Great expectations

Written by Garima Pant | Updated: Jul 26 2009, 05:59am hrs
Caution and control has been the mantra driving business across sectors. Faced with reduced profits and measured growth prospects, companies across a majority of sectors have been forced to cut back on their annual increments and appraisals. According to a report by HR consultants Hewitt Associates, India Inc will see single-digit salary increases for the first time in six years. The increment projections are expected to fall further in the recent future.

With such a bleak outlook, the human resource departments across board are left to handle the daunting task of keeping the employee morale high. Tata Steel has retained the previous years overall budget for increments and variable pay in 2009. This is far better than what most other manufacturing organisations did, reasons Radhakrishnan Nair, Chief Human Resource Officer, Tata Steel. However, Zacharias Cherian, Country Head-HR, Agilent Technologies strongly feels that despite giving salary increments in the last appraisal cycle, employee morale has definitely got affected. Its not easy to be cheerful when you read news about layoffs, salary cuts etc, though different people in different segments have been affected in varying degrees. The younger, less experienced workforce is getting affected more than those who have experienced a similar situation earlier. BPO kind of businesses which gave double-digit increments and promotions every-six-months in the past are now tightening their belts, adds Cherian.

With informal feelers being sent to the HR regarding performance reviews and promotions, organisations have increased the HR activities from their end. Anuraag Maini, Senior VP-HR, DLF Pramerica Life Insurance, says that increased communication from the management has helped calm employee fears. We conduct townhalls at least once a month. It is a public forum where we encourage employees to ask questions and voice their anxieties so that we can successfully address their concerns, says Maini. Anand Automotive Systems, despite the budget constraints, has maintained employee engagement activities. For instance, the employee training budget has not been reduced, says KS Bhullar, President, Group HR of the company. He however confesses that handling employee emotions remains a tough job. It is a given that uncertainty about the future affects the performance and the output of the employees. Heres where effective communication, says Nair, helps. Employees expect the management to communicate. Ensure that nobody needs to be guessing about what may happen to him or her.

While incentives and promotions have been kept aside only for a select few in some sectors the downturn has served to assist the company in weeding out non-performing employees, says PB Nageshwar, Head, Human Resources, Jones Lang LaSalle Meghraj.

From an employees perspective, the bleak economic scenario is not meant particularly for high expectations. I am thankful that I have a job, increment or no increment, says

Sudhir Mehra (name changed), working with

an MNC.

However, there are greater expectations too. How the HR heads live up to them will be crucial to talent management.