An organisation that values its employees is undoubtedly the most-desired place to work for any individual. Ask any employee at STMicroelectronics (ST) and they echo the same point. For the uninitiated, ST is a global leader in the semicon space with their Indian headquarters at Noida. The company boasts of some of the best HR and recruitment practices in the field of electronics.
Electronicsforu.com team caught up with Ashish Kumar Chawla (country HR director, STMicroelectronics India) who heads HR for ST India to understand how he and his team manage to recruit B.Techs, M.Techs, PhDs and freshers and also manage to succeed in retaining them.
Q. For the HR team at ST, what is a bigger challenge — recruitment or retention and development?
A. It is both, but there is an increasing bias towards retention and development for the simple reason that being an R&D centre, we are maturing as an organisation. I do believe both retention and development go hand in hand, because if you are developing a person, his retention becomes easier as he sees growth for himself. This bias is happening because as we are maturing, we are also hiring lesser numbers than before. This eventually happens with most of the R&D centres where those who are already hired and trained, are seen to be contributing significantly and their retention becomes imperative. This naturally starts to slow down the hiring process, though also makes hiring a critical aspect. Reason being, as you hire less numbers, you want to get the best.
Q. With respect to HR policies and programmes, what new initiatives have been introduced at ST?
A. Besides reviving our existing policies, we have also introduced multiple initiatives. Communication is one area where the biggest change has been introduced. It is necessary to ensure transparent communication between the employees and the management. Especially in the changing environment that we have, communication has become very critical because the industry is really dynamic, and people can simply leave jobs if they don’t feel that they are empowered with the relevant information.
Biggest change is in the quality of communication. We are now extremely transparent on what’s happening. To cite an example, most employees across various organisations in the country are not aware about the working of Hay system. Earlier, it was believed that for an employee, just knowing that he is getting promoted or appraised was enough. However, in today’s time we believe, it is not the case. We now have sessions with employees where we guide them on the Hay system, which is a scientific method of job evaluation. So, with this we are letting our employees know with great intricacy the depth of this system. A lot of attention is paid with regards to content and quality of communication.
Another big change is that we are emphasising more on building trust. The average age of an employee at ST is 32 years and average work experience is above 8 years, which was around 5 years earlier. There is a fundamental change in the mindset of the managers. People who join us want to make a long term career like 10 plus years. We have zero attrition at the top higher grades (managers, senior technical experts). While junior job grades are more explorative and adventurous, they need to be more focused upon. Hence, when a candidate comes to us with 3-4 years of experience, we expect the candidate to stay with us, and the best way to do this is to make him believe and trust the Organization completely. This happens through creating more ‘transparency’ generating moments viz. internal teams communications, Missioning and visioning exercises involving the whole team, appraisals that are truly spent time on – not just evaluating past performance & goal setting, rather emphasizing new development and career opportunities, OD interventions involving candor and openly sharing feedback ( through internally held, as well as outbound Programs ) etc.
Earlier we had a Technical career path, now we are making this more focused and rewarding. There is a prevalent myth in the industry that the only area of growth, even in the technical area, would be the management side. To break this myth, we have formed a new committee, Local Technical Advisory Committee (L-TAC). The objective of this committee is to offer growth, both at horizontal and vertical levels for Engineers. While an employee is appraised through Hay system based on the job content, he is now also evaluated on his technical expertise. So an expert whom we do not want to lose, it gives a very sound grounding to stay with the company. On the other hand, for a person who does not qualify can still work at the technical level or look for other career priorities. This recognition to the experts helps establish a culture of creativity and innovation which is a core ‘need’ for an Organisation like ST.
Another cultural change that we have had in ST is the implementation of ‘People Review’. Every employee in the organisation in the cycle of 2 years is evaluated on the basis of performance and potential. It’s a typical matrix that we have divided into eight different zones- identify an employee if he/she is a Key Person, a potential successor and/or high potential. There is a detailed evaluation of the employee’s potential based on both his behavioural and technical abilities. The reference employee’s senior stakeholders across the globe give their evaluation based on their experiences with the employee. This feedback is collated by the manager and presented to a Review Committee for further discussion and subsequent final evaluation.
This method helps us in two ways: first it provides a parity of expectation, so there is a universal understanding of performance standards to what is exceptional, very good, good and needs improvement. Secondly, it helps identify Hi-potentials. A person may not be growing in a particular group can be put in another domain where his/her expertise becomes available for others as well.
This review has helped us in Talent Mapping in a very big way and far exceeding the usual appraisal process, which may not help in identifying the real potential of an employee. Post evaluation, there is a developmental plan created for the particular employee, and he/she has to undergo certain specific learnings, for him/her to become a better contributor to organisational goals.
A Development booster programme, has been recently introduced at ST. This Program involves the high potential employees identified during people review. Here the identified employee is assigned a Senior mentor by the Company, apart from prioritization to specially designed 360 degree feedback based development, and other related inputs. There are huge stakes in this Program as employees falling in this bracket are of very high caliber and up to only 5 per cent of the total employees (HiPo’s) can be allocated to this scheme.
Q. So do you go to tier 3 institutes as well for recruitments?
A. We usually do not go to tier 3 institutes as the ROI may not be at par with our expectations; we do allow them to directly apply to us, and we do hire a good numbers from off-campus as well. An applicant can approach us through our website’s job posting section http://jobs.st.com/ or through reference.
Q. Roughly, how many people have you hired in the last two years?
A. I think we would have hired around 300-350 people in the last two years.
Q. In which department has most of the hiring been done, R&D, sales, technical, etc?
A. The maximum amount of hiring is done for the R&D department followed by hardware and embedded software.
Q. Do you hire freshers also?
A. Yes we do. We feel that as an organisation matures, we need more ‘fresh blood’. Hiring at junior levels also helps build the organisation in a more balanced fashion.
Q. Are the fresher recruitments also done through website and references?
A. Yes. We are hiring good numbers from our company website. References have a huge advantage as the ‘referee’ has a good understanding of both the organisation and the friend/colleague he is referring. Upto 32 per cent of our hiring is through references.
Q. Is there a set number of interns that you take every year?
A. It is actually restricted to 5 per cent of the total population but sometimes we do make exceptions, which depend on our hiring phases. When the hiring increases, we allow the group to hire more interns that can prove very helpful to the organisation. Interns have an advantage of being involved in more than one job, which is a good learning opportunity for them. At this point of time we have around 120-130 interns. However, we are selective about the interns that we take, and they are from certain recognised institutes. Usually the internship period is six months but in some cases, we have one year internship also (M.Tech’s from certain Institutes).
We have also started a new programme called ‘RISE’ (Real-time Interning with ST Expert). An intern who does well during his training gets evaluated in a structured manner, and absorbed in ST based on the evaluation. The benefit of this process is that instead of hiring someone who is a fresher, we get someone who has been tested and evaluated on aspects of the ‘real’ job, has already acquired sufficient knowledge, and his/her attitude and aptitude for learning is well established.
Q. Is there a particular time when ST starts hiring or a person can apply anytime of the year?
A. We are open to job applications throughout the year. A candidate just needs to contact our HR department from the contact details given on our website..
Q. Are there any positions where you are finding recruitment to be a bit more challenging?
A. Yes, in analog system and chip design both. Analog engineers are becoming rare and this domain’s is steadily increasing in demand.
Q. Do you hire people who have done PhD?
A. We are hiring more people with PhD background, especially in some Research oriented groups such as Advance Systems and Technology (AST), which is basically a central group – supporting all other technical groups by building some technology concepts and handing it back to them to develop further.
It is important for me to mention, that we also have quite a few non-PhD’s who are key talents in the R&D arena. Some of these talents who had left us earlier, have made a comeback owing to the growing Technical prowess and culture at ST.
Q. Does that set an image that an employee can leave and then renegotiate to join back at higher packages?
A. As long as the person actually deserves it, even the internal people don’t mind. But the challenge comes in when a person has not been a great performer and then joins back at a higher package. This shall naturally upset internal people. Therefore, we have a clear demarcation of high potential employees vis a vis the others.
Q. Is renegotiation also a part of the HR policy at the time of leaving?
A. No. We don’t allow renegotiation salarywise but there can be renegotiation on the profile of a person. This usually happens when an employee doesn’t sees himself growing in his area of work but is a good performer. In such a case, we may allow the person to move in some other domain/division where there is a possibility of growth.
Q. You have mentioned about behavioural training for freshers. Do you have something like this for old employees as well?
A. There is a programme called Ability Character Execution (ACE). We are doing this for our middle management and above. We are using such programmes to develop leaders because what we have realised is that technical focus is always there but we need to build soft skills through behavioural focus. This programme has many technical people involved and it’s amazing to see people learning and benefitting from it.
We have also started Coaching, which is giving us big dividends. The Coach does both team and individual coaching. The coaching is done by a certified consultant and we have seen a significant difference for our employees who have undergone this programme.
Q. How was the last FY for ST?
A. It was tough as was the Industry. We are making quite a few changes to adapt to the emerging market challenges.
Q. How does ST react at a global level to recessionary phases in economy?
A. ST was nominated as one of the most sustaining organization among top 100 companies last year. ST is structured in such a way that in case of any economic challenge, we do not take any harsh steps. ST undertakes manpower restructuring as a last resort. People are the key ingredient and ST is passionate about its people. We believe, the more we love them, the more they love us back.
Q. Now with the recession in Europe and India too showing recessionary conditions, are there any pressures on the HR increasing now with respect to HR related issues?
A. Right now in India we are not facing any pressures, while in other countries we may be. The moment they think of scenario where ST has to grow, India figures as one of the top options on their mind be it technology development or growing a team. Earlier we were providing more backend support, but today our teams are handling leading edge projects. We are working on projects that would completely surprise people and would definitely provide opportunities in incredible areas and on the forefront of technology.
Q. For people who join as freshers and are not a part of the ‘Rise’ programme, how much time do they depute for training?
A. We have another programme called Sequential Training Approach to Realign and Transition (START). This programme runs for a year to year-and-a-half, and involves multiple modules. Those undergoing this program are trained on various technical and non technical aspects of the job. We have a New Comer seminar where the new joinees meet all the managers on site. This is kind of an informal induction. We also conduct a behavioural induction where very interesting behavioural inputs (what is expected out of them, how they show leadership at that level) are given to the new joinees. I believe that this is one of the finest HR programmes that we have as it helps a person to mature and grow within the organisation.
Q: In the recent past, there was news about a possible merger and acquisition by ST. Can you share the details?
A. We had carved out our wireless division and had formed ST-Ericcsson. Now, there are changes happening, and some teams have rejoined us in ST, as we are actually finding lot of synergies within the organisation in the wireless domain. This is also because of the very strong pressure by the markets on our established multimedia products.
Q. Coming back to the point you made about increasing the amount of communication, is this with respect to the HR systems per se or overall?
A. This is for increasing the overall communication. Here HR’s role is to facilitate every group, to have communication occasions once every quarter. So, these groups give some technical inputs about what is happening in the business perspective for the division, plus recognitions.
Q. How is this information shared?
A. Every group, every division has its own newsletter through which it is shared. There is a top level newsletter, Company Newsletter and it shares information on every aspect of business. There are Quarterly Business Reviews with the Top Management as well as communication forums with all teams.
Q. How are you handling the invasion of social media like Facebook, etc? Is there an internal social media platform for your employees to communicate with each other?
A. We are using the social media to get feedback on our organisation. We use Share Point software, which is for internal sharing. We also have ‘Addas’ (hangout places). For example, there is a verification Adda where all verification guys share various challenges faced by them across the groups. For Twitter and Facebook posts, we have a dedicated person in the HR who is keeping a tab on the comments we receive. This helps us in ascertaining our improvement areas and our positives. For example, a person who has left ST to join another organisation gave us his suggestions on the basis of his new experience through Facebook. This has helped us enhance Neonate, our Induction Program…
Q. Do you allow your employees to use Facebook during office hours?
A. Our Internet access isn’t 100 per cent for everybody. However, for those who work on site, we try to restrict it. To be honest, we have neither banned it nor do we promote it
Q. What percentage of ST employees would have access to Internet?
A. About 60 per cent of our employees are allowed access to Internet. Though there is 100 per cent access to IEEE and other Technical and University websites. We have a separate room called Adhyan, so anybody can block a time to access the high speed Internet available in that room for research or any technical information.
Q. Is there any development budget for ST employees to be sponsored at a seminar to gain knowledge on technical content?
A. We have huge emphasis on Technical Learning. We are already investing a lot on internal training of employees, which are need based. Additionally we also conduct “Tech week”, where we invite the best professors to deliver lectures to us. In the past we’ve had some Professors from top US universities visiting our Campus and a few linking-up through the Web.
We had also invited Thomas Skotnicki, who is designated as ST Fellow, with significant contributions to his credit, to give technical inputs to our young engineers. So we are investing a lot internally as of now. For external training, there are developmental plans that are made at the beginning of the year, for which we encourage an employee to participate, if we find the proposal worthy of adding onto the knowledge of an individual.