Tata Consultancy Services chief operating officer N Ganapati Subramaniam called it an “ethical issue”, while Tech Mahindra managing director and CEO CP Gurnani said the issue was “not widespread”. Gurnani also said his company is likely to “make a policy” so that employees can be open about doing more than one job at a time.
Moonlighting refers to doing more than one job at the same time, usually during off hours. While this is not a new phenomenon, the ensuing telecommuting in the Indian IT sector has helped employees embrace this option in greater numbers.
The sharply divided opinions came at an industry event in the National Capital on Friday, days after Wipro chairman Rishad Premji called the practice “a fraud, plain and simple”, in a tweet. His tweet sparked a heated debate at a time when the IT sector is facing unprecedented levels of attrition — up to nearly 30% in some cases. “Most of us (IT companies) have efficiency and productivity goals that are measurable…” Gurnani said. “If someone meets the norms of efficiency and productivity and wants to make extra money, as long as they don’t commit fraud and do something that goes against the values and ethics of the company, I have no problem.”
“Honestly, I’ll probably make it a policy.” If you want to do that, of course. But be open about it and share with us,” Gurnani said at an event organized by the biweekly publication Business Today.
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At the same event, Subramaniam of TCS noted that “employers should bring ethics and be right.” “If you do something like this for short-term gain, in the long run, you will lose – that’s the message that needs to go out to employees,” said the TCS executive.
Attrition rates at leading companies also varied in the previous quarter. While Wipro managed to keep attrition rates lower than some of its peers, with the April-June level falling marginally to 23.3%, from 23.8% in the sequential period, employee attrition rose for companies such as Infosys and TCS .
Meanwhile, Gurnani tweeted on Sunday: “My thoughts on the popular ‘M word’… It’s necessary to keep changing with the times, and as always, I welcome disruption to the way we work.”
Pressure on margins
The sharp division over the controversial issue comes against the backdrop of a war for talent raging across India’s IT services industry as companies grapple with overweight employees and work harder to keep their workforces happy and on the move during the pandemic-fueled tech spending boom.
Now, as global macroeconomic and geopolitical issues dampen sentiment, employers have turned to addressing the talent issues facing India’s 5.1 million IT workforce.
HR experts claim that while on-site working is not a new phenomenon, telecommuting has helped more employees adopt this method as demand for skilled labor exceeds supply in the market.
“Practically, it is difficult for employers to restrict working in a remote environment,” said Aditya Mishra, CEO of CIEL HR Services. “A bench employee, an intern, or a lighter workload can take on other tasks and it can’t be controlled beyond one point.”
Earlier this month, food delivery and hyperlocal delivery startup Swiggy introduced a work policy that allows employees to take on external projects for pro bono or economic consideration, subject to internal approvals. The option is available to all full-time employees of Bundle Technologies, Swiggy’s parent company, including subsidiaries, affiliates, affiliates and group companies.
“Companies should set up protocols, such as Swiggy, to ensure that privacy and data protection are not compromised.” It will also hold the employee accountable if any violation or conflict of interest is discovered later,” said CIEL’s Mishra.
Benefits for employees
Meanwhile, IT services companies themselves are experimenting with different models to keep their workforces happy.
A few like Tech Mahindra and TCS are expanding in small towns and opening offices closer to employees’ hometowns. They are also slow to commit to reinstatement of employees.
With the recent margin squeeze, companies such as Wipro and Infosys have, however, decided to retain or reduce variable pay for their executives for the June quarter.
Infosys cut variable pay to 70% for the quarter, saying it was impacted by pressure on operating margins. Its cross-city rival, Wipro, has retained variable pay for middle and senior executives, while reducing it to 70% for junior employees, the company said in an internal memo earlier this month.