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As business returns to normalcy, agencies restore employee salaries to pre-Covid level

After a harsh year, some normalcy is reappearing for agency employees as their compensation package is being restored to pre-Covid levels. Some agencies are also providing flexible routines and other facilities to keep their workforce motivated

There is some cheer in store for the workforce employed in the advertising and media agencies sector as employers are reinstating the compensation packages of their staff to pre-Covid levels.

Last year, almost every agency had implemented sharp pay cuts as their business shrank massively due to the Covid19 pandemic.

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Clients had reduced their ad spends significantly, which led to layoffs, salary cuts, cancellations of promotions, and hikes across the agency ecosystem.

Now with the business and revenue gradually getting back on track, agencies are reinstating employees' salaries and some have even started the appraisal process. As per industry insiders, moderate salary hikes may also be in store in the second half of this year.

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Raj Kamble

Raj Kamble, Founder and CCO of Famous Innovations, said, “Yes, we had cut salaries. But only for the top 10% salary bracket and that has also been rolled back now. We were also able to give a good dividend payout to our top management who own ESOPs in the company. For the people in the bottom 30% of the salary bracket, we had actually done increments during the lockdown to help them manage to work from home.”

“We are just waiting to close the numbers for 2020-21 but as far as I can estimate, we saw a very good recovery in the second half of last year and we are hoping to go big on increments.”

Ashish Khazanchi

Ashish Khazanchi, Managing Partner, Enormous Brands said, "We came back to the same levels of salaries in October last year. Agencies owe it to their people as the business is coming back. We should not do with our people what some clients did with us. We should support each other so that people who really suffered can be compensated equally.”

Mahesh Chauhan

Mahesh Chauhan, Director, Salt Brands, said, “In terms of restoring salaries, we have restored for most, barring a few at the top who are still working on lesser salaries. I am working towards long-term incentives linked to the performance. So that it becomes not just a one-off thing but it becomes something everybody can work towards every half-year.”

“In the new model, we are also looking at diverting some stakes in the company to employees. A lot of places retrenched employees but we didn’t do any such thing.  We took a conscious call and said no one will lose their job,” he added.

Flexible work environment and other provisions for employees

While some agencies have adopted a hub and spoke model for employees, some have continued work from home.

“Mumbai as a city is almost a nightmare in terms of commuting. It doesn’t matter if you’re riding in a personal car or in a train. You are wasting precious two-three hours commuting. The long-term solution lies in working from home, optimising the working hours, and optimising compensation because when people are not commuting they save money. As an organisation even we save money. My office which was a large 50-seater has been reduced to a 20-seater because we don’t require that much space,” Chauhan added.

Nagessh Pannaswami

Nagessh Pannaswami, Director, Curry Nation, said, “When Covid began, we were all unsure with clients cutting down budgets and going back on their agreements. We didn’t know what was going to hit us. For the first three to four months, we did cut down salaries. But later, we announced permanent work from home. Whatever savings we got by taking those decisions, like saving office rent and adjusted cost implications we plugged it back into the employee salary. Now our employees are getting their full salary.”

“Everybody is perfectly happy working from the confines of their homes and we have noticed that productivity has actually gone up, people are much happier because it saves them the commute time and money. Our normal office hours were starting from 10:30 am but now we have shifted it to 9:30 am. There are times when people are working beyond the call of duty because they're working from home. We're also now working on weekends, especially on Saturday, as we have added it to our normal working schedule. Productivity is much more than what it was before Covid. This is the biggest advantage and people are very happy working from their homes and we've not seen anything going astray. In fact, clients have been happier with our turnaround time,” he added.

Meanwhile, Kamble said they are sponsoring cab transport for their employees. “We are still largely working from home. We have less than 20% of people coming to the office on alternate days. We are sponsoring cab transport for people coming to the office as public transport is not safe at the moment. We increased the health insurance coverage company-wide last year. We are also supporting employees in smaller ways like providing lunch at the office, financial support when they need it, and care packages,” he said.

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