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Best companies to work for

More companies, sector champions and fresh insights into HR — the 9th annual study breaks new ground. There has been a vast shift in the methodology as BT decides to make it the most comprehensive survey ever. Watch photos

Saumya Bhattacharya        Print Edition: February 7, 2010

Neetu Mathur has worked with three banks in the past five years without resigning from any. Now, she is happy as a branch manager at HDFC Bank. Sunil Kulwal was heading the chemicals division of Grasim Industries in Madhya Pradesh when a new career was opened up for him in Australia at a group company's mining business. Patricia R. Fenandoe has been with IBM India for 17 years and has no plans to jump ship for money because flexibility of roles and working hours is more important to her.

Mathur, Kulwal and Fenandoe are just some of the faces that will pop up in the following pages with their tales of the workplace as we present the latest edition of Business Today's Best Companies to Work for. (CEOs and HR bosses need not worry: This edition also names the companies that are the best workplaces. And quite a few old favourites figure again.)

Why are we talking of employees first? There has been a vast shift in the methodology this year as BT decided to make it the most comprehensive survey ever. Also, each of the tales cited disclose new trends at the workplace (more about that later).

The methodology change first. For one, we decided to bypass the companies and go straight to the employees, 8,500 of them, across industries, cities, age-groups, functions, et al. We asked them to rate their choice by six factors.

Second, and again for the first time, we decided to rank companies sector by sector and across sectors. So, when we asked respondents about the best company to work for across sectors, we had not flipped. If a nuts-and-bolts engineering major like Larsen and Toubro has to set up an infotech division to retain talent, it shows that the best companies today not only poach from industry rivals, but from other sectors. And nobody wants to lose talent. (That talent thing threw up another amazing fact. Staid old public sector companies like BHEL or NTPC, which are way behind the private sector on the compensation front, are deep wells of talent for India Inc.)

The cross-sectoral approach gave us some surprising feedback. For example, employees across a swathe of industries ranked ICICI Bank at an overall #19 while sure and safe SBI was up there at #7. But respondents from the banking and financial services industry ranked ICICI Bank at #1.

Clearly, while it may be easy for a player like ICICI Bank to attract talent from BFSI, it may face tough competition in crosssector hiring. In contrast, technology multinational Microsoft India is the preferred choice for employees across industries, but loses out to other software services giants in the sector rankings.

Public Memory is Short

Some of the companies in the Top 10 happened to be the biggest retrenchers during the 2009 downturn. Go figure. Take Rakesh Sharma (name changed on request), who was told by his employer Microsoft India (ranked #5) one day that his role no longer existed. Sharma had joined Microsoft's 'Unlimited Potential Group' in Mumbai in July 2008, and had barely settled when the global financial crisis spawned dark clouds of worry. In December 2008, when Microsoft laid off its first set of people globally, India was not affected. Then, in mid-April 2009, Microsoft told him and a few others that the downturn had impacted their role and it no longer existed. In May, the company broke the news to him that he was being let go.

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