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Family-friendly in India

December 2, 2005
Related Topics: Managing International Operations, Global Business Issues, Career Development, Employee Career Development, Featured Article
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To help retain new employees in India, software firm Sierra Atlantic uses a variation on the American "take your children to work" tradition.

    The company invites parents of new hires to visit and learn about the company. There’s an introduction from company executives, lunch is provided, and guests--primarily fathers thus far--have a chance to ask questions about the firm and the workplace. Typical questions include: What are the career prospects for their children? What are the company’s plans for growth? And how does Sierra Atlantic support their children’s pursuit of higher education?

    The company is based in Fremont, California, and has about 800 employees at offices in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad. The quarterly "take your parents to work" events are an attempt to recognize the importance of family and parental guidance in Indian culture--and to make Sierra Atlantic stand out in the competition for technical talent there, says Hope Nguyen, company marketing manager.

    "In India, parents have a major say in the career moves of their children," Nguyen says. "If Sierra Atlantic is able to convince parents about our values, work culture and growth prospects for employees, (it can) increase company loyalty among their children."

    The cost of the program is minimal, Nguyen says, but it is helping to trim Sierra Atlantic’s turnover in India. Since the initiative began last year, the annual attrition rate for new college graduates hired in India has dropped from 20 percent to 10 percent.

    The program also marks an attempt to ease the cultural strains of tech work in India. With the growth in technology and back-office operations, young Indians are at times required to work at night because of the time difference with the U.S., alter their accents to sound American and even take on Western names when handling customer calls.

    Sierra Atlantic isn’t the only outsourcing company in India sponsoring family days. Progeon, a subsidiary of India-based tech services company Infosys Technologies, hosts family days every three months for new employees and up to three family members. It also tries to help employees adjust to working on clients’ schedules, which sometimes clash with India festival celebrations.

    "To make up for it, we celebrate these at night," says Nandita Gurjar, Progeon vice president and head of human resource development. She says the on-site festivities might include special food and ethnic dancing.

Workforce Management, November 21, 2005, p. 32 -- Subscribe Now!

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