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Saturday, Aug 10, 2002

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ISRO tackles attrition with post-graduates

Anjali Prayag
Madhumathi D.S.


IT'S a study of contrasts. When IT companies were faced with an attrition rate that they could no longer be smiling about, they made their carrots bigger and juicier. What could a Government-owned space research organisation do when its plum talent gets plucked by new-age tech companies?

One is to inject some patriotic spirit and play the feel-good trump about working for a prestigious organisation such as ISRO. The other is to zero in on talent that is serious about a long haul in space research.

According to Mr E.K. Kutty, HR Director, ISRO now has a revamped recruitment system and "we see a drastic reduction in outward mobility." It could also be the insecurity post-9/11 and a consequent freeze in the job market.

But what is interesting is the strategy that ISRO adopted. The space research organisation is now targeting M Techs and MEs for recruitment rather than BEs, because, he says, the former lot are more serious about a `research career'. The BEs are more often than not waiting for better jobs.

In fact, the first batch of M Techs had its orientation training in June. "It's difficult to get an M Tech or an ME, but once we acquire them, it's easier to retain them," he says.

For the IT companies, on the other hand, it has worked well to recruit and retain plain graduates and diploma holders.

Between 1998 and 2000 when attrition in the tech industry was at its peak, it was not uncommon for ISRO to lose about 100 engineers (out of 6,000 engineers) each year. In a single year, the number touched 160. Now the trend has reversed and there are not even 75 turning their back on its hallowed gates.

Every year, ISRO recruits 250-300 engineers and out of this, 100 are campus pickings. Says Mr Kutty, "With the first and second generation employees superannuating, replacements have become necessary." From 50-60 superannuations every year, the number has risen to 100 -150 now.

Post-1975, ISRO has grown from an employer of a few hundred personnel to a mammoth organisation. having 16,000 employees on its payrolls. And as with most Government bodies, there is almost no lateral recruitment at the senior level.

This happens only when the tap of talent runs dry and is a remote possibility because loyalty here runs for 20-30 years. "We have even had cases where people who have left wanted to come back.

They were missing the transparency and professional satisfaction, which they later felt should not have been traded for higher salaries." Career growth has not been an issue and challenging tasks and responsibilities are there; even promotions are not dependent on vacancies.

According to Mr Kutty, even the monetary issue no longer figures in the complaints box, because the "Fifth Pay Commission has done a lot to boost employee morale on salary and our pay doubles every six years or it's a 16 per cent annual growth."

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ISRO tackles attrition with post-graduates

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