Business Today

Winning hearts and minds

Pankaj Bansal | Print Edition: March 4, 2012

The last decade has seen a new dimension emerge in the employer and employee ecosystem. The employee has become a more informed customer. She is driven by his perception of a specific brand/organisation. But the organisation is driven by reality. Their interaction reaches fruition when individual aspiration (career growth) helps the organisation's perception (plans) meet reality (goals).

Pankaj Bansal
Pankaj Bansal
The employee is a conscious customer who knows what she wants and has a clearly established roadmap. She is ready to go the extra mile to acquire skills. But she is not bothered about what an employer has to offer in general. She is concerned about what is offered to her. Therefore, it becomes imperative for HR leaders to manage employer-employee relations by aligning Perception, Aspiration and Reality (PAR).

The employee is driven by his perception of a specific organisation. But the organisation is driven by reality.

Business Today, Indicus Analytics and PeopleStrong came together in 2009 to conduct 'The Best Companies to Work for' study - a study 'by the employee, of the employee'. The result was published in Business Today in January 2010. It focused on how HR strategy needs to be differentiated for different genres of employees. There were stark differences found in what employees wanted across various regions. HR delivery tools were the clear focus to cater to the varying needs of the employees. The study of January 2011 gave us further insights on the preferences of GenNext employees. It became very clear that HR strategy needs to be built around corporate brand values.

However, the latest study reveals three interesting employee perspectives.

  • Why is the IT industry the poster boy for India's workforce? Is it actually the best sector or is there a mismatch in PAR?
Technology companies have been featuring prominently among the top 10 employers for the last three years. Is it because the IT/technology vertical has generated a large number of jobs? But so have many other industries.

TCS and Infosys are poster boys because the 'what, how and when' of brand promise of these organisations follow a consistent pattern. What is promised is being delivered. The perception that these two companies provide stable jobs with good compensation has been managed well. This is reflected in the sector-wise rankings as well. The majority of employees from various industries have ranked the technology sector as their preferred employer. Even the respondents from the banking, financial services and insurance sector voted for six technology companies in the top 10 list. (Infosys, TCS, Google, Wipro, Reliance Communications and IBM).

Why is the IT industry the poster boy for India's workforce? Is it actually the best sector or is there a mismatch of perception, aspiration and reality?

The engineering & automotive sector is a rare exception showing a different trend. Though TCS remains the No. 1 choice of its respondents, they have chosen their own sector companies for the second, third and fourth ranks - Tata Motors, L&T and Mahindra & Mahindra - and some more in the Top 15. Organisations that are able to clearly communicate to potential employees why they should join them, and to existing employees why they should stay on (Aspiration), have got it right.

However, it will be counter-productive if the experience on the ground (Reality) is different from what is originally communicated to them. Thus, employer brand is the sum of PAR. There are three ways to make PAR a powerful tool for an organisation:

  • Align everything to simple core values. The message has to be aligned to reality. If product innovation is what drives you, ensure the message echoes that strongly.
  • Align employer branding to customer branding, as for instance, Tata Motors and ICICI Bank do. Employees connect to the growth story of the organisation and Aspiration matches Reality.
  • Ensure the organisation at all levels is driven by talent. It is ultimately people who matter the most. Some long for vertical growth and some for lateral growth. Entrepreneurial aspirations lead the way, especially among youth. Therefore, the organisation should create a culture of coexistence for employee aspirations and organisational goals.
  • Is compensation an overrated attraction and retention tool?

Is compensation an overrated attraction and retention tool? Yes and no. It matters most to those whose salaries are low

Yes and no. It is not the age, sector or tenure but an employee's current salary range that determines if compensation is a key driver of employment decision. Employees in the salary range of Rs 4 to 8 lakh rate compensation as the most important, whereas for individuals earning a lakh a month or more, compensation ceases to be among the top three drivers for the employment decision. It establishes the fact that career anchors change as we progress.

The talent package needs to be varied and differentiated at all levels. Once we have recognised the need for the differentiated package, the delivery tools will differ as well.

Employees want HR partners who are passionate, yet business-like advisors to whom they can go for issues of concern

Another paradox we discovered was that people who are below 24 years do not regard compensation as the key driver. It is the organisation's overall brand promise that matters to Gen Y. If the brand promise is woven around the core values of the organisation and is not an amalgamation of ad hoc best practices, it surely reflects on how an employee experiences his job.

With TCS and Infosys, it is not about what they provide in terms of benefits but about the jobs and opportunities they create. It is the opportunity to upskill oneself within a decent work environment that marries the Aspiration and Reality.

Similarly, with ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank, their dependability and good governance echoes well with what they believe in, and a consistent pattern emerges for both customer and employee. It merges the Perception and Reality.

  • Is HR too busy with transactional activities?
The heartening revelation from the survey is that 71 per cent of respondents believe their senior management adheres to ethical values very well, as against 55 per cent last year. It is the ethics and culture that shape personality. If you get the culture right, most of the other factors like great customer service, building a great long-term brand, and having passionate employees and customers will happen naturally.

HR has to be the custodian of the culture though it is difficult to control, as it is the sum of all the moments of truth in the organisation. However, HR tools facilitate and converge this into reality.

Employee care is no doubt a fundamental base of the HR function. However, it does not lead you to retaining or attracting employees. It, at best, has sustenance value; it is not a unique differentiator.

In the survey, 'career and growth prospects in the company' and 'objective performance review' have a combined weightage of 44 per cent in the features that make a company desirable to work for. In comparison, the two sustenance factors that are more about the 'employees-company/HR relationship' - namely the 'other HR practices of the company' and 'work-life balance' issues - are considered relatively less important by the employees.

If we compare this with what HR spends most time on, we find that too much time is given to activities of insignificant concern to the employee. HR spends most of its time in activities that are important but secondary. Employees want HR partners who are passionate and business-like advisors, to whom they can go for issues of concern.

The author is Co-founder and CEO, PeopleStrong

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