'," he noted.

To help its managers be more effective, the chipmaker surveys employees twice a year to identify areas for improvement, either as an individual or in relation to the corporation.

Another core focus of Intel is on career development, said Tang. According to him, Intel subscribes to the 70:20:10 rule, where 70 percent of learning is experiential or on-the-job, 20 percent is via networking and 10 percent in a classroom setting.

To enhance on-the-job learning, an initiative known as Temporary Coverage Attachment Program was initiated about three months ago to allow Intel employees to experience new work portfolios for not more than three months. Close to 50 employees have been involved in the program, which also allows for exchanges across geographies.

eBay employs a similar tool--internal transfers, said its vice president Dan Neary, who oversees emerging markets including India and Southeast Asia.

Satyam, according to Menon, has a job rotation program as well as a Cross Over initiative that allows about 150 new candidates from 26 countries to be employed in India for a year, and thereafter based in a country of their choice.

To ensure leadership succession, Intel and Satyam identify star performers early. At Intel, key employees and potential leaders are notified of their standing--a relatively new practice, noted Tang. However, the company makes it clear to such employees that it is not a one-off ranking exercise and others have the opportunity to take their place.

For Satyam, associates with a proven track record and potential fall under the "Fast Tracker" scheme, where a senior leader or mentor will track their career progression, said Menon.

Unique perks also go some way to keeping employees happy, and thus loyal. eBay, for example, provides dry cleaning services and sabbatical leave, where employees who have been with the company for at least five years can take four weeks of paid leave to get away from work and pursue their own interests. It also brings in ergonomic experts to consult on office furniture and equipment.

And, online shopping is never a guilty pleasure at eBay. In fact, the company encourages employees to regularly use the e-commerce platform, said Neary, adding that "it's not unusual" to have employees frequently receiving packages of eBay purchases.

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