HCL Tech staff will get their variable pay and bonus for FY20, and the company is not looking to lay off people or cut salaries, Chief Human Resources Officer Apparao VV told CNBC-TV18 in an interview. He spoke about the company’s hiring plans and the challenges associated with the work from home (WFH) model.
No layoffs or salary cuts
“We will not reduce salaries of employees, and are committed to paying full variable pay-out and bonus of FY20,” Apparao said, adding that salaries of even L1 and H1 B visa workers at overseas locations have been maintained. The company is also working on upgrading the skills of its staff and training them in cross-function skills.
The decisions of increments and promotions though haven’t been taken yet and we will decide on it when the cycle begins, Apparao said. For those below senior management onwards, the cycle will begin on July 1. For senior management, it will start in October.
For FY20, the company had made 15,000 offers to campuses. So far, 7000-8000 have been absorbed. “The remaining will be absorbed over time,” Apparao said.
For FY21, the company wants to continue hiring from campuses, but the process has been delayed.
“We haven’t set a number to it but we will continue to hire from campuses. We did go to campuses but realized there were more of us than the students because of the pandemic-related disruption. We will go back to campuses once the lockdown ends and the session starts,” he said.
Apparao said the company has honored almost all the offers made for lateral employees so far. “At this point in time, we have 5000 requirements across laterals,” he said.
Furloughs (leave without pay)
“We have been very careful to ensure that all employees, even those in-between projects, have been paid,” Apparao said.
“Industries like manufacturing, non-essential retail, transport, travel are stressed. We are seeing some furloughs in some of these stressed sectors but that isn’t a huge number for us. Very few customers in these stressed industries have asked us to reduce workforce and that too temporarily--for 15 days, 4- 6 weeks. Customers asked us to furlough employees, which we have done. But we expect those businesses to come back. These are not for longer periods. If a customer comes and says that you have to furlough someone for 6 months then that’s a worry. But if the timeline is between 6-8 weeks, it’s a manageable situation,” he said
The attrition rate in April was less than half of the usual levels, as more people are giving priority to job security in this environment, Apparao said.
“This also means that we will need to hire lesser people. The number of people on the bench is higher than the pre COVID level, but it is not significant. In some areas, we are seeing some positive trends. So we are trying to upskill, cross-skill people instead of laying them off,” Apparao said.
Work from home
“It is inevitable that this is the new normal where we will have to adopt a hybrid model of work from home and office combination. We are well equipped to work from home and deliverables will not get affected,” Apparao said, adding that employee productivity rose by 16-17 percent in April.
He said that that to comply with social distancing norms, only 50 percent of seats in office can be occupied.
“Almost all companies, including our peers are right now following a near 100 percent WFH model. I am sure we can easily look at doing 40-50 percent over time,” he said.
Client approvals for WFH
Apparao said it is hard to predict how customers will respond once the pandemic becomes manageable.
“Clients in sectors like BFSI, life sciences, healthcare have stringent data protection guidelines. Do they feel comfortable working in the same way, one doesn’t know. Today it is an emergency situation so they have given us approval. So that is one unknown we have,” he said.
The Department of Telecommunications and the government have been quite supportive of the industry so far, and that has helped make WFH quite smooth, Apparao said.
“From an employee perspective, as long as the pandemic doesn’t end, there will be insecurity in their minds. That is the job of organizations like ours: how do we take care of them, what kind of preparations we do, how safely we can bring them to offices and send them back. I think the industry is well prepared for that including us. The other two aspects; customer and government policy framework, which has to fall in place for this to become a reality. We are well prepared as an industry,” Apparao said.
Apparao said there was no billing loss specifically because of the COVID disruption.
“As far as billable positions are concerned, we are 100 percent utilized,” Apparao said while agreeing that it would be tough to forecast by when utilization rates would return to pre-COVID levels.
“It is an evolving situation, on one hand, we are seeing green shoots, and on the other, we are seeing stressed businesses. Maybe in Q2, 2020 (July- September quarter) we will get some idea on how things will shape up. Right now it is only a month and a few days so it is difficult to predict.”