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Happiness quotient

What do people want in a job these days? Given the economic climate, the obvious answer is security; people want to be sure that they will still have their jobs tomorrow. But, according to a recent survey by Net Impact titled Talent Report: What workers want in 2012, job security comes in only fourth. More important are work / life balance, a positive culture and interesting work.

This is, of course, a US survey and attitudes to work in America differ from those in India. But we are closer than you think and the gap is narrowing. Rodney from Colorado is in India for his “gap” year — between school and college. Hari from Haryana, the son of a wealthy farmer, is now in America to see the world. True, he plans to study there and may have imbibed some of the culture even before setting foot on the continent. But the days when education was an assembly line operation from school to college to post graduation — to get into a job in the shortest timeframe possible — are over for some. “People now want time to decide what they want to do,” says Mumbai-based HR consultant D. Singh. “They are prepared to devote a year to finding out.”

Rita (name changed) is from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta. She did the standard thing, taking up a corporate job after postgraduation. But there was no satisfaction in what she was doing. “I didn’t see myself as a missionary or anything like that,” she says. “It was just that there was a whole wide world I did not know and vast rural India beckoned.” The State Bank of India sponsored a study on financial behaviour in a remote hamlet and Rita spent a year there teaching the kids and entering their world. “You don’t need to earn much money,” she says. “You don’t know how cheap it is living in a village.”

At ICICI Bank, social work seems a great attraction. Several people have left to devote themselves to this task, with the encouragement of the top management. “We have a culture of doing social work,” says chairman K.V. Kamath. “Many of our senior executives are leading by example.”

Do you as Mr Ordinary Man working in a very ordinary company need to take this route? Do you at least need to find out if that’s what you want to do? Yesterday, corporate India would have told you to put in your papers and check out your village career on your own. At the very best, you could have got a year’s unpaid leave. Today, they will find a job for you in rural India. It’s not all altruism of course. Rural India is where the huge market is. If you spend time in the boondocks and come back with insights that can be monetised, the investment in you will be well worth it.

Taking off for unknown territory is perhaps an extreme example. There are many other ways of making an impact on the normally ignored faces of society. Conduct classes at a poor school in a slum area of your city. Work with a home for orphaned children. Or simply visit the old and the sick who have no one else to turn to.

The Net Impact study has some interesting findings. Respondents were asked whether they would be prepared to take a pay cut under certain conditions. Thirty five per cent said they would, to work for a company committed to corporate social responsibility (CSR); 45 per cent were ready to take a cut for a job that makes a social or environmental impact. And 58 per cent would make the sacrifice “to work for an organisation with values like my own”.

Other studies show that companies that encourage you to make an impact feature among the best workplaces. And the correlation between a happy workplace and employee productivity has long been established. Concludes the Net Impact report: “Make this (employee commitment to impact work) a part of corporate DNA.”

THINGS THAT MATTER

What is important for happiness (%)

Financial security       92
Marriage       73
Children       61
A job where I can make an impact       53
Prestigious career       25
Wealth       21
Community leadership       15

Source: Talent Report: What workers want in 2012