Learning the ropes in Bangalore

One company puts its recruits through a 'boot camp' in India to try to retain talent. Andrea Wren reports
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The Independent Online

The company's training programme has been open for some time to Indian and US recruits, but a recent shift to global operations has now made it available to UK applicants. The initiation is no holiday - exhausting days in the hot Indian climate start at 8am and finish at 7pm. With an initial three weeks of intensive "developer" classes followed by 13 weeks of practical hands-on experience, it is pretty hefty by anyone's standards. But for fresh-faced graduates a wee bit wet behind the ears? It is certainly a tough approach to integration into their new corporate culture.

Suzie Prince is one of 32 graduates (of which six were from the UK) on the first global graduate intake. She has just started work as an analyst in the UK after completing her induction in early June. "It was a life changing experience," says Prince. "The only thing that I was apprehensive about was that it was called 'boot camp' and sounded like it could be a military operation." In fact, the boot camp has now changed its name to ThoughtWorks University, so future graduates won't misunderstand its intentions.

So, boot camp or university, does this intensive approach to gearing up recruits to meet the requirements of the corporate structure, and the task in hand, really work? Though Prince has not been involved in her role long enough yet to put her new skills into practice, she feels she already knows her job well.

"Prior to the boot camp and my employment with the company I had never been an analyst and had very little idea of the work, especially within an organisation such as this where methods of working are unconventional," says Prince. "The specialist analyst boot camp provided me with a comprehensive understanding of what my job is really like and the project placement gave me a chance to hone my new skills."

And while the original boot camp title could give the impression that recruits have been breaking rocks under the hot sun, it is not all work and no play. With weekends to explore India in between the various projects that needed completion, Prince has had the induction of a lifetime. She kept a blog (www.thoughtworks.com/us/career/bootcampBlog.html) on the company website detailing her experiences.

On 28 February, she wrote: "This week has been all about Indian hospitality and funky dancing... it all started as soon as we arrived in Bangalore. Immediately, the India office opened its arms to us by inviting us to socials and movies in the office, and our Indian classmates took us into Bangalore and to show us the best places to go to party."

While much of Prince's journal also explains the intensive work she was doing, it appears that the environment she was working in, and the close mentoring that took place throughout her training, gave her a solid grounding in both the role she would be undertaking and the philosophy of the organisation. The ThoughtWorks programme is a prime example of how companies are increasingly looking for new ways to retain talented staff.

Suzi Edwards, recruiting director for ThoughtWorks UK, is on the steering committee for the induction training. She says: "We hope that our retention rate will be 100 per cent, but we recognise that this is optimistic. We believe that the intense nature of the training, coupled with the opportunity for graduates to meet employees from every country, will enable them to understand what this organisation is all about and stay for a long time."

Companies spend a vast sum on training, and having a strong corporate culture into which staff can be plunged is one of the most effective techniques for retaining them. If your company induction doesn't come close to Butlin's, never mind Bangalore, it is time to feel green with envy.