Bangalore: Three weeks ago, Vishal Chandra Gupta received a call from a human resources consultant trying to recruit him to Motorola India Pvt. Ltd.
Not unusual—except he had quit Motorola not too long ago.
“I was flattered,” says Gupta, 29, who went on to work for a multinational firm outside Delhi. “Most often, people realize how good a company is after leaving it... Unfortunately, the last six months have not been very happy for me.”
Gupta is among 220 former middle and senior managers Motorola India is trying to entice back—through a careful, focused strategy involving recruiters, managers and psychologists—in the wake of its parent firm’s announcement that it planned to shed its flagship phone business. But, as few buyers emerged—though the possibility of a sale still exists—Motorola Inc.’s chief executive officer Greg Brown has been trying to fix his ailing company, including weeding out underperforming executives and strengthening teams across the firm, across the world.
/Content/Videos/2008-08-25/2408 Poornima on Motorola.flv
In India, the firm is seeing record attrition, due to the growth of opportunities in the telecom market and the firm’s internal reshuffling.
“The attrition rate has increased to 14% in 2008, up from 12% in the previous year and 8-9% in 2006... The company’s split into the phone business and the non-phone business is the main reason for attrition,” says V. Ramachandran, senior director, human resources, at Motorola India.
So, he came up with the idea to home in on some of the best talent and ask them back. The human resources team compiled the names and contact details of 220 people who had left the firm over the last year. They consisted of software engineers, team leaders and people managers with three-eight years of experience spread across businesses such as mobile devices, networks, government and public safety, and across functions such as quality and software testing, all of whom worked out of Motorola offices in Hyderabad and Bangalore.
The company then gave a one-year contract to Bangalore-based human resource intelligence company, Acengage Infoservices (P) Ltd, to reach out to this valuable talent pool.
The strategy is significant because while workers play hopscotch among employers all the time, the number of rehires tends to be small, say five, maybe 10. Why is Motorola conducting such extensive rehiring? In some ways, those involved in the process say they are trying to prove to the departing staff that Motorola is a different firm now.
For example, the company had delayed the annual increments by three months, leading to many exits, but in July “we paid our employees an average increment of 12-13% with outstanding performers getting up to 18-20%,” according to Ramachandran.
Certainly, firms have seen mass exoduses before, during major organizational reshuffles, restructuring, mergers and acquisitions. While it might be too early in the case of Daiichi Sankyo Co. Ltd’s takeover of India’s largest drug maker, Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd, or in the case of General Electric Co. spinning off its consumer and industrial businesses, a flight of talent has been seen in the past when shipping giant Maersk Line took over P&O Nedlloyd Ltd in 2005 and IBM Corp. took over PwC Consulting in 2002. The Ambani brothers’ split in 2005 saw several employees at the once-whole Reliance choosing between the two factions depending on where their loyalties lay—or their bosses’ loyalties. Rather than deal with all the upheaval, many employees just choose to leave and start at another firm altogether.
Staffing solutions: Motorola India’s V. Ramachandran. ( Photograph: Hemant Mishra / Mint)
Thus, at a time of major organizational changes, such as businesses being hived off, “you can never communicate enough,” advises Sunit Sinha, principal consultant, M&A consulting services, Mercer Consulting India Pvt. Ltd. “Often employees get to know these developments from newspaper reports and there is no internal communication. Employees then start speculating and this can lead to immense productivity loss and even revenue loss.”
Over the last one year, Motorola India has seen an exodus of talent, particularly at the senior management level, as the company’s image in the market has plummeted, according to two separate recruiters Mint interviewed. They declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of their statements.
At the global level, Motorola Inc. saw some high-profile departures with both chief executive Ed Zander and chief technology officer Padma-shree Warrior exiting in December 2007.
Three months later, the communications giant announced the plan to split the company into two in an effort to salvage the ailing wireless handset business. The handset business has lost marketshare ever since it failed to produce a hit product to succeed the ultra-slim Razr series.
For Motorola India’s rehiring process, Acengage has dedicated two clinical psychologists to contact the 220 employees. The counsellor first calls the ex-employee to schedule a convenient time to speak. Then a 30-35-minute call follows on why the person left Motorola. Says Bhavna Padmanabhan, human resources counsellor at Acengage: “It is mostly the employee who talks. I try to direct the conversation.”
After this first call, which is essentially a post-exit survey, four calls follow every quarter over 12 months in an attempt to persuade the employee to rejoin. The payment for the consultant will be based on number of phone calls made and number of rehires.
Asked if Motorola had a target for rehiring, Ramachandran says, “Even if we can rehire 10%, it will be good”.
As for Gupta, the software engineer who worked nearly two years at Motorola, he says he would consider it once again—if the company agrees to match his pay package.