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The year of the employer

The year of the employer

Following the rulebook was the survival route for employees in 2009. Work discipline must now continue to ensure rewards and stability.

To put it crudely, 2009 put the employee in his place. No longer could you take an increment for granted. Or threaten to swap jobs if the contract terms were strict. Or barely meet deadlines. Or be happy with just one skill acquired in college. It was time to work much more and expect much less.

After about three years of star treatment, this change in rules was difficult to accept. But really, was there any choice when companies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and IBM were laying off thousands of executives to cut costs? It was when ace sectors like software, retail, financial services and aviation went into retrenchment mode that the 2008 spectre of job uncertainty became a living beast.

Mohandas Pai
Mohandas Pai
According to the Ministry of Labour’s third quarterly review of the impact of the economic slowdown, the overall employment during April-June 2009 fell by 1.31 lakh over March 2009. An UNCTAD study early this year predicted that export units alone would shave off 1.3 million jobs in 2009-10. Not just jobs, pay packages were also cut ruthlessly. The Hewitt Associates APAC Annual Salary Increase Survey confirmed that the salary increase rate fell by 8% in 2009 and that 26.1% of the 283 organisations surveyed were in the salary freeze mode.

With their necks in the noose, the survival instincts of employees kicked in. They reached office punctually, spent less time at the water cooler, voluntarily reduced lunch hours and left office an hour later than usual.

The bad news is that what you thought of as a one-off stint will have to become a habit. The biggest lesson from 2009 is that even though companies have come out of the red, employers have disavowed the complacence of boom time.

“The tolerance level of employers is down. Employees must continuously add value to the business they are working for in more ways than one. Also, they must desist from shopping for more lucrative job offers,” says Rajesh AR, VP, Teamlease Services. The idea is endorsed by Mohandas Pai, director, HR, Infosys, who says, “Salaries will not reach the absurdly high levels of the pre-slowdown era.” The dream run of the job sector has officially ended, but the reality of 2010 will be more palatable if you sustain the work discipline enforced by 2009. Sandeep Chaudhary, practice leader, South & West Asia, Hewitt, says, “In the next year, real performance will count and the right linkages with rewards will be established.”

Therefore, you will have to be the change the employer wants to see. Work according to the job requirement and not as per the profile on your visiting card. Take initiatives, try to multi-task, show eagerness to learn new things, bring alternative solutions to the table and factor in costs before your boss asks you to.

Also, make a list of work preferences other than your current profile. If you don’t have the skills to take on other jobs, learn them. If nothing else, 2009 should have taught you to always have a Plan B in place. Even if the economy is in a great shape, your sector may face instability. In these times, Plan B may become Plan A. It will also work if you are disgusted with the boss. Yes, you can revive the exit option, but only if you work doubly hard.

  • Take on responsibility and multi-task to add value to your organisation. The idea is to make yourself as close to indispensable as possible.
  • Upgrade your skills at regular intervals. This widens your opportunities and helps you formulate Plan B for your career, a must during a crisis.
  • Factor in the possibility of salary cuts and freezes in your financial planning to ensure you are not short of money to invest/spend in the future.
  • Do not get bogged down by job loss or an unfair pay cut. There are many opportunities in the market; you only need to network aggressively.