Most millennials demand satisfaction in their choice of employment but there was a time when we were eternally grateful for security of tenure. As per prevailing evidence post the corona crisis, I do fear a comeback of that stifling era, where continuity of paycheck becomes the primary reason for employment. A resurgence of the sellersâ€™ market where employment-seekers must forgo their passions and emotions for the security of survival.
As a child of the 1970s born in a largish family of professionals I remember this pattern of survival most distinctly. Most uncles seemed deeply attached to current employers and job switches were rather rare as a function of both opportunity and mindset. There was a clear separation between â€˜passionâ€™ time and â€˜workâ€™ profile and many pursued cultural explorations after office hours. It was thus the duty of music, theatre and sport to infuse satisfaction quotient in the daily toils as work was expected to just be the source of livelihood, a school for adults. If it delivered the worldly goodies, the job was done and the eight or so hours expended daily shone as a symbol of dutifulness.
But then, post the 1990s, our world changed dramatically fuelled by the dynamics of liberalisation and the emergence of unprecedented sectors. Quite suddenly, the hitherto booby-trapped Indian had genuine payslip options, which allowed a convergence of desire and duty, as well as reassuring continuity. An engineer who loved running could join Nike, a creative streak could lead to advertising, the culinary prowess would result in global careers and musical bones easily converged with P&L nuances. Entrepreneurship was a live option as the expanding funding scenarios made room for everybody and not just the entitled somebody. Most importantly, the career was no longer a unidirectional railway track as there were delightful horizontal paths that mirrored the sensitivities of age and experience. In fact, the entire Media and Entertainment industry has been an arena for job satisfaction for some time now, attracting trained professionals who sought a burst of daily sunshine.
In many cases, this emotional adhesive became a valuable retention tool for employers as well, as addendum to the CTC and tenure. New-age theories of work culture were enthused by the prevailing levels of satisfaction as the workplace included valuable elements of the Third Place. Entire businesses were built by professional passionistas, who combined empirical training with the valuable infusion of the heart. So many of us agreed to or declined an offering for reasons way above plain-vanilla security, something that was taken for granted in the day and age. Till, in one fell sweep, the corona demon swept away our happiness and restored the tenets of martial law in corporate India.
For starters, even the white collared workforce has seriously started to question their financial security as a reduced culture of savings led to short-term financial penury for many. Far too many folks I know, from millennials to their aunts, are desperately seeking the secure payslip and are willing to become studious followers once again. A pattern that extends to entrepreneurs, especially in the devastated F&B and sundry brick-and-mortar sectors, where the losses of a quarter have demolished the dreams of a decade. There is an overall loss of confidence among even the most positive and the holy grail of satisfaction has been temporarily put in the back burner, re-emergence not a rapidly imminent scenario. India is again slipping back to the era of job security, where the employer can extract an unfair pound of flesh from their mellowed staff.
It is also widely predicted that this will lead to an increase in corporate abuse as the reduced bargaining powers of rank and file make them susceptible to bullying. Also, the need for soft sops will decrease as attrition levels fall and better talent is available for an easier price point. Quite naturally, the sensible corporates will show maturity and humanity but certain cash-rich low-integrity organisations may succumb to predatory traits. In fact, this is a huge opportunity for enlightened corporations to build a reputation of integrity and provoke loyalty even among fleeting youngsters, by providing a safe yet challenging work environment that can relish entrepreneurial ideas.
The other potential damage is to consumer sentiment but this may well turn out differently. While conventional logic suggests that folks as such will get more defensive and shop less, there may well be a twist in this pattern. As incomes stabilise and the workplace becomes a more conventional space, personal indulgences will partially restore the equilibrium of yore. F&B, cinema and entertainment are poised to gain as once again, like the â€™70s and â€™80s, the satisfaction quotient has to come from outside the workplace. Marketers and business need to be ahead of the customerâ€™s mind in order to preempt solutions and newer and more qualitative forms of research need to be developed.
It is sad but true that symbols of security have become a lot more important than signs of indulgence and the workplace is a prime theatre for this change. The pandemic has surely made us regress in this crucial aspect and it will take time to reinstate the heady momentum we thrived on.
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