Saturday, August 12, 2006

Software Loyalties

In one of my job interviews I was asked a question which in today’s software world is having much more weightage than the salary negotiation.
“How can you guarantee us that you would be loyal to the company?” the gentleman interviewing at once realized that he has put up the question in the worst possible manner, he at once regained the composure and continued “let me put the question in other way how long would you stay with the company? It is just that you know now a days attrition rate is so high in software industry”.
Who is the better person than a developer who himself is looking for a change to understand what the attrition rate is in the industry today.
One good thing that has come out of the high attrition rate, for the candidates is that they have now more bargaining power not only in terms of salary but also in terms of working environment, hours of working, perks, rejecting any bonds and whatever the candidate can think of.
There has been a time when companies out there have taken the full advantage of the candidates (when the market was not so hot) and made them sweat for 12-14 hrs a day and paid them peanuts and in addition to all this made them sign bonds.

They say “what goes out comes back” and this is what is happening now. The market is hot companies ready to pay any amount to the candidates with right skills and even ready to hire candidate without any skills. For every potential employee there are at least 4 companies standing out there with offers beating each other.
So is it wrong for the candidate to take advantage of such a situation?
How long and for what reason should a candidate be loyal to a company?
What factors constitute loyalty towards a company?
And most importantly if a candidate is loyal is there an assurance that the company in question would also remain loyal to him when the market would (god forbid) would not be so hot?
When my friend Rajesh joined a new company after quitting his old company in just 6 months of time, I asked him was there no work in that company or was the other offer too good to resist?
Rajesh when joined that company was on bench for first month, this is the time when any employee joining a new company is eager to prove himself. Being on the bench is the worst thing that can happen to a developer who has always kept on working for more than 10 hrs. It’s a sort of retirement and when he starts to enjoy it then there is work for him to do.
Work he was assigned to after one month was a short in house application (that’s even worst then the bench as it always is driven by the whims and fancies of the bosses).
He somehow managed himself and in 3 months time of working on that project made a name for himself and he was put onto an ongoing project which was about to finish in a months time, he was assigned ad hoc tasks and without knowing the system he had to work on it and by the time he started to get a hang of the project it was over.
In these six months he realized that market is paying much more than what he is getting (though it is always a feel of every employee but in today’s world this is the truth), he put up his thoughts together.
To get an increment I had to wait here for another six months and that too he was not sure about the percentage that he would get, he had heard of a 30% max and when he started trying out he got 3 offers in 7 days of time with the max offer being 70% more than his current salary.
Work was the last thing on his mind, he has already seen it all over here, things can’t get worse than this, if he has to sit on bench only or has to work on some low level projects than why not do it with a better salary at least.

Yes there are many loyal employees in this industry too but I would rather call them satisfied employees than loyal.
Until and unless an employee is satisfied or stuck up due to some reasons of his own there is a slim chance that he would stay with that or for that matter with any organization. And there is nothing wrong about it.
Loyalty should not be wrongly interpreted as an employee sticking to an organization even when he is not satisfied.
An employee might be serving the organization for numerous years but he might not be loyal, he might have been trying to get out of the organization but due to some or the other inabilities he might not have been successful.
There might be employees who went off and came back in the organization, they also can’t be considered loyal most of the times for the simple reason that had they put faith in the company previously they wouldn’t have left in the first place.
An employee can also not be considered as loyal if he has been threatening the company every now and then and keeps on getting his things done, such an employee can run out any time when the company stops playing by his rule.
Also if an employee is always finding faults with the company and not doing even his bit to improve the situation he can’t be considered loyal too.
Then the big question is what constitutes loyalty of an employee towards his organization?
The answer is simple; don’t expect an employee in this industry to stick with the same company forever. The companies should see if that employee in his tenure has delivered honestly, when he is in the organization has he done things to improve the face of the company. If the employee has been vocal about the problems within the company processes or the manner of operations and time and again the employee has suggested measures to improve it that’s the most loyal employee that a company can get. If a company can ensure that every employee that is working is at least 70% satisfied in the company, it will also ensure their loyalty for the company.
The tenure of an employee is immaterial when it comes to measuring loyalty. At times the organization presents no reason to the employee to remain in the organization, its better at such a time to let the employee go and benefit some other organization which is in the real need of resources.
The days are gone when people used to start with one company and they used to retire from the same company. It’s a free world today and every employee has got a lot of options in his hands in all the sectors, let the loyalty be for what the employee has been for the company and not how long the employee has been with the company.

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