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How Indian IT giants TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL Tech are changing their appraisal systems

Source | The Times Of India : By Jochelle Mendonca

BENGALURU: This Republic Day, mid-sized IT company Zensar had an unusual celebration at its Pune campus. The company’s human resources division had made a large bell that they burnt to symbolise the scrapping of the hated bell curve method of employee assessment.

As the Indian IT sector moves away from the relative ranking of its 3 million employees, not everyone is making such dramatic statements. But from building mobile applications to allow real-time feedback and reconfiguring their large human resources platforms to allowing managers to exercise discretion on parts of the quarterly bonuses, Indian IT companies are beginning to adjust to life after the bell curve.

The much-despised once-a-year ranking, which required managers to categorise employees as good, average and poor to fit the standard distribution of the bell curve was bought into vogue by General Electric (GE). However, companies worldwide like IBM, Deloitte and even GE have junked the bell curve in the last couple of years and are moving to a method of continuous feedback — a change that was made to attract and retain younger workers. But for the IT services industry whose companies have hundreds of thousands of employees, continuous feedback is not an easy goal to achieve.

This is especially because feedback can be sought from managers on monthly to quarterly basis.

“The concern about continuous feedback is: how do you manage it so it doesn’t become an all-encompassing chore? In parts of the business where we have it, we have seen pushback. It will be interesting to see how the largest companies implement it,” Syed Azfar Hussain, global head of human resources at Zensar, told ET in a recent interview. Zensar has over 8,000 employees.

Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, Wipro and HCL Technologies — who together employ over 8 lakh people — are beginning to make the transition away from the bell curve but it’s still a work in progress. “If an employee has had goals set and has received regular feedback, then they are assessed based on that. But if that has not happened, then the bell curve still applies. But in the next few quarters, we think everyone will have moved to a regular feedback process,” said Prithvi Shergill, chief human resources officer at HCL Technologies. HCL Technologies has launched a new performance management platform called iSuccess.

Betting on tech

Infosys is also betting on technology to reduce the red tape that could entangle the feedback process. “We launched the iCount platform about a month ago, and people have already put in 700-800 requests for feedback. But yes, documenting all the feedback might be hard for some, so we are working on putting that real-time feedback functionality into a mobile application,” said Krish Shankar, group head of human resource development at Infosys.

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