At a time when campus hiring is shadowed by doubts, given the recession and slowdown in intake of fresh talent, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) proposes to hire over 3,000 freshers from 160 odd engineering colleges it has on its list. 

C. Jayakumar, Executive Vice-President and Head, Corporate Human Resources, L&T 

C. Jayakumar, Executive Vice-President and Head, Corporate Human Resources, L&T 

C. Jayakumar, Executive Vice-President and Head, Corporate Human Resources at L&T talks about how the company believes in building its talent pipeline ground up from campus hires, and the success it has met as 50 per cent of those recruited tend to stay on with the firm.

He also says that the trend of talent chasing software companies is abating and many are now preferring to work in core sectors.  


How important are campus hires for L&T?

We have a structured manpower budget, in which it is laid out how many trainees and how many laterals are to be recruited. This is a function of revenue, and also productivity per person. As an organisation we prefer to recruit from campus. It has many advantages. Many of the projects we do are first of its kind, for which we have to build in-house expertise. 

Take the Statue of Unity, the tallest statue in the world. If I have to construct that statue, I cannot go into the market and find people. We strongly believe in training our own people. ‘Build your own timbre’ is our philosophy. Even today if you look at the senior level — directors, or people at EVP level, you will find them to be people who have joined us as trainees and grown in the organisation.


That’s interesting as typically attrition is very high in companies, and that’s why companies tend to overhire at campuses.

In the initial years there may be attrition, but we find that around 50 per cent stay with us after a period of five years. We take this attrition into account and take in a large number of trainees. We don’t go to the first level IITs, but to the newer IITs, all NITs and the best of government and private engineering colleges. 160 or 170 colleges are there in our list.

Once we identify our requirements — civil, mechanical , electrical etc, we shortlist institutes and candidates, based on academic performance, looking at 10th, 12th marks too, as we look for consistency. We have a written test, followed by an interview. After the interview is over, we arrive at a merit list and then allocate to different companies, based on discipline and current location . Last time we selected 3,166 people, who were posted all across India. In order to retain them, we post them based on their interest also.


How many are you hiring this year?

Typically we had been hiring only 1,500 or 1,600 freshers, but last year we doubled our intake. In fact, even after our campus rounds, we found we needed more and put out an ad all India and received more than 70,000 applications. This year, we are going to campuses aiming at a target of 3,000 plus people.


Is the campus recruiting process outsourced, or done in house? There is a criticism that often the hiring manager and the line manager are not on the same page.  

Our entire campus recruitment process is centralised. Earlier some parts were outsourced. But now with L&T EduTech, an organisation that we started recently and has engineering colleges as its clients — with the motto of getting employable talent — the entire assessment is done by us. A technical manager is always involved in the interview panel.


What is the joining ratio? We hear it’s a challenge for companies as students take the offer letter but don’t join?

The joining ratio is 75 per cent. To keep the candidates engaged, we have a long induction period, which we call GRACE — Get Ready for an Awesome Career in Engineering. We keep the students informed on all activities at L&T, send newsletters, updates on new projects so that they feel they are a part of L&T.

We have also started a micro learning platform called RAPL, where we send them small capsules and quizzes. For example, there is a short capsule on safety policy, followed by a quiz of eight to ten questions. There is back-end analytics to this platform which tells us how many of those we gave the offer letter to are actually engaging with the company. If 20 of them are not opening RAPL at all, we know they are not engaged at all and unlikely to join.


Given the high level of fresher attrition, a lot of companies have bonds and bonuses as part of fresher compensation packages. Do you have these too?

Earlier we had a bond in place, but for the last couple of years, we have removed the bond as it is difficult to enforce and one unnecessarily gets into litigation. There is a small portion of money, paid after the training period, after the candidate is absorbed in our rolls, like a retention bonus.


There is a popular perception that students get swayed by money and brand name, rather than career growth prospects. What do you feel?

It is true. Peer pressure does play a part, and everyone looks at how much the other has got. That’s why I believe campus recruitment should not be done at the last moment but the engagement should be year long.

We are at campuses year long through campus ambassador programmes, through guest lectures, etc, so that the students are very clear — if they want to get into civil, mechanical, EPC, then L&T is the company .


What about Gen Z, what motivates them?

We pitch ourselves as nation builders. Whether it is metros, roads, bridges, railways, hospitals, hotels, we are building everything in the lifecycle of a person. We pitch this strongly in campuses so that it gives the candidates a strong sense of purpose.

In the last four years we as a company have moved into a strong technology base, adopting AI, ML, RFID, data analytics, etc. So now we also pitch ourselves as a tech company. So even those with tech inclinations do get attracted.

The third thing we do is talk about the opportunity we provide, through the challenging assignments we have. Whether it is the tallest statue, futuristic airports, or Bullet train — we pitch challenging jobs.

And, above all, we talk about the whole lot of learning opportunities we provide. We have 18 or 19 learning centres . We have a project management institute, a construction skills institute. Graduates after completing two years of service have the option of going for an MTech in construction technology and management at IIT Delhi, IIT Mumbai, NIT Suratkal and NIT Trichy with whom we have tie ups. Same way, we also have tie ups with IIM Ahmedabad and SPJain for MBA courses. They can write an internal competitive exam and go for it. That also motivates them.


Finally, what is the ratio of women hires among the freshers you take in?

Last year 30 per cent of the campus recruitment we did were women students. It was the highest we have ever done, compared to the 5 or 6 per cent that we used to do much earlier. We have been gradually upping intake. Also, now 24 per cent of our women staff work on project sites in manufacturing locations.