Paneesh Rao (centre). Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint.
New Delhi: Building a strong culture within the organisation is crucial at L&T Technology Services, the engineering services arm of India’s largest engineering and construction firm, Larsen & Toubro Ltd. The company, which plans to hire 2,500 Indians across verticals in the year to March 2018, is focused on increasing the number of fresh graduates they hire from college campuses as they mature as an organisation, Paneesh Rao, chief human resources officer at L&T Tech, said in an interview with Mint. Edited excerpts:
What share of your overall hires are fresh graduates?
Last year, out of the 2,500 people we hired, close to 50% of our hiring were fresh graduates… The number of fresher hiring should only increase. As we mature as an organisation, it would be a dream to see that we hardly hire people laterally from the market, but grow people from within—by hiring more freshers than experienced people in the coming future.
Why do you stress upon hiring fresh over experienced candidates?
We do more of fresher hiring to contain cost and mould them to our requirements both in terms of technology and process…our philosophy is that we hire people for careers. We don’t hire them for only the skills they possess.
Our intention and as we mature as an organisation would be to ensure that we don’t hire lateral from the market, but we hire fresh graduates out of universities and then provide an opportunity to grow with the organisation.
Why do you prefer to hire fresh over experienced candidates?
If we are hiring 10 people from 10 different organisations, what is the kind of culture we are building within our organisation? It is always nice to train people the way we want into the culture.
Skill sets are the tip of the ice berg. Attitude can be buried under the water that can’t be seen. You productivity, skills, knowledge, personality are influenced by the attitude that you possess. Therefore, our emphasis is more on seeing their attitude than skills that they posses.
Moreover, when you hire experienced candidates, they bring in past experiences which may or may not be conducive to our organisation. Then it becomes a real problem aligning them to the culture of the organization to get what we want from our employees, because they bring their past experience and keep quoting the “in my earlier job” phrase.
Do you have any plans to increase the entry-level salaries?
There is intent to increase salaries by up to 20% at entry level this financial year.
What is the best way to hire graduates—pre-placement offers or interviews at final placements?
We did engage some interns but didn’t make many offers. We went to campuses, conducted a psychometric test to assess candidates, interviewed them and hired some. But this time we have come up with something new—an innovation challenge for graduates. We offered pre-placement interviews to 120 top participants in the contest.
TECHgium, a contest to promote innovation among engineering students across the country, saw participation from over 7,000 engineering students from 164 engineering institutes in India.
The competition comprised of 22 real challenges defined by L&T Tech clients and required students to create concepts, submit abstracts, present technical papers, and showcase proof of concepts to address the challenges.
Do you anticipate job cuts due to automation in the IT sector?
Comparing us to a purely IT company is not fair. We are a purely engineering services company. We are a designing company. A design cannot be automated. They have to have a human brain working on it. To that extent we are excluded from the automation impact.
What do you look for in your campus hires?
We try to find professionalism, high energy, confidence, intellectual curiosity, and the spirit of self-monitoring in them…flexibility, honesty, ability to work in teams.
What is it you don’t like in job seekers?
The rigidity—this is what I am supposed to do and make my career in attitude. We look for flexibility in people.
Do you find the current engineering college curricula relevant to the industry?
The current curriculum lacks practical exposure. Tech knowledge is not limited to the stream he/she is specializing in. One should be able to work on other streams of engineering too, irrespective of their specialization.
What is your tip for success?
Be flexible, curious, be a learner, be disciplined and process-oriented, no shortcuts to quality.