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Defining the Attrition Problem

Global outsourcing and the astounding amount of foreign direct investment pouring into China, Russia, and India have created tremendous opportunities and competition for talented IT professionals in those countries. The downside of this increased competition is a rising rate of attrition, particularly in India. Fiscal third-quarter 2005 (ended December 2004) results filed by Infosys, Wipro, Satyam, and TCS listed attrition rates between 7.6% and 17.7%. Vendors that we have interviewed place the numbers much higher, at 25%–60%, while an April 2005 BusinessWeek article estimated an attrition rate of 60%, with some India service providers experiencing up to 80% turnover.

To put these attrition numbers into perspective, if your company has 100 programmers and an attrition rate of 25%, then 25 of your IT staff will leave each year. Think about the time and money it took to find, interview, hire, train, and coach those 25 people. Now think about losing them and starting the hiring and training processes anew.

How do the hiring and training processes break down in terms of total costs in India? The typical time for advertising, interviewing, screening, negotiating, and hiring a new employee is about two weeks. Companies usually allot one week for programmers to become familiar with the new business, two more weeks for technical training, and one last week for customer training. Now imagine a 25% attrition rate and replacing 25 of these programmers each year. Based on a yearly salary of $15,000 for the human resource person and $25,000 for the programmer, we estimate that it would cost an additional $63,000 annually in acquisition and employee training costs.

After considering these figures, it quickly becomes apparent why companies are investing in strategies to prevent attrition. Implementing the seven strategies that follow will help IT managers retain valuable offshore employees longer. While we primarily cite examples taken from India, the basic principles apply to other offshore destinations as well.

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