India Inc is ruthlessly getting rid of flab. Find out if you are in the firing line and what you can do about it.
Good news is streaming in on the job front. Companies have announced robust hiring plans.
Campus placements saw recruiters making eye-popping offers. At the Faculty of Management Studies in Delhi, the average salary offered was 17 lakh a year. Amazon India offered a record annual package of `51 lakh to a student of the Great Lakes Institute of Management in Chennai. That apart, surveys by several HR firms indicate that the median salary hike this year will be close to 11%. Star performers can expect even more. According to Aon Hewitt, the top performers are expected to get 1.6 times the hike given to average performers.
Behind these glad tidings is a worrisome reality. In recent months, India Inc has become more conscious of the bottom line. Companies are ruthlessly shedding flab in the quest for higher profitability. TCS has already laid off some 2,600 employees and more could get the axe. IBM has aggressively trimmed its workforce in India, rendering almost 5,000 employees jobless. Altisource, eBay, Yahoo… the cavalcade of misery is long and painful. One estimate says that in Bengaluru alone, some 15,000 techies have been given pink slips in the past one year.
The trend is not confined to the IT sector. Workers in financial services and manufacturing companies are also feeling the heat. ICICI Bank and Axis Bank have weeded out under – performers. Earlier this year, Standard Chartered Bank shut down its equities business to save on costs. “Organisations are becoming bolder in removing roles or people,“ says Aditya Narayan Mishra, President-Staffing, Randstad India.
People are usually shocked when they are told to go. But in many cases, the writing would have been on the wall. Some of the signs of an impending job loss are subtle, while others are quite obvious. It is just that employees fail to read these indications and take corrective measures before it is too late. The short quiz on page 8 will tell you how safe your job is.
If your score less than 16 points, you will find this week’s cover story invaluable. It suggests the steps one must take to get back from the brink. In the following pages, we will look at the signs that can tell an employee that his job is in peril and what he could do to avoid getting sacked.
- YOU HAVEN’T LEARNT ANY NEW SKILL
IT IS often said that change is a constant. Just like the software in a computer needs to be updated, an employee needs to constantly up skill himself to stay ahead. And stay relevant. Technological advances and the introduction of new concepts mean that the skills that proved useful a few years ago may have become outdated now. People who are not able to adapt in a changing world are vulnerable. They may have sufficient skills to handle the present, but may not be able to handle the future needs of their workplace.
Upskilling has become easier now with the launch of massive open online courses (MOOCs). These online courses are cheap (some are even free) and one can study after work. Taking up a full-time course may not be feasible for many but these online courses can help you acquire new skills without taking a break from work. Make sure your boss knows when you sign up for a course to enhance your skills. “The very fact that you want to upskill sends the signal of your intent to improve, to do better. It will be seen as a positive sign,“ says Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-founder and Senior Vice-President, Teamlease Services.
The introduction of new technologies has changed the way many jobs are done. To succeed in this disrupted environment, you must acquire new skills. But the learning should not be confined to knowledge related to your work. Take a cross-functional approach and learn to do new things, even if they are not directly related to your line of work. It will familiarize you with the functions of other units in your company. It will also ready you for a new role should you be shifted from your unit.
One way to secure your position in the company is by acquiring a niche but useful skill. For instance, if a business development manager learns a foreign language, he will be seen as indispensable.“If an individual’s skill set is easy to find in the market and a possible replacement is within the system, removing him will be easy,“ says Mayank Chandra, Managing Partner, Antal International.
YOUR KEY TO SUCCESS
Make yourself indispensable by acquiring niche but useful skills. Learn a foreign language or sign up for an online course. If your company has training programmes for employees, ask your boss if he can nominate you. It indicates your intent to improve.
- YOU DON’T GET ALONG WITH CO-WORKERS
INTERPERSONAL SKILLS are critical at the workplace. It’s a fact that your ascent in the company depends 20% on aptitude and 80% on attitude. The same is true when it comes to your sacking. Even if you are an above average performer but don’t get along well with your co-workers, you could be the first one to get laid off. When managers start compiling a list of people to be retrenched, they first want to get rid of difficult employees. Most prefer a friendly, cooperative but incompetent worker over an unpleasant but skilled employee.
If you don’t have a cordial relationship with your boss or coworkers, mend the fences before it’s too late. Make a sincere effort to reach out and discuss the issue. Such prickly issues should not be tackled immediately after a confrontation. Choose a time when the atmosphere is neutral if not congenial. If you have had problems with your boss, tell him that you want to make a new beginning. Similarly, talk to coworkers with whom you have had unpleasant exchanges. You might not enjoy these discussions, but they could help save your job.
A reconciliation with your coworkers and boss can lead to a positive change in your performance. Instead of watching your back, you will be able to spend time on more fruitful pursuits. With time you will realize that one gains practically nothing from being difficult at work.
However, this does not imply that an under – performer can get away just because he is nice and friendly with everyone. These traits are valued, but friendliness alone won’t save your job if your performance has been below par. “No manager will risk his own job by giving extraordinary rating to a worker solely on the basis of interpersonal camaraderie if the employee’s work performance does not deserve it,“ says Chandra.
It is also a common misconception that sucking up to the boss can save your job. That can be a short-term tactic, not a long term strategy. “Unless the organisation is not a meritocracy, being close to your boss won’t help much,“ warns Shiv Agrawal, founder of Head Honchos.
YOUR KEY TO SUCCESS
Reach out to your co-workers and iron out the differences. Make a sincere effort to start on a clean slate and mend fences with your colleagues. Your efforts at reconciliation will reap rich dividends.
- YOU ARE DOING LESS WORK NOW
WHO DOESN’T want to work less? Only workaholics enjoy staying back late. But if you are doing less work than you did last year, there is reason to worry. More work coming your way is an indication that your company has faith in your abilities. On the other hand, less work could mean that the individual is not really required. “It’s a sign that the person is losing significance,“ says Mishra. The axe could come down any day.
Even average performers need to be worried. From next week, Wipro will roll out a new incentive structure under which meeting the sales target won’t be enough. To earn rewards, an employee must be able to show incremental growth. So while they may not get the sack, a below average 6% increment is a pay cut in real terms if adjusted for 7-8% consumer inflation.
If there are doubts about your performance, you can change the perception by demonstrating your willingness to do more.“Bosses look for people who step up and volunteer whenever needed. It shows a positive attitude,“ says Agrawal.
Volunteering requires a pro-active approach, especially if it entails work that is not part of your assigned duties. Don’t wait for someone to call for help. You will have to search for people who need assistance. The willingness to help has several benefits. First, it indicates that you have the company’s interests in mind. Companies like such employees, treating them as assets rather than liabilities. Secondly, it leaves a good impression about you among coworkers. You are seen as somebody who can be relied upon.
YOUR KEY TO SUCCESS
Look for opportunities to extend assistance to co-workers within your team and in other units. Don’t treat this as a chore. If you are sincere and enthusiastic about it, the little tasks you do for others can save your job.
- YOUR PAY HIKE WAS BELOW AVERAGE
RECRUITERS HAVE offered eye-popping salaries to fresh graduates during the campus placements in prominent B schools this year. HR firms estimate the median hike to be around 11% this year. But not everyone will get that. Star performers may get upwards of 16%. This means under – performers will have to make do with a 6-7% hike. As mentioned earlier, a 6-7% increment at a time when consumer inflation is 8-9% actually means a pay cut in real terms.
According to a study by the Hay Group, the difference between the rewards offered to average employees vis-a-vis a top performer has grown sharper in the past few years. This year, the difference may become even more pronounced as companies reward outperformersunish the laggards.
Your annual salary increment says a lot about how much your company loves you. “Increments communicate the value a company sees in an employee,“ says Mishra. Though comparisons between salary hikes are frowned upon (it is supposed to be a confidential matter between the individual and the employer), word eventually gets out. If you get a below average hike, you are obviously not in the good books. There is a bigger danger that you may be laid off if the company starts downsizing. A caveat is in order here. When comparing salary hikes, make an apple-to-apple comparison with your peers in the company. This is because the percentage hike varies across the organisation. The more senior you are, the smaller is the percentage hike, though in absolute terms you may get more than a junior employee.
The best way to deal with this is to talk to your boss. Don’t start whining or blaming other individuals for your own underperformance. Accept the blame but resolve to work harder. Let him know of any course you have joined or project you have in mind. “Push yourself to take more responsibilities,“ says Chakraborty. You need to convince your boss that you have indeed turned over a new leaf.
YOUR KEY TO SUCCESS
Don’t start whining or blaming other individuals for your own underperformance. Accept the blame but resolve to work harder. You need to convince your boss that you have turned over a new leaf.
- YOU ARE NOT CONSULTED
DO YOUR opinions and ideas matter in the company? It is great if your boss consults you and your suggestions improve processes and help the business. But if nobody asks for your opinion and you are kept in the dark about what’s going on, it could be that your ideas are not considered useful. It is natural to feel disheartened if your suggestions are repeatedly nixed by your seniors. But retreating into a shell will not help matters. Instead of wallowing in self pity, understand the reasons why you are being sidelined and then approach your boss for feedback.
Getting an honest feedback is not easy because nobody wants to perform the unpleasant task of telling an underperformer how bad he really is. Before you go to your boss for feedback, do a dry run. Identify a trustworthy co-worker who can honestly and objectively comment on your performance and offer constructive criticism. He should clearly spell out the areas where you are lagging and need to improve.
But start this self assessment exercise only if you have the conviction to follow it up with action. “Such a feedback on performance will have no utility if you don’t have the will to act on it,“ says Mishra.
Based on the feedback you receive, try and change the fac tors that are holding you back.Introspection and honesty of purpose will define how successfully can you change the situation for yourself at the workplace.
YOUR KEY TO SUCCESS
Offer ideas that add value or improve business outcomes for your company. If you are not being called to meetings, mail your suggestions to your boss. Keep the tone polite and don’t break the chain of command when you do this.
- YOU DON’T PERFORM THE CORE FUNCTIONS IN THE COMPANY
IN SOME cases, the loss of a job may have nothing to do with the individual or his capabilities. You could be a good worker and doing absolutely fine but still get laid off because of a certain strategic shift in your company’s business plans. Jobs in divisions that are not related to the core function of the company are particularly at risk. Simply put, only if your work is critical for the survival of the business, your job is safe. For instance, an FMCG company might have set up a social media division to build its brands. If it decides to cut costs, the social media division might be the first one to go. “Companies have become clinical in the way they view their work force,“ cautions Chakraborty.
Information flow is very important to know what is going on. But if you are in a peripheral role, you will have to work extra hard to be in the loop. Keep your ears to the ground to know of any impending change in the way the company looks at your division. If there are murmurs of downsizing, be ready to jump ship.
Besides this, you should also make an objective assessment of how much is your unit contributing to the overall bottom line of the company. Sure, it is not possible to put everything in monetary terms. However, if your unit is only burning cash and not helping in the larger scheme of things, it could be shut down. “Companies are moving towards a leaner and more bottom-line oriented structure,“ says Agrawal.
You may not be able to change the situation for your division but you can make yourself useful in other ways. As mentioned earlier, taking up tasks not directly related to your work can help. Working in cross functional teams gives invaluable exposure to how other divisions work. If you prove useful, you may be absorbed into another division if your own unit is shut down.
YOUR KEY TO SUCCESS
Get involved in projects that are part of the core operations of the company.
Focus on tasks that are considered significant and given priority by the management.
- YOUR COMPANY IS FACING PROBLEMS
THE SAME problem can manifest at a broader level. If your company is facing financial pressure, it may cut down on certain non-essential roles. Here again, such layoffs have nothing to do with the individual or his performance. “You could be in the wrong place at the wrong time,“ says Agrawal. Keep a close watch on how your company is doing financially. If profits have declined consistently, and there is no respite in sight, the company may start cutting jobs. Similarly, a sector may be faced with headwinds which is forcing companies to downsize. So you have to keep track of the developments in your sector as well.
Apart from the financial results, the sudden departure of senior people, especially star performers, is one indication that the company is facing problems. The other signs are cutting back on travel expenses and other perks.
However, jobs can go even if the company is doing well but there is a strategic shift in its business plans. “When business strategy changes, even good performers may be asked to leave,“ points out Mishra. For instance, if two profitable companies merge, the first thing the HR department will do is draw up a list of redundant staff. There is not much you can do if your company has merged or is downsizing due to financial constraints. Update your resume and start looking out much before heads start rolling. This is why networking is so important. “Keep in regular touch with the wider circle of people who affect your career. If you approach them after you lose your job, you might be seen as someone who comes only when in need,“ advises Chakraborty.
YOUR KEY TO SUCCESS
If your company’s finances are wobbly, it is better to switch before you are asked to leave.Finding a new job is more difficult when you are not employed. The unemployed tag also curtails your bargaining power.
Source: The Economic Times
Date: March 23, 2015