Vandana Sharma of EFY Bureau caught up with Surinder Bhagat, country manager-human resources (HR), Freescale Semiconductor, India, to know more about the HR practices that help Freescale to select the right talent from college campuses and make them productive in no time
Surinder Bhagat, Country Manager-Human Resources (HR), Freescale Semiconductor, India
Many firms avoid freshers, but Freescale seems to recruit them. Why?
We have been recruiting freshers from campuses for over 15 years and there is a specific reason to it. We are looking for diversity. When it comes to hiring, we have an internal measurement of diversity too, like how many female employees we must have, how many freshers and so on.
Besides this, there is a business reason too. Invariably, freshers bring with them a very fresh perspective on how the new generation thinks. We leverage this trait for building products for the new generation. Besides, it is critical to think ahead of the curve and innovate when you are building products. This is where these young minds prove to be a great asset.
Many of our product groups are working on products that will hit the market in the next three to four years. Hence it works best if we combine all the technical acumen of our seniors’ talent and the fresh thinking and passion that these youngsters bring into the process of building products.
What’s the key to identify the right talent?
We don’t hire freshers from just about anywhere. We have identified a few colleges which we have tried and tested over time.
How do you make the freshers productive?
We make freshers go through a classroom training where we touch upon various aspects that would help them settle down and become productive and contribute to the company.
First of all, we assign one buddy and one mentor to each fresher. The buddy helps them settle down. Apart from this, the senior management team goes to personally greet each fresher.
The mentor helps the freshers in building their knowhow about the company and guides them on aspects like what they should know about the company’s products and projects. They are also guided on aspects like communicating with seniors in the organisation. During this process, they get to know how the campus is different from the realtime work environment and how they can channelise their energies to contribute to the organisation and grow.
Then starts on-the-job training. We are proud of the fact that our teams often have complete ownership of the products that they are working on. Some of the products that they are building are for the Indian market. Because of the open culture, the young folks too are offered to work on these projects. There have been many occasions when our employees have gone to other companies and come back as they miss the Freescale culture.
What kind of environment does Freescale offer to these youngsters?
Like I said, we believe in an open culture. Open culture is about innovation.
Typically, in most companies, new joinees can’t approach business heads directly. There are protocols. You have to take appointments. But it is not so at Freescale. We have a framework and culture where the youngsters feel that they ‘belong’ and can grow. The person who heads the Automotive and Industrial Solutions Group (AISG) was hired from the Delhi College of Engineering campus. And this is not the only example. We have many freshers who have grown to head our product divisions.
However, for setting up such an atmosphere at the management level, you have to let go of certain things. At the employee level, if somebody is not able to perform, adapt or adjust, the appraisal system takes its own course.
What’s the attrition rate at Freescale?
Most of our freshers don’t leave for other jobs. They leave mostly to pursue higher studies to join institutes like the IIM. Very often, they complete their study and come back.
Freescale gives its employees the opportunity to work across projects. Once an employee gets bored of working on some project or feels excited by some other product or project, he can approach the respective manager and discuss on the next steps of working on these projects.
Is there any bond system to prevent freshers from leaving in the first one or two years of joining?
We trust our culture. We do realise that people leave either for money or for the want of a better profile. If you get both things inside, then why would you?
Doesn’t this setting up of a whole eco-system add to the HR cost?
It surely adds to costs, but it is money well spent. Employees feel that they own the company. This is the reason why most of the recruits stay on with us for long. We give tenure awards to employees who have spent with us five, seven, ten or more years, every year. And, let me tell you, the number of each batch is over 120-130.
What profiles are freshers hired for, and what are the typical starting salaries?
We hire many design engineers and software engineers to work on embedded systems. Salaries are really competitive. The typical salary band starts from Rs 600,000 per annum onwards. Over and above this, there are a lot many other benefits that are offered to candidates. For certain profiles and qualifications such as suitable PhD candidates, we do not hesitate from offering astronomical salaries.
Do you pass on certain guidelines to campuses that have been associated with Freescale for a while?
In most of the campuses with whom we are associated, we have established our labs. These labs are equipped with equipment that design engineers would be using later in their professional lives. It is like developing an ecosystem. We are modifying the system and trying to raise the bar.
Apart from the open culture, what are the hallmarks of Freescale’s HR policy?
All our HR practices are focused on ensuring that learning opportunities are ample for everyone. Freshers are apprised at the outset itself that in a technical company like ours, they need to keep themselves abreast with the latest in the field. We spend a lot of time in emphasising on this aspect. We also tell our employees that if they want to learn, Freescale is the place for it.
We encourage employees to grow by competing with themselves. We don’t have many grades but if an employee grows from one grade to another, everything for that person changes. There is no meaning in awarding promotion if the profile doesn’t change completely.
What message would you like to give to other HR heads in the industry?
Freshers are very valuable. If your selection process is good, if you can add energy to the whole environment in your organisation, and if you can identify people who are eager to learn, you can build an organisation that can innovate and stay ahead of the curve.