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The unhappy worker

The Indian employee wants to be paid more. And this is not a phenomenon specific to the super-profitable IT companies, but manufacturing companies are reporting this as well.

Print Edition: Nov 18, 2007

India’s white-collar workers are an unhappy lot. Despite a shortage of skilled workers pushing up salaries to new highs and employers bending over backwards to make the workplace fun, the Indian office worker wants more. Most significantly, the Indian employee is unhappy with his compensation.

He wants to be paid more. And this is not a phenomenon specific to the super-profitable IT companies, but manufacturing companies are reporting this as well.

In fact, that is the leitmotif of our Best Companies to Work for in India survey this year. There is almost no company on our top 15 list where employees are happy with what they are making. Don’t forget, these are not just the best employers, but invariably the best paymasters. Why are employee expectations surging? Why do they think they ought to be paid more, or ought to get more than the 25-30 per cent hike they have been getting in India? The survey itself doesn’t answer the questions, but some of the reasons are evident.

As Mercer experts write elsewhere in the issue, one of the fundamental reasons is that the workplace has become a lot younger. As companies expand, they are recruiting younger workers at a phenomenal rate, and putting them in responsible positions. Evidently, younger employees are very different from the older ones.

They aren’t averse to voicing their opinions, challenging conventional wisdom or authority, or aspiring for things their parents wouldn’t have. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the younger employees polled in our survey seem less happy with just about everything—pay, leadership and even image of their employers—compared to their older colleagues.

For employers already losing sleep over high rates of attrition, this is worrisome. Unless such employees feel connected with their employer, they will not stay on. What is the employer to do? One, they have to communicate much better with their younger employees; there is no reason why, for instance, a poor quarterly performance should not be explained to employees down the line.

Two, companies must get smarter about pay for performance; just as not every employee contributes equally, not every employee should be compensated alike. Three, line managers must become more responsible not just for performance of their units or divisions, but also for happiness of their subordinates. The managers must become the company’s vehicle of communication with the younger employees. Until then, even the best employers will have disgruntled workers to deal with.

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