A company is only as good as its people. This may be a self-evident truth, but who exactly are the "good people" and how should companies go about hiring and retaining them? Finding answers to these questions is the biggest corporate challenge of all times. Business Today's best employer survey attempts to address these questions once every year. In an economy where the scope and lure of private jobs is increasing faster than ever, finding the best fit between an employee and an employer becomes even more critical. A large chunk of managers today comes from families where a government job was the norm, and family elders didn't face the choices and challenges that the young executives face today. Though salary and designation still remain the big draws for most job-seekers, the 8th BT Best Companies to Work For study shows that there's a lot more to a good workplace than best-in-class pay and ego-boosting titles.
An open and transparent work environment, freedom to work across functions, opportunities for learning and a senior management that encourages independent thinking are attributes as enriching and attractive as salary and designations. Most good employers are not only emphatic in stating this, but are also confident that these attributes are rated higher than top-dollar salary. This is a significant lesson in these times of financial hardship when employers are looking for reasons beyond money to retain people. The CEO of Shree Cement, H.M. Bangur, considers it his job to "see that failures don't stick to the managers". He encourages his managers to experiment without fear of failure. Companies like Max New York Life are realising that their work culture is their biggest competitive advantage. Quite refreshingly, we also found that managements of most top-ranking companies were open and honest about the areas of HR that they weren't as good as they would like to be.
How one wishes such openness and honesty were pervasive across companies and beyond HR functions. If it were so, then we wouldn't have one of India's top five software companies in the kind of mess it finds itself in. Satyam Computer Services has suddenly become the poster child of corporate misgovernance. We sum up all of Satyam's apparent sins and provide an insider look at the role of independent directors on company boards. Hopefully, 2008 marked the nadir for economic and corporate affairs and things can only look up in 2009.