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In Defence of Long Tenures

One thing that many in today's world seem to be missing in the mad rush for up to three times jump in salaries and instant growth is the value in building tenure.

Piyush Mehta | Print Edition: December 28, 2006

With attrition rates ranging from 30% to 70% in the new age industries, there is immeasurable damage being done, not  just to individuals who are so unsure of what they want but also to the Indian industry overall.

Why is tenure so important? According to a study, of the 42 CEOs of 'good to great' Fortune 500 companies only two were outsiders. Closer home, the average tenure of Indian CEOs (of the top 100 companies) is 16 years. So, the ones who make it to the top are the ones who stay and fight the battle over bad bosses, impatience on earnings, growth, work content and so on. Learning to stay and solve the problem rather than walking out is the critical differentiating attribute which contributes to long-term success. Looking at data for Genpact, we have examples of associates who have become vice-presidents in 8-10 years. Even if we were to look beyond exceptions and at a more 'regular' career path, a well-performing associate can make it to the level of a vicepresident in 15 years - with a CAGR of 23% on total earnings over the 15- year period.

Investing in your career is all about focusing your sights on the fundamentals of growth, as individuals and professionals. Growth is a function of four things in most organisations: delivering/exceeding expectations in your current job; readiness
on competencies for the next job; availability of roles in the next level; and choices or trade-offs.

In today's environment of rapid economic growth, availability of the next role is rarely, if ever, a concern. What is important is to have a line of sight to what you want to do in the long term and ensure you are building the right set of competencies and getting the exposure needed, while never taking your eyes off the ball on what you need to be doing today - it's important to look ahead but you are not going to get there if you are not hitting the ball out of the park today. The final differentiator lies in the choices you make on mobility, whether you opt for the tough job that nobody else wants to touch, where you place your personal preferences vis-a-vis organisational need.

Today it is tougher to make a sensible career plan - the choices are far more bewildering and distracting than they were a decade ago. The least one should plan for is to have guiding principles on directionally what you want to do and on what you
place a premium on (salary, title, earning potential, work content, learning opportunity, brand value, growth prospects etc), map out how this will change in different stages in your career and balance the act on being focused while not being blinkered when it comes to career moves.

To summarise, careers are right on top on the list of good long-term investments. A word of advice - tempting as titles and pay packages can be, focus on how you are growing as a professional. There is only so far that a fancy title will take you before someone figures out what lies beneath.

(By Piyush Mehta, Senior Vice-President-HR, Genpact)

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