DHEP : Domestic Help Engagement Program

Friday, August 29, 2008

My good friend Ashish is a philanthropist… he just gave Babloo, his car cleaner, a raise of 33%… Babloo’s salary now stands at a grand 300 rupees a month… and by some simple arithmetic that Babloo learnt in his school called life, his Total Compensation is 2,400 rupees…

In times of regression in the Indian wage economy when the average compensation increases did a ‘hung ho’ at a 13%, this is a hefty hike… Ashish last got benevolent with Babloo very recently… about 6 years ago, when Babloo got his previous hike… actually when Babloo started working with him…

About a year ago, my ‘live-in-domestic-help’ (maid if you will)… one of the artefacts of symbolism of ‘hey-you-have-arrived-in-life-if-you-employ-a-live-in-domestic-help’… asked my wife and I for a raise… the demand was atrocious… or at least that’s what we thought… she had asked for a 25% hike… this is despite the YoY increase of about 10%-12% that we were causing in her life for the last 3 years…

We could not retain the Talent… we lost her to a more affluent ‘husband-and-wife-in-global-roles-and-kids-in-International-schools’ family across 3 blocks… in the new neighbourhood ‘luxury’ condominium complex… the Manhattan for the maid, if you will…

Well, that may not have changed anything for this Manhattan family from a ‘you-have-arrived-in-life-if-you-could-hire-a-maid-from-competition’ standpoint… but it did sure make a difference to two sets of people in life…

Our ex-maid got a 35% hike…

And my wife and I spent stressed out sleepless nights for the next 3 months when the position continued to remain vacant because of paucity of the ‘right’ talent in the market… and we spent excruciatingly exorbitant Talent Acquisition dollars… much more than the 25% of our ex-maid’s base compensation that we could give have given her as a raise… only if we had retained her…

Unlike the white collared ‘sandwich-stuffed-in-your-mouth-and-write-software-in-a-compter-in-a-cubicle’ industry… the no-collared, in fact, sari-clad-and-getting-into-a-pair-of-jeans industry… the domestic help… is an astounding, guesstimated 500 crore rupee industry in urban India… since it is unorganised and union-free, my friends from Hewitt Associates could not muster enough financial or moral muscle to help me do a compensation survey at the time when I was struggling to replace my maid…

After about a month of the position of my runaway maid remaining vacant, we contacted the domestic help hiring agencies… of course, this is a little more organised… they would charge you a fee for getting you the talent… and if the talent turns truant… they would replace the talent at an additional cost…

We interviewed a few maids… we could not find one that was a right ‘fitment’… while the Technical Skills were astounding in a few, the Behavioural Competencies were found wanting in many… some were too old for the job… they had outgrown and were overqualified for the position… some were too young to handle the young kids that we have… we weren’t very sure who would end up handling whom… some were male… my wife wasn’t very comfortable with that…

We turned to other hiring channels… maid referral mechanisms… maid-get-maid schemes that we floated with maids employed with our friends… this attracted a heap of referrals in our in-box… my wife had to literally spend 2 days in short listing the right profiles and umpteen phone calls to our friends and reference checks later, we ended up meeting with a few short listed candidates…

In the maid-get-maid hiring channel, we discovered a few other challenges… more infrastructure challenges than the skill challenges required for the position… some of the referees were totally unskilled, which meant we spent a lot of Training dollars on them post hiring, which wasn’t an option… we didn’t have the right Learning and Development frameworks in place at home to train maids… apart from the occasional unstructured OJT that we could put the maid on to…

We thought of an innovative first in this industry… kind of pioneering work that we wanted to do in the L&D space… a maid-mentoring or a buddy program… our maid could shadow our friends’ maid for a few days and get on with life after that… and we would pay her too, while she was on the mentoring… which actually posed us a new ‘emerging-industry’ challenge… the mentor maid wanted additional incentives for Training the trainee maid… well… whosoever said Training doesn’t come at a cost…

We hired a trainee maid… we sacked her a week later… based on the feedback of the mentor maid… the trainee maid had teamwork challenges and her learning curve was too steep… her readiness – a combination of her skill and will to do assigned tasks, was too low for anybody’s comfort… especially her boss management skills… for a week, we kept figuring out who was the boss at our place…

After 2 months and 26 days later, we finally filled the position… with a maid, whom we hired at a CTC of 30% more than what we paid our last maid…

Over the last one year, my wife and I have made some serious changes to our DHEP – Domestic Help Engagement Policy… a variable incentive that we would pay them when we got our incentives… 1 movie show every quarter on our big screen, with Act II butter popcorn and regular coke (my maid doesn’t like Diet Coke) thrown in for a good measure… a dating allowance after putting her through the advanced sex education program… a travel and entertainment allowance for maid-meet-maid quarterly MASSCOM (Maids Sorority and Communion) seminars held in the neighbourhood park… the policy has provisions for including many other industry level initiatives that our maid may want to be a part of, as a part of her development plan…

My wife has also agreed to be the Chief Guest for the MASSCOM Annual Summit held every March… where the Maids R&R is also a key feature… though a few of my neighbours have complained that cross neighbourhood poaching has been on the rise, especially after the last Annual Summit…

My wife now heads the Task Force that we have constituted to tackle mattrition (maids attrition) in the neighbourhood… she has been able to convince 43% of the households in the neighbourhood to sign a no-poach agreement…

Meanwhile Babloo has quit Ashish despite his recent hike… he has relocated to the DLF part of Gurgaon… which is a more attractive market… Ashish tells me Babloo is happy with 300 rupee a car proposition… In effect, Babloo has doubled his salary since the last 6 months…

All the best Babloo…

Have a Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

Posted by Ravi Kodukula at 9:04 AM

4 comments:

Alok said…

Oh.. and I thought I am the only husband being pulled into “have-nothing-at-work-help-me-sort-maid-stuff-at-home” menace so rampant in our society now a days.

Kudos.. you managed to get one.

August 29, 2008 12:34 PM

Bhavna said…

Ravi,
ah- you will touch many hearts with this one- and obviously you have the right understanding of the domain to be able to empathise with your women colleagues. Alas – like our conversation some time ago, maid management & people management are 2 of my challenges that I will constantly struggle with.
But of course, I can now look forward to some appropriate understanding on both the fronts ( ha ha)

August 29, 2008 2:17 PM

Shruti said…

This one is hilarious of, not all that you wrote but of the ones I read.

But congratulations for you found one finally and I hope the strategy so formulated adds to the durability of the ‘maid’ in the market where demand > supply which has led to their expectations go really high when it comes to their employer of choice. Ev’n no poaching may not help sustain for long. The DHEP would also need to be reviewed every year to keep abreast of the growing market . All the best again:)

August 29, 2008 2:23 PM

Tanuja Prasad Ranjan said…

Aaila! I am taking full responsibilty of what I am posting here – In my secret mind I am planning to start a maid agency – it seems like a very lucrative proposition.
Besides, mine is leaving this week.. sniff….
Great article!

August 30, 2008 11:53 AM

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