Talent retention is a crucial part of the talent strategy of service companies. This is because the quality of talent significantly impacts the ability of such businesses to execute projects successfully, showcase their capabilities, and ultimately secure more contracts and new clients. Additionally, given how this dynamic industry is facing challenges due to various macroeconomic factors, it has become essential for service firms to remain highly adaptable and identify opportunities at an early stage. Axiscades Technologies is doing just that.
The technology solutions company, focusing on engineering solutions and services, has various strategies in place to retain and nurture talent at every level.
“Our substantial growth has primarily been driven by mergers, acquisitions and non-organic expansion. In a business landscape such as ours, where we emphasise not only organic but also significant inorganic growth, talent retention holds immense significance,” reveals Hrishi Mohan, CHRO, Axiscades Technologies.
“We addressed aspects such as employee well-being, enhancing team effectiveness through team-building activities, and implementing rewards and recognition programmes. These were among the areas identified, in addition to regularly-scheduled events such as meetings with the CEO, CHRO, or CFO. These initiatives, spanning from the previous year to the current year, have yielded positive results in terms of our retention rates.”
Hrishi Mohan, CHRO, Axiscades Technologies
The very first step in its retention strategy was the ‘Employee Satisfaction Survey’, conducted in November 2022. Based on the results, the company identified specific areas that required the human resource (HR) team’s attention. Subsequently, the HR team took targeted action based on the opportunities highlighted by the survey.
“We addressed aspects such as employee well-being, enhancing team effectiveness through team-building activities, and implementing rewards and recognition programmes. These were among the areas identified, in addition to regularly-scheduled events such as meetings with the CEO, CHRO, or CFO. These initiatives, spanning from the previous year to the current year, have yielded positive results in terms of our retention rates,” points out Mohan.
The survey was conducted across all the levels and then the company targeted specific areas to improve its retention strategies.
The company has specific initiatives and programmes in place to nurture its skilled workforce at specific levels.
For entry-level engineers, the company has developed a well-structured 90-day programme aimed at quickly bringing them (freshers) up to speed in terms of meeting the company’s requirements. It helps them bridge the skill gap between what they learn in universities or colleges and the industry’s expectations.
The 90-day programme is then accompanied by an additional three months of process training, covering the sectors where the company is actively involved, such as aerospace, automotive, heavy engineering and defence.
“After they gain about a year or a year and a half of experience, we explore opportunities to provide them with different types of exposure. This can involve lateral moves or broadening of the scope of their responsibilities. This approach has proven to be instrumental in retaining talent at the entry level within our organisation,” asserts Mohan.
The company recruits fresh engineers from mechanical engineering, mainly from campuses and institutions in the southern region, specifically Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Last year, the campus hiring constituted 25 per cent of its total hiring.
The company has several career-development opportunities available to individuals at the middle level as well. At this level, the company focuses on helping employees learn skills such as team management and gaining a deeper understanding of how the business operates.
“We conduct sessions that are tailored to each employee’s Individual Development Plan (IDP). It’s akin to providing education to individuals at this level, as we systematically groom them over time to become senior leaders. This includes not only team management but also training in specific technical areas related to their roles,” points out Mohan.
The specific functional areas include topics such as comprehending the business side of things, as many of these mid-level individuals come from engineering backgrounds. Therefore, as they begin to take on, or are expected to take on, broader management responsibilities, it’s imperative for them to grasp the intricacies of business dynamics. This is when the company enrols them in Management Development Programmes (MDPs) offered by institutions such as IIM Ahmedabad. These MDPs provide them with insights into the workings of businesses, which, in turn, equip them to aim for senior leadership roles in the future.
The participation in this annual programme depends on the schedules of these institutes. “These programmes are part of an open consortium and may be offered, for instance, once every six months. Just recently, in September, we sent around seven or eight of our handpicked leaders to IIM Ahmedabad for a week-long programme,” reveals Mohan.
For the senior levels, the company initiated its leadership-development programme last year. The programme is aimed at nurturing individuals recognised as future leaders who require significant investment.
One noteworthy approach involves partnering with experts in leadership development who have experience with well-known organisations. The company conducts periodic sessions for these identified emerging leaders. Giving an example, Mohan shares, “We have a session planned for mid- to senior-level leaders in November. The discussion will revolve around how to progress and achieve growth beyond their current roles, transitioning from X to 2X in terms of the expected results.” He goes on to explain, “Going beyond their technological expertise and ongoing responsibilities, we explore what they can do to contribute to the company’s growth. It’s a fundamental truth — as the business prospers, so do its leaders.”
Along with all specific programmes, the company constantly evaluates and addresses skill gaps through its Employee Perception Survey (EPS), which assesses the work environment and the factors influencing it, such as a manager’s ability to guide an employee’s career or create a conducive work atmosphere. Additionally, through its IDPs, the company has established a roadmap for each employee.
“Instilling a sense of discipline and ownership is crucial for us. If an employee has a growth plan, for instance, it needs to be embraced and rigorously pursued by the individual. While line managers and the HR team can collaborate on creating growth plans, the commitment and diligence should primarily come from the employees themselves,” advises Mohan.
With all its efforts, the company has observed an upward retention trend in its customer- relationships department. “This is most noticeable in mid-management positions where employees have successfully built a strong rapport with customers. For instance, in the aerospace sector, our mid-management team has, on average, remained with the same customer account for over ten years. This extended tenure is due to the strong sense of confidence customers have in how they treat our employees, considering them as part of their own team,” reveals Mohan.
As for roles with traditionally lower retention rates, the company has initiated comprehensive career planning for employees, implemented individual growth plans and emphasised role rotation to allow employees to explore opportunities across various domains within its operations. For instance, someone in the aerospace sector may have the chance to work in automotive, and vice versa.
“In terms of showcasing the positive impact of our initiatives on talent retention and workforce development, we have numerous leaders who have been with us for over a decade. They initially joined as engineers with mechanical engineering backgrounds, primarily in delivery roles. After spending several years in these roles, typically five to eight, they transitioned to sales positions,” enunciates Mohan. He further reveals that the company’s attrition rates have improved drastically by 10 per cent from Q1 to Q2. Axiscades is anticipating a continued downward trend in Q3 as well.
“Regarding future initiatives, we are focusing on introducing employees to new technology areas, particularly through our Digital Practice. This practice has been in existence for around 12 to 18 months and aims to provide employees with exposure to emerging technology areas, broadening their competencies beyond their mechanical-engineering backgrounds,” concludes Mohan.