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When life skids on a pink slip

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Hard times: Companies are using performance evaluations to show the door to those who do not contribute significantly to the top line
Hard times: Companies are using performance evaluations to show the door to those who do not contribute significantly to the top line

Deepa Kurup

IT employees are under increased stress to perform

Employees with generic or trainable skills face greater risk

Firms are looking at continuing to keep junior-most staff

BANGALORE: Praveen Badami’s life skidded on a pink slip in 2002 when his idyllic job at a California-based IT company disappeared. His IT bubble burst and after a year-long struggle, this fresher returned to India.

Since then he has worked in five medium-scale companies in job profiles far from his area of expertise. “The warning signs are the same, and this time the slump stretched beyond IT companies. I never found a job in my domain again,” he says.

Now, fast-forward to 2008. Shyam Babu logs on to job websites and frequents placement agencies every day. He lost his job in late 2007 when a multinational IT giant sacked him, calling it a routine quality building exercise. “I was recruited from a prominent college. Why would a company like that pick me if I was unemployable? The market has been down for freshers since then,” he explains.

These are hardly isolated cases. Pink slips are being issued — the cautious companies are spreading it out over a period to make it inconspicuous — in all IT majors in the city. Employees are under increased stress to perform and those involved in projects nearing completion or on the bench are worried that they may face the axe.

Companies are using performance evaluations to not only decide variable pay or slash operating expenses on travel, but also to show the door to those who do not contribute significantly to the top line. Human resources personnel say those with a unique skill set have a greater chance of staying on while those with generic or trainable skills (JAVA, .net for example) will face greater risk.

Anuradha Sharma of The HR Practice says companies are looking at continuing to keep junior-most employees on board since training cycles are long. “Mid-level employees are at the highest risk. There will be no speculative hiring and companies will look at utilisation values. Non-client facing managerial roles (programme managers, team managers etc.) face heavy risk,” Ms. Sharma explains.

Caution is the keyword

The current sentiment is that of caution on both fronts: the companies as well as employees. There will be a lot more hustling on costs in mid-level companies. They have little cash reserves to tide over and even because of the liquidity scenario, collection will be delayed. “Performance yardsticks have got a lot stricter. In larger companies, variable pay and other perks were an assumed payout. Now all that will be purely performance-based,” she explains.

HR personnel are also walking the thin line as they explain to employees the precarious nature of the situation. “People on the bench are being assessed strictly. We do not want to lose valuable employees but everything is strictly on a need basis,” says an HR person in a top MNC.

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