Peeta basapati salakasivananda

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Peeta basapati salakasivananda

  1. 1. High Skilled Talent Retention through Journal Clubs Peeta Basa Pati, Salaka Sivananda Cognizant Technology Solutions, Bangalore, INDIA {PeetaBasa.Pati, Sivananda.s}@Cognizant.com
  2. 2. 1 ABSTRACT Human capital is the key to organizational efficiency and therefore, HR department & Functional managers are looking for new ways to acquire & retain talent in tough markets. Meeting & sustaining the ever growing demands of good talent in IT industry is a big challenge with employees constantly looking to up-skill their knowhow through challenging assignments and looking for opportunities elsewhere. Economic downturns create a chaotic situation for the IT industry. Curtailments of existing and new projects reduce employee engagement causing severe concerns such as head-count reductions & insecurity. However, some organizations devised innovative strategies to engage employees in productive activities. Such efforts have resulted in improved employee morale, loyalty & satisfaction, while also strengthening the organization’s IP portfolio. One way to keep employees engaged during these times is to conduct journal clubs. In these clubs employees study research papers from various scientific / technical journals and share the learning with their peers. The benefits from this are: 1. Stimulates intellectually and helps stay in touch with cutting edge research 2. Improves the interpersonal communication and soft skills 3. Promotes networking & team spirit 4. Explore new ideas and innovation Investment in the employees’ learning & development is seen as a promising sign of the organization’s commitment. Employees demonstrate a new zeal to generate tangible outcomes, thereby potentially contributing to the organization’s IP portfolio. This paper presents a case study of implementation of this technique. It was observed that once the club was created and made functional, the motivation level of the employees improved with enhanced levels of commitment to work and organization. KEYWORDS Journal club, talent retention, employee engagement INTRODUCTION The IT industry is heavily influenced by the global economy and growing competition from other nations. The economic swings lead to increased competition amongst the industry’s champions to consolidate their existing customer base, while looking forward to add new clientele. Retaining high customer satisfaction demands successful delivery & relationship. For successful delivery it is essential for the organization to have good & motivated talent with the right skills & attitudes. Employees who stay with an organization for long attribute their loyalty to some of the following reasons (and not limited to): employee-friendly work environment & policies, technically challenging assignments,
  3. 3. 2 promising client line-up, talent improvement avenues, and attractive compensation & benefits. In this paper, the focus shall remain on talent management & encouragement. Talent retention & growth is a hot topic in most forward looking IT organizations. People at different levels are given various avenues of improving their technical, managerial, and soft skills. Trainings (classroom or computer-based), workshops, seminars & conferences are the most prominent options. In large IT services organizations, people resources are usually allocated to a project. Upon completion of a project they are either moved to another instantly or wait in anticipation of another forthcoming. While on a project, the technical trainings are more focused towards the specifics for that project. Functional managers demand custom trainings oriented towards project-specific needs to be arranged for their teams. Additionally, subject-matter-experts within the organization may be tapped for informal insights. When off a project, employees are expected to cross-skill or up-skill so that they become deployable. Talent managers have an agenda every year to ensure that across the organization a standard set of trainings are conducted basis the general feedback obtained from across teams. Besides the regular streams of learning, having ad-hoc programs with a focus on specific topics can be great motivators. One such exercise was of having a journal club which chose a particular topic for a collective study & analysis to understand it better in a shorter time span. The topics could range from technical, managerial, leadership, communication or other soft skills. The objectives were multi-fold regardless of whether the topic was technical or otherwise: 1. Sourcing inputs through collective participation of the group 2. Preparatory brainstorming to arrive at a common consensus of understanding 3. Make a formal presentation to the group and invite questions / debates 4. Receive feedback for further analysis with a time-bound action plan to re-present CHALLENGES OF TALENT RETENTION Knowledge-workers are the key to the IT industry. A constant and consistent effort to encourage, tap and promote the knowledge potential is very essential to retain talent. Quality of talent in an organization has a direct impact on its deliverables that will determine customer satisfaction and hence growth. Forward looking organizations ensure that customer satisfaction and employee job satisfaction are maintained at high levels. Good job satisfaction levels reflect strongly in retention of skilled employees in any organization [1]. Such employees being under-utilized due to projects getting delayed or cancelled poses a huge risk of demotivation, heightens sense of insecurity and will have a spiraling impact on productivity. Talent & functional managers need to actively engage with them and ensure their readiness for new challenges. Learning needs are usually driven by: (i) company mandated, (ii) project needs, (iii) personal aspirations of the individual employee. The organization’s learning channels & modes have to provide ample support for the employees to accomplish their various learning needs in a timely manner.
  4. 4. 3 Concerns of Employees 1. How to keep up with latest technologies? 2. How to become a subject matter expert on specific technologies? 3. How to demonstrate that delivery quality is above expectations of the client? 4. How best to impress upon client / manager and improve selection opportunities to better prospects (roles, perquisites, etc.)? 5. How to share knowledge with peers & subordinates and empower them to perform better & make the team stronger? Concerns of Managers 1. How to build a right-skilled team? 2. What new skills to be developed for new challenges, and by when? 3. How to keep team motivated through active learning? 4. How to ensure that learning is put into actual practice through innovative delivery? Concerns of Organization 1. Are the projects progressing on the right track? 2. Is the client happy with the team’s capabilities, processes, and deliverables? Is the client satisfaction score reflecting any concerns? If so, what is the remediation plan to mitigate those concerns? 3. Is the employee satisfaction score reflecting on the good side? Are the concerns captured appropriately and timely remediation plans being put in place? 4. How to ensure the appropriate learning opportunities are facilitated at different levels of people? MANAGING TALENT Talent management & retention is one of the primary focus areas consistently for any organization. Given the challenge that the global economics influence the growth prospects, it is vital that the existing employee pool is nurtured better while efforts to recruit new talent continue. One of the key aspects of ensuring job satisfaction is based on the perception of what measures an organization is taking towards employee’s growth [2]. Learning forms an integral element of talent management. Basis the level & role of a person and the project needs, employees need to replenish their learning and hone their skills. Reputed employers provide multiple avenues of learning – classroom, audio-video, conferences & workshops. Additionally, custom trainings may be conducted on specific technologies basis project-specific-needs. Given the nature of client that employees connect with and the frequency, it is important to cover technical, communication, & managerial trainings – the percentage of each of them may vary basis the employee’s maturity & experience. While some may be conducted in-house, others may depend on external locations. Structured trainings definitely have their inherent benefits basis the content and the trainer’s capability to deliver. And, unstructured programs conducted efficiently could also be a good source of learning resulting in positive outcomes. Some of the unstructured programs include:
  5. 5. 4 1. Mentoring interns/campus trainees [3] 2. Journal clubs 3. Orator clubs for extempore speeches, group discussions, debates JOURNAL CLUBS About Journal Club Journal clubs have been a source of constant learning and knowledge sharing across different forums. It is widely practiced in university research labs where the research & development work is volumetrically more than in their industrial counter parts. This is an experience gained by the authors during their research collaboration with universities [3]. Historically, there were mathematical circles in Russia. These circles worked on the principle that study of mathematics can be as much fun and can generate equal levels of enthusiasm in participants as any sports event [4]. This helped spread the concepts of mathematics while popularizing the subject as a stream of learning amongst the masses. A non-traditional teaching methodology was adopted that encouraged the participants to relate the mathematical principles to their daily life situations, thereby helped ingrain these concepts easily. It has been observed that the journal clubs help the participants in multitude of ways. 1. People learn new concepts and principles in an interactive environment. This mode of learning has been proven to be far more effective than the formal channels of imparting instructions. For example, when one person spends 2 hours to learn a subject and shares the learning in an hour with the group consisting of 8 people, (s)he saves about 15 hours effort for everyone to grasp the same concepts. 2. A group discussion about the concepts learnt from a literature leads to new paradigms of comprehension or knowledge application. This is because each person has a unique model of interpretation and knowledge retention. Besides people have unique ways to relate concepts with their life’s situations. 3. Such a club and discussions allow people to express themselves with their understandings and ideas. This helps participants to understand each other better and discover the individual and group strengths. 4. The club serves as forum for people to present and obtain feedback in real-time. This helps improve their communication and leadership skills which also adds to the intellectual capital of the organization. 5. A highly charged group discussing on new concepts allows innovation to flow far quicker than it can happen otherwise. Thus, it enriches the intellectual property of the organization in a cost effective manner. Thus, the tangible and intangible benefits of a journal club are far greater than perceived and documented.
  6. 6. 5 Model A journal club can be implemented in following ways: (i) passive model, and (ii) active model. Passive Model In this model, the presenter presents the concepts in a forum followed by questions and answers, whereby all gain. Examples of such model are tech-symposiums and conferences in an organization. Typically the number of participants is larger, playing a passive role by listening. It gives the presenter to express his/her ideas more than anyone else. This forum supports people with varying degrees of skills to attend and gain as per their capacity and ability. The topics of discussion and presentation is decided / approved by an organizing group. The event is well planned and organized. These events also need management approvals and funding. Active Model In an active model, the participants are less than or equal to 10. Such a group usually consists of similar- skilled and like-minded people. The topics are chosen as per the group’s need & convenience. These forums are much more participative in nature and the conducting of the session is charged with discussions and debates. Such forums hardly need the management approval and its conduction relies more on the employees’ time and less on any other resources. In this work, the authors adapted a hybrid model, as shown in figure 1, combining the concepts from passive and active, for implementation of the journal club in their organization. The senior members of the team decided on the topics at large which are of interest to the organization in general and the group in particular. The group then decided on the mechanism of exploration, selection and ownership of presentation for each session. The group consisted of 8 people and the following roles were adopted. 1. Facilitator – a person responsible to conduct the sessions. The facilitator is responsible for all activities related to the conducting of the meeting such as locating and deciding the place and time, information sharing etc. 2. Presenter – one responsible for identifying a literature, study it and share the understanding. 3. Participants – listen to the presentation, discuss and debate the concepts and brainstorm on the correlation of concepts to the organizational situations. 4. Scribe – is responsible to summarize the session, take notes of the proceedings and publish the outcomes.
  7. 7. 6 Start Team leader identifies topics Team Discussion on topic & content Presenter(s) Identification Presenter(s) selects the paper, studies & prepares content Presentation & discussion session Scribe records meeting minutes Innovative ideas recorded on forums Business proposals made Ideas implemented ENDBenefit Records Fig 1: Journal Club Workflow Benefits There are tangible & intangible benefits obtained by forming a journal club. These benefits are realized by both the individual employees and the organization as depicted in figure 2. Broadly, tangible benefits are realized as better innovations, improved intellectual capital, IP creations, new business ideas, lesser attrition and reduced training costs. Intangible benefits reflect as improved employee morale, greater zeal & enthusiasm, better productivity & commitment.
  8. 8. 7 Improved Employee Morale IntangibleTangible Organization Individual Reduced Talent Retention Effort Empowered / Charged Employees Lower Attrition Better Intellectual Capital Enhanced IP Portfolio Higher Innovation Index Lower Training Costs Better Business Solutions Improved Customer Satisfaction Improved Teamwork Interpersonal Skills Better Communication Ideas-To-Solutions Higher Motivation Satisfaction Skill Enhancement Innovations New Proposals / Patents Literature Survey Presentations Collaborations Fig 2: Benefits of Journal Clubs The various beneficiaries are depicted in figure 3. While the direct beneficiaries are the participants themselves, the relative outcomes benefit the organizational stakeholders. A successful program will have multiple outcomes that may not just have recharged employees, but new ideas or innovations that sprout may become value additions.
  9. 9. 8 Journal Club Organization & Management Team Manager / Facilitator Participants – Team Innovations Manager Customer Account Managers HR / Training Department IP Committee Quality Manager Fig 3: Beneficiaries of Journal Clubs CASE STUDY – Cognizant Technology Solutions (http://www.cognizant.com/) Cognizant (Cognizant Technology Solutions) offers technology and transactional services to clients across different domains and geographies. On the technology front there are many teams working on delivering products & components with cutting edge technology. To keep the projects flowing into the organization, the concerned teams strive to attain customer delight through delivery of services that always exceeds the expectations of the customers. To attain this, the teams adopt the principles of a learning organization. At Cognizant continuous efforts are being made that leads to skill up-gradation and IP creation. Budgetary constraints and current market conditions pose a challenge to both the above goals. The authors have implemented the concepts presented in this paper at their department. The team consisted of 8 high-skilled members most of whom had post-graduate or equivalent degree in engineering. The members are from a research & development team focused on activities such as creating high-end modules involving algorithms, natural language processing, data analytics, IP creation by disclosing patents, write & publish papers, interact with universities for collaborative research. With
  10. 10. 9 market constraints appearing at beginning of 2012, project sponsor paid lesser attention to such activities thus causing concern to the team. Some members contemplated quitting the organization as the support for higher learning stopped and challenges diminished. The organization had offered cross-skilling the members to take up delivery of application development projects which clearly were not to the members’ liking. At this juncture, the authors, being senior members of the team, considered implementing the concept of journal club as a mechanism of employee engagement. The concept was welcomed by the team. The program started with one of the authors starting to deliver an introductory course on data mining which was of interest to the team. The delivery of the sessions was as proposed in this paper. Besides, regular weekly discussions were commenced for an hour each week where every member was encouraged to play the role of presenter. The following benefits were observed & quantified from the journal club program: 1. The team members started getting engaged with the program and the motivation for participation started to rise. Individuals who were considering a departure from the organization, reconsidered to stay back. 2. Innovative concepts worth of USD 20,000. 3. Emergence of 3 new ideas currently being considered to be disclosed for patent filing. 4. New system architecture that performs 3 times better on the same pre-existing infrastructure, for a hosted service providing information extraction and parsing service on documents. CONCLUSIONS The paper presents the case study of conducting a journal club in their organizational premises and the benefits derived through it. Some of these benefits have been measured and presented in this paper. While a few of the intangible benefits have not been quantified, it is clear that such clubs lead to positive short & long-term outcomes for the employers as well as employees. A more systematic and metric driven study needs to be conducted to quantify such benefits. REFERENCES [1] T. Khamnayev, M R Alkhali, B Cockrell and B Haggerty, “Retention of high tech employees”, IEEE PICMET 2001, Vol 1, DOI: 10.1109/PICMET.2001.952207. [2] G Santhanam, R Jayaraman, and V Badrinath, “Influence of perceived job satisfaction and its impacts on employee retention in Gulf Cooperation Countries”, ICMIEE Aug 2012. [3] Salaka Sivananda, Vinaya Sathyanarayana and Peeta Basa Pati, "Industry-Academia Collaboration via Internships," CSEET, pp.255-262, 2009 22nd Conference on Software Engineering Education and Training, 2009. [4] Dimitri Fomin, Sergey Genkin, Ilia Itenberg, “Mathematical Circles (Russian Experience)”, Universities Press, 2000.
  11. 11. 10 AUTHOR(S) PROFILES Peeta Basa Pati, PhD Peeta Basa Pati has completed his Bachelor of Engineering from NIT Rourkela (fka NIT Rourkela) in 1998. He has completed his masters and PhD in engineering from Indian Institute of Science Bangalore in the years 2001 and 2007, respectively. He has worked as research engineer with First Indian Corporation, CoreLogic and now at Cognizant Technology Solutions. He has published 17 articles in international journals & peer-reviewed conferences and holds a US patent. His research interests include Information extraction, Image and pattern recognition, data analysis and mining. He currently is working as a Senior Architect – Technology at Cognizant Technology Solutions. S. Sivananda, PMP ® , CSM Sivananda has completed his Bachelor of Engineering from Bangalore University in 1997. He is a PMP in good standing and Certified Scrum Master. His IT career spans more than 14 years in organizations such as CyberCash, GE India Technology Center, CoreLogic (fka First Indian Corporation), and is currently employed with Cognizant Technology Solutions as Associate Director – Projects. He is responsible for teams conducting R&D, application development, testing, maintenance & support. Besides delivery management, he promotes innovation and has published 1 paper in an international journal, presented in project management summits at First Indian Corporation, and holds a US patent.

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