From luxury cars to flexible hours, tech companies are doing everything they can to retain talent

Chenai: On a hot March afternoon in Chennai, Suresh Sambandam, founder of Saas startup Kissflow, walked to the parking lot of his lavish office in the city’s World Trade Center towers, surrounded by five of his most trusted lieutenants. Their advent set off a flurry of murmurs as the group made their way to a gleaming array of brand new BMW 5 Series cars, rising to a crescendo as the 48-year-old entrepreneur handed the keys to each of his colleagues as gifts for their “ unwavering loyalty.

A generation ago, companies said goodbye to retiring employees with a modest gift and praise. Now, in 2022, as a fierce war for talent rages in the post-pandemic world of hybrid workplaces, tech companies are courting the best and the brightest with giveaways ranging from luxury cars flexible hours and bonuses for good health.

“At a time when people stop in 18 months, we wanted to do that [giving away BMW cars] recognize the value of being loyal to a company. We want to change the narrative, make people believe there are benefits to being faithful,” Sambandam told ET.

He is not alone. In India’s booming tech sector — the $225 billion software services industry as well as the startup sector laden with more than 70 unicorns — employers are going out of their way to woo co-workers with gifts ranging from personalized exorbitantly. These efforts follow an increase in attrition in the industry. Bellwether companies like TCS and Infosys recently said the metric across their businesses stood at 17.4% and 27.7%, respectively, in the last quarter of fiscal 2022.

Great tech talent crunch

Shortly after KissFlow’s largesse to a select few, custom software development firm Ideas2IT donated 100 Maruti Suzuki cars as part of what senior executives called “wealth sharing” with employees.

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Elsewhere in Bengaluru, online stockbroker Zerodha has told its employees that better performance in lowering body mass index (BMI) will lead to additional bonuses. CEO Nithin Kamath clarified on Twitter that it was a company effort to encourage employees to focus more on their health. An email sent to Zerodha regarding the BMI challenge went unanswered until press time on Thursday.

Regardless of the individual background, it’s clear that tech workers are blessed. In a rapidly changing work environment where remote work has opened the doors to a wider range of job opportunities, employers are allowing workplace flexibility and allowing employees to feel valued in ever more unique ways. according to talent search professionals and HR practitioners.

There are good reasons why employers display such an eagerness to please.

In a recent survey by Talent500, which helps companies build remote teams, 87% of 4,800 professionals in major Indian cities surveyed said they would seek or consider new opportunities this year. Over 88% preferred hybrid work or working from anywhere, and nearly 63% said they were open to considering freelance consulting roles with global companies.

Global Opportunities

A host of US-based tech companies, such as the fully remote GitLab Inc, are hiring professionals in India for remote-only roles, breaking down geographic barriers around access to talent.

“Hybrid and flexible work models will continue post-pandemic, and people will show a strong preference for flexibility and choice,” said Vikram Ahuja, CEO and Founder of Talent500.

Employers are also reinventing work practices to address some of the longstanding grievances aggravated by the pandemic.

The SaaS platform Chargebee has increased its global workforce several times throughout the pandemic, which means its employees work across multiple time zones. The company now encourages its employees to vigorously document their work to reduce video calls between teams crossing time zones, according to RU Srinivas, SVP-People Success at Chargebee.

Nasdaq-listed Freshworks, which runs its largest Indian workplace in Chennai, calls itself a “truly hybrid,” with teams choosing when they want to kick in — one day or five a week. “We have hired a lot of new team members over the past two years who are fully remote. Although they continue to be remote, they are also taking the opportunity to come and experience Freshworks and meet their colleagues in person for the first time,” said CHRO Suman Gopalan.

IT companies with larger workplaces are also trying to strike a balance. Midsize IT company Mindtree has asked employees in cities where the company has offices to come to work two or three times a week, starting in April. For the rest, the company will go hybrid during the quarter, said human resources director Suresh Bethavandu.

The Software Services Association NASSCOM says the pivot to hybrid working is also physically reorganizing the workplace. According to a recent survey, 73% of organizations would seek to redesign their offices to accommodate hybrid work models, while more than 93% are considering hybrid models beyond the pandemic.

Margie D. Carlisle