Love the work or brand?

Love the work or brand?
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First Published: Thu, Nov 15 2007. 11 23 PM IST
Updated: Thu, Nov 15 2007. 11 23 PM IST
Infosys Technologies Ltd used to be the best company to work for. Now it’s only sixth best.
So says a workplace survey released this week by Mercer Consulting and market research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres, published in the magazine Business Today. In a pool of about 100 participants, Microsoft came out tops.
Somehow, I doubt human resources managers at Infy are losing any sleep. So steeped in tech lore is founder Narayana Murthy’s commitment to his employees and an empowered workplace that an Internet hoax has been making the rounds for some years now where he says, “Love your job but never fall in love with your company—because you never know when it stops loving you.”
You can tell it’s a hoax because in some iterations, Murthy’s comments come in a memo admonishing software engineers for working so late. In other versions, he’s delivering a speech at a mentoring session. An Infosys spokeswoman Thursday simply clarified, “He did not say this.”
Still, in light of the magazine’s listing and summer placements under way, the sentiment of what our employers really mean to us warrants dissection. Have Indians finally moved beyond attaching their worth to the brand under which they toil, versus the work they are actually doing?
In the case of Generation SMS, the answer largely seems to indicate they want to. After all, it is their market. They can demand more responsibility and birthdays off. They’re willing to work like dogs—but want to bring the pooches to the office, too. Work from home once a week, off a laptop in Goa at Christmas. Say no, and another employer is happy to make the hire.
Among the elite business school set, the usual suspects such as Infosys have been replaced as employers of choice by financial services and consulting gigs. And even those with a few years of IT experience are seeing greater value and growth in smaller companies and start-ups.
They don’t need a survey. They’re in control.
Yet, unfortunately, when it comes to employment in India, bragging rights need to extend far beyond employer and employee—what will we tell the neighbours? One chief executive of a medium-sized company in Gurgaon tells me he has to inflate salaries to make up for the lack of cache he has as a brand-name employer—even though he too offers a gym, transport, free food, not to mention job growth. In the US, I hear quite the opposite: friends at large companies crib all the time that they would take a more meaningful job at a smaller company in a heartbeat—if only they could afford the pay cut.
“In India, at the entry level, the name really matters,” said Rashmi Bansal, editor and publisher of Jam, a youth magazine and website. “Status is still very important.”
Yet, it can be stifling.
If we are going to borrow western practices, such as top 10 lists and company rankings, it might be time to bridge generations and perceptions. Why not shock, then impress, Uncle-ji with his nephew’s 250-member sports marketing firm making the cut because it offers sabbaticals and 100 hours of training annually?
A Mercer spokeswoman declined to share methodology, but said companies with more than 200 white-collar workers can nominate themselves for the survey. The upcoming rankings by the Great Place to Work Institute India, to be published by The Economic Times this summer, plans to add narrower surveys on Indian companies deemed friendly to working mothers, younger workers, etc.
Especially with a workforce growing more transient, what constitutes a great place to work one year for one person does not necessarily the next. The same hire who valued a great canteen might covet a crèche later on. The woman who demanded a car service to pick her up might find, as a new mother, she wants a room to express breastmilk. And so while we can itemize our desires from employers, that list will change as we—and our economies—do.
In Fortune’s top 100 US companies to work for, divided into small, medium and large businesses, the top 10 inevitably includes a supermarket chain with tens of thousands of workers—white, blue and all collars in between—across the country. I happened to be interviewing the pastry chef at a store in New Jersey called Wegman’s a few years ago and he told me he had just returned from Europe.
“For vacation?” I asked.
“No, for training,” he said. Wegman’s is No. 3 on Fortune’s list.
No. 1 is Google, which made sense to me this week as The New York Times reported on a masseuse at the company who sold her stock options and became a multimillionaire. She now has her own masseuse, a sign—I assume—that some people will always prefer the company to the work.
(Your comments are welcome at widerangle@livemint.com)
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First Published: Thu, Nov 15 2007. 11 23 PM IST
More Topics: Workplace | Workforce | Office | Brand | Infosys |