Shreyas Kulkarni

Why are some of our best-known managers on the move?

Shubhranshu Singh. Rashi Goel. Swati Mohan. Minoo Phakey. These are just some of the many names that have changed companies recently. They are part of a larger trend.

All happy employees are alike; every unhappy employee is unhappy in his own way.

If you take a quick glance at any company, all you will see, at first, are stories of happily engaged employees, good leadership and work-life balance, as well as higher than average wages. Now, if you pause for a moment and observe, cracks will begin to appear in this “too good to be true” workplace.

Think disinterested and discouraged employees, apathetic and micromanagement-loving top brass, non-existent work-life balance, and embarrassing wages. All these aren’t exaggerations, but facts of life for lakhs of employees. It is an open secret.

All employees are in on this open secret, but only a few dare to challenge the status quo. It’s hard to do so because then you’re either branded as the rabble-rouser when “things are good as they are” or asked to get tough and deal with it. Not many employers or their human resource (HR) teams respond and take affirmative actions to address employee concerns.

Most workers tend to give up at this moment because they realise that things won’t change. So, it’s better to jump ship than burn bridges with co-workers and top leadership, with whom you may end up working again in future.

Earlier, when people jumped, from one ship to another, it was considered a calculated move. The shrewdness it took (to do so) could make seasoned political spin masters stand up and take notice. It used to happen once in every two years before the COVID pandemic hit in March 2020.

“That two years has become six months now. People want to try out things in a shorter span because it has become a situation of ‘you never know what happens next’,” observes Rita Verma, EVP & Head - HR, DDB Mudra Group.

The ‘it’ she refers to is, of course, the pandemic. Nothing will ever be the same again because of the Coronavirus.

As the economic recovery becomes more visible, there has been a sharp spike in the number of people sending in their resignation emails. The West dubbed it as ‘The Great Resignation’. Here, in India, I’d like to call it ‘The Great Migration’, because many workers are switching jobs, even switching industries while at it especially the senior folks in Indian marketing, advertising, and media.

Swati Mohan, Netflix India’s director of marketing, has joined Heads Up For Tails (HUFT), a D2C pet care company, as its chief business officer. Nestle India’s director of marketing and consumer communication Rashi Goel is now with Amazon India as its director of marketing. Minoo Phakey, Dabur’s head of strategy and investment, placed her bets on alcobev giant Pernod Ricard and is now its chief innovation officer. Anoop Manohar joined Axis Bank as chief marketer from The Coca-Cola Company’s Southeast Asia office.

Folks switching jobs within their sector aren’t far behind. Shubhranshu Singh, global marketing head of Royal Enfield, has joined Tata Motors as VP marketing of domestic and IB. Nandita Sinha has now taken over the role of CEO at Myntra from Flipkart. Rachna Lather, chief marketing officer, Micromax, now heads marketing for HMD Global.

Over the last two months, afaqs! has covered over 30 such appointments at senior levels in the advertising, marketing, and media space. It's like the melting of the ice age on fast-forward mode.

The measures taken to arrest the spread of the pandemic, crippled many people’s lives and livelihoods. The lockdown(s) resulted in layoffs, steep salary cuts, increased work pressure on employees who survived the cull, and a spike in mental health issues.

While these reasons played, and will play, an influential role in people’s reasons to move jobs, I feel there’s more to it. Something has changed at the very core of an employee, who no longer identifies himself/herself with designations.

“People no longer identify themselves through their jobs and designations,” says Verma of DDB Mudra Group. “It’s about the role, about what they want to do with life and their aspirations.”

Personal aspiration is the key here. Most of us have had a long hard conversation with ourselves ever since the lockdown(s) were imposed. Our perspective of work, life as well as work-life balance has fundamentally changed.

For Michelle Suradkar, chief operating officer at Tilt Brand Solutions (former group chief HR at MullenLowe Lintas Group), people’s motivations to switch jobs remain the same, even today. Better opportunities, wanting to work with different types of agencies, people or brands, something in their current role that didn’t work for them, etc. But, she adds, “The pandemic and long lockdown(s) have brought about changes in the way people approach work and plan their careers.”

On the other hand, let’s look at these movements from the eyes of the employers. Aditi Shukla, whole time director at Ahmedabad-based Task Staffing Solutions, tells us, “The dynamics have changed in the last quarter and many organisations want to cover their backlog, recover business and revenue. So, we're seeing a lot of opportunities in the market. We're seeing this trend across industries, be it IT, media, entertainment, or e-commerce”

And speaking of the media/entertainment/advertisement side, she tell us they are “seeing a lot of AI and machine learning advancements in the industry” and that is playing a role in people’s reasons for switching to new jobs.

The lure of the unicorns?

In October 2021, Fortune India said that India added a record 33 unicorns (startups valued at over $1 billion) this year. The parallel stream of startups going public such as Zomato, Nykaa, among others, with their IPOs, made these (startups) ideal workplaces.

Many people look at startups that are the next supposed unicorns or will go public soon, because ESOP (employee stock ownership plans) is a brilliant way to build personal wealth.

People in the early stages of their career feel that they have to maintain the salary flow in order to pay bills and people are risk-averse, explains Lloyd Mathias, a business strategist and angel investor. “But when professionals reach a certain level (in their life) and are relatively comfortable, they can afford to take these risks.”

Mathias says new-age companies like Paytm, Nykaa and Zomato are among India’s top 50 businesses. “Therefore, the attractions of the new economy, i.e., the exponential growth of startups, have made many senior professionals pause, reflect and think of this opportunity.”

He mentions senior professionals because these folks can afford to take a break after leaving their jobs (as they have a financial cushion), and not join another place immediately. Many of them are moving places because “of the constant quest of challenge,” feels Mathias.

Earlier, people seemed comfortable staying in one organisation for as long as they could. “Now, people tend to get more restless about growth, salaries and, at the same time, companies don't have the same longevity of tenures.”

At the CXO level, “65-70 per cent of people are looking for fresh opportunities… Now, there is a huge change in companies' outlook, as far as attracting the right talent goes,” mentions Shukla of Task Staffing Solutions.

DDB Mudra Group's Verma feels that people want to pursue their passions now. “Many people want to do larger than life things - help others, participate in community causes, etc. People have seen and been through so much over the last year-and-a-half, and now want to give back to the society.”

But, in the end, it is what Govind Pandey, TBWA’s CEO tells me remains: People are saying they are burnt out sitting out at home… being locked in homes for 18 months is resulting in all kinds of consequences and one of them is people “What do I want to do with my life?”

I do not have a Ferrari to sell on CARS24 (a unicorn) and head off to the Himalayas to answer the question. So, I will keep asking people until the one points me in the right direction. Until then, let's hope the number of happy employees does not fall like Paytm's stock did when it was listed.

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