Era of insecurity

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By Despite the increase in employment and hike in salaries, loyalty in corporate culture is fast diminishing
  • Published 16.03.10
Illustration: Uday Deb

In November last year, human resources consulting firm Hewitt Associates reported that India had had the highest pay rise in the Asian region with an average overall salary increase of 6.3 per cent. (Indonesia was second with 6 per cent, followed by China 4.5 per cent and the Philippines 4.3 per cent.) So it should come as no surprise that a more recent Hewitt report says that job hopping in India is also the highest. Almost every sector is booming when it comes to job increases. According to the Hewitt Asia Pacific Salary Increase Survey 2009-2010, projections for salary hikes in India are 9.2 per cent and China 6.7 per cent. The sectors doing particularly well are engineering (procurement and construction) — 12.6 per cent; retail (wholesale and distribution) — 11.4 per cent; banking, finance and insurance — 10.5 per cent; and IT — 8.9 per cent.

By employee level, the projections are highest for the junior manager-supervisor-professional category (10.9 per cent). Among others, top executives will get 9.6 per cent, senior management 10.1 per cent, middle management 10.6 per cent and the officer cadre 10.4 per cent. All studies share this optimism.

Happy days may be here again. But it could be worthwhile looking at what companies did to hang on the people it wanted to. It is a fact of life that the people you really need are always the first to seek opportunities elsewhere while the staff you hope will resign never do. so.

The earlier Hewitt survey says the weapons in the HR manager’s armoury were:

Career development opportunities (33 per cent of employers providing this)

Non-cash rewards and recognition (28 per cent)

Leadership training in employee motivation (21 per cent)

Flexibility options (20 per cent)

Monetary rewards for high performers (19 per cent)

Monetary rewards for mission critical talent (15 per cent).

The monetary awards were a one-off payment and not part of the salary.

Away from the numbers, it is becoming clear that HR in India must once again start focussing on the retention of talent rather than handing out pink slips. “But this crisis, minor though it may have been compared to the problems some Western nations faced, has brought in some changes that will linger,” says Mumbai-based HR consultant D. Singh.

First, though the realisation dawned on the IT and BPO industry some time ago, other more traditional industries are also discovering that jobs are not for life. This is both on the part of the employees and the employer. The trauma has really been suffered by employees, while it has been an eye-opener for employers. “Let’s put it this way,” says Singh. “Lifetime loyalty has gone. Employees are often prepared to put up with all sorts of problems and make sacrifices when they know they are not going to lose their jobs. The ultimate betrayal is the pink slip, particularly in India where there is no security net.”

Indian companies have, by and large, not sacked people; multinational subsidiaries have. They will discover later that they are creating organisations sans corporate culture; in the future, they will not be able to rely on their employees to go the extra mile.

It’s wrong, of course, to generalise. Several MNCs have been caring of their employees. In fact, some of them have treated them even better than Indian-owned companies.

“It will be forgotten as times improve,” agrees Singh. “But it will take years to get back to an era of trust.” There is no measure of productivity lost and psychological problems because of this era of insecurity.


Highest voluntary turnover rate

India 13.8

Australia 11

New Zealand 10.3

China 10.3

Source: Hewitt Asia Pacific Salary Increase Survey November 2009