Sanjeev Sharma, a 35-year-old software engineer, was prepared for bad news two months before April when rumours began to circulate that there would be no pay hikes this year. He was a little lucky, though.
"The grapevine suggested that the financial health of organisation was not well. We were obviously disappointed but finally, there was a marginal salary hike to boost us, though it was a single digit hike," he says ruefully.
Across corporate India, the mood this year is dull in the annual appraisal season. Concerns on weakened business sentiment, global uncertainties and tighter fiscal and monetary policies in India have created a mood of walking on thin ice for employers — and therefore, employees.
A persisting industrial slowdown means thinner salary hikes, slower hiring to fill slots, and in the worst cases, layoffs and job losses.
It has been a tough appraisal season this April.
"There is disappointment over salary increments across sectors. The appraisal rate varied between eight and 14.50% across segments and geographies, leaving a majority of employees insecure about the financial viability of their current employer," said Sangeeta Lala, senior vice-president at staffing firm TeamLease. The trend does not, however, suggest that companies are reluctant to spend on their employees.
"There is no doubt that companies are spending carefully. But they also want to retain talent by giving double-digit increments to high performers and single digits to average performers," said Sanjay Modi, managing director at job search portal Monster.com.
But employees may not agree employers.
"I am known for my hardwork but my take home salary underestimates me. I think it's a time for a job shift," said Sanjay Arora, a 38-year-old marketing professional. So, is the grass really greener on the other side? Headhunters suggest that shifting jobs can be quite unsettling, so the crux lies in understanding the best time to take the plunge.. "Learners should stick to the same job as companies may not spend much to enhance their skills (in the current atmosphere), " said Vishal Chibber, director of human resources at consulting firm Kelly Services.
“And to those who know the nitty-gritty of their professions: switch only if you have reasons other than salary appreciation,” he added. His advice for employees is to watch their employer organisation's overall health and leadership before vital decisions.
“The economy is behaving badly and it may not be correct to stand by a sinking ship,” Chibber said.
Indian employees are restless and more ambitious as they look for either more money or a new challenge, say experts.
“This has led to a substantial decline in satisfaction with their standard of living which partly reflects in higher consumer prices and stubborn inflation,” said Yamini Tandon, senior consultant at Gallup.