Happy days are here again

After two years of pink slips and lay-offs, 2010 may be the year of the employee as companies recovering from the slowdown go on a hiring spree.

Namrata Dadwal        Print Edition: January, 2010

The new year is expected to ring in good news for employees in India. The job market, which had been crawling for the past two years, seems poised to sprint ahead. Every day, news headlines scream encouragement for the beleaguered workforce: 'Deloitte to hire 15,000 people in India', 'Increments of 15-20 per cent likely in 2010', 'Accenture will hire 8,000', 'Standard Chartered to increase workforce by 3,000'.

As the economic recovery gains pace and industry confidence grows, employers are back on a talent acquisition spree. The Global Manpower Employment Outlook Q1 2010 Survey released on 8 December 2009 indicates that the net employment outlook is a robust 36 per cent, which is 18 per cent stronger than last year. The survey was held among nearly 71,000 employers across 35 countries and territories to measure anticipated employment trends. Employers in 25 of the 35 countries and territories expect to add to their workforce in January-March 2010. In India, which has the most positive outlook, 5,109 employers were interviewed. The net employment outlook is derived by taking the percentage of employers anticipating total employment to increase, and subtracting from this the percentage expecting to see a decrease in employment in the next quarter.

Most industry experts across the country are also positive that unlike in the past two 'zero hike' years, increments will be given in April 2010, though they warn employees not to expect huge raises. Employers are also likely to push the variable component of salary packages to a substantial proportion of the overall pay. As the global financial crisis abates, overseas jobs are expected to come up again, with newer markets such as Europe and Asia Pacific providing a welcome mat in the next few years.

Expert speak

Is it time for employees to uncork the bubbly or should they wait a little longer? Five experts tell us where the job market is headed, about the career opportunities across the world and whether celebrations are in order in anticipation of sizeable salary increments.

In three to five years, Europe, Japan and Asia Pacific region will provide good overseas career opportunities: Naresh Malhan, Managing Director, Manpower India.

As the talent market becomes competitive again, companies will have to compensate employees better: Sanjeev Bhikchandani, CEO, Infoedge.

Highly skilled employees will get a substantial raise. However, firms may keep increments at a medium level: Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India.

A significant moderation in perks was needed. Now, the size of perks will vary with the measure of success: Rajesh A.R., Vice-President, Sourcing, Teamlease India.

As the economic climate improves in India and globally, we expect higher remuneration packages: Sangeeta Gupta, Vice-President, Nasscom.

Which sectors are likely to see increased hiring and which will remain stagnant?

Naresh Malhan: We are optimistic about the services sector, which comprises IT, ITeS, hospitality and telecom. We aren't so bullish about transportation and utilities.

Sanjeev Bhikchandani: Though the economic recovery is secular, some sectors are recovering faster than others. Infrastructure and manufacturing sectors may see more hiring.

Kumar Rajagopalan: The retail sector has a lot of potential for growth. Hiring for back-office functions has slowed but it has gained momentum at the store level.

Rajesh A.R.: Healthcare/pharma, agriculture, communications, energy and insurance are some sectors that will see increased hiring.

Sangeeta Gupta: As demand for IT-BPO solutions picks up globally, we are witnessing an increased thrust on hiring, particularly in niche skills and domain specialisation.

Are there likely to be huge increments in salaries?

Naresh Malhan: Talent retention and acquisition will be a challenge. The upside will be that companies will be willing to increase salaries substantially to retain good workers.

Sanjeev Bhikchandani: Increments are picking up, but attrition too is making a comeback. However, April 2010 will bring better news for employees compared with the previous year.

Kumar Rajagopalan: The top 5 per cent of highly skilled employees will be in demand and may get substantial increments. However, Indian firms may keep these at a medium level.

Rajesh A.R.: Businesses keen on retaining talent will push up increments for high-performing employees. Telecom, energy, infrastructure, and IT will see more raises.

Sangeeta Gupta: Despite the downturn, some firms gave a mid-term increment to their employees in 2009. As the economic climate improves, we expect increased pay packages.

Is the era of big perks over or will it make a comeback this year?

Naresh Malhan: The fixed part of the income will increase minimally, while the variable component of salaries will see a significant rise.

Sanjeev Bhikchandani: As the talent market becomes competitive again, firms will have to compensate employees better, though it may take a couple of years to return to 2006 levels.

Kumar Rajagopalan: While perks may still be high for the top talent, the bigger thrust in future will be on a variable pay structure.

Rajesh A.R.: A significant moderation in perks was needed. Employers will not be generous again; they have turned cautious. The size of perks will vary with the measure of success.

Sangeeta Gupta: There will be a continued focus on performance management and incentives/perks will be linked to the employees' performance.

Will hiring and salary increase be uniform across all management levels?

Naresh Malhan: Most of the hiring will be skewed towards the middle management level.

Sanjeev Bhikchandani: This will vary from company to company and industry to industry. However, increments will happen this year for sure.

Kumar Rajagopalan: There are a lot of anomalies in the pay scales of various companies in the retail industry. We are working to create a compensation benchmark study.

Rajesh A.R.: Hiring will be quite intense at the top. Frontline, sales and customer-interactive roles are the other areas where sizeable hiring is expected.

Sangeeta Gupta: In the past year, the IT-BPO industry has been able to enhance its utilisation levels by over 6 per cent and is expected to hire across multiple levels.

Which countries provide good career opportunities?

Naresh Malhan: As of now, the US and West Asia offer great jobs. However, in three to five years, Europe, Japan and Asia Pacific will provide equally compelling opportunities.

Sanjeev Bhikchandani: If the US economy recovers significantly, hopefully we will see the quota for work visas increase. Otherwise, the overseas job market will be dismal.

Kumar Rajagopalan: Prospects in new, emerging markets are always getting better. In India, entrepreneurs seeking venture capital will have to make more robust business plans.

Rajesh A.R.: Despite all the noise, there are still a lot of job opportunities in the US. China, Singapore and Japan recognise Indian talent, so there are good choices there too.

Sangeeta Gupta: The industry will continue with an onsite-offshore model, so there will be opportunities for working overseas. Also, many foreigners are keen to work in India.

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