IT services majors are in no mood to economise on their bench even as they battle rising costs and an appreciating rupee. Large IT services majors typically sport a bench, comprising employees who are not yet in the billing cycle, upwards of 20% of their total offshore workforce.
While many have mastered the art of fine-tuning the bench levels over the years, it is practically impossible to have a just-in-time kind of pipeline of immediately deployable employees. “Bench levels keep changing even during the course of the financial year. For instance, utilisation levels could be at 73% during the beginning of the year when new contracts are signed. We have to be ready for market opportunities that knock at our door,” Infosys CFO V Balakrishnan told ET.
To that extent, bench management is also a function of the market environment. At any given point in time, these companies are chasing at least a dozen large business contracts. Infosys alone is pursuing 15 deals each worth over $100 million and winning large deals translate into ramping up staff.
Typically, a company that hires 30,000 employees per year would attract over 3 lakh resumes of which 50% would be rejected on various parameters. The recruitment strike ratio is 1 in every 10 candidates processed. Maintaining a bench is a faster way of immediate deployment.
So, to that extent, bench is not such a dirty word in the IT services business although, crudely put, it means those many number of employees are idle. According a senior official at Satyam Computers, companies are looking at putting the bench to more productive use.
“Most of these employees are in shadow billing mode or in training modules. So, it is not as if they are totally idle. Most of us try to keep the onsite bench to below 3% as the cost of keeping employees on unbillable mode there is very expensive. We prefer to fly back employees who have a waiting period of even one or two weeks.”
HR trackers say, instances of companies breaching the mark of below 20% bench may be very few. But, companies are certainly trying out new ways to utilise it better.
At Satyam, for instance, the bench is not maintained depending on a particular product or vendor specification. Instead, there is a bench for each practise which allows the employees to multi-skill themselves in that vertical.
HR trackers say that companies are also increasingly keeping an active offline bench. Offline bench would be those set of job-seekers who could be hired at short notice. In HR jargon, it is called “keeping them warm,” says Ad Astra founder V G Nirupama.
Companies routinely send mailers to such prospective candidates and keep in touch with them over their availability, she adds. Recruitment agencies also maintain a ready-to-join pipeline for large companies.