Career

3 Secrets to Participating in India's Mega-Urbanization

30 May, 2019
  • Pearly Siffel

    Strategy and Geographic Expansion Leader, International, Mercer

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"Before many of us retire, India will overtake the U.S. economy and will likely become the world's second-largest market."

Explosive population growth creates a greater talent pool and, along with it, greater pressures on local municipalities, domestic companies and multinationals to accommodate the influx. How can organizations harness the benefits of rapid urbanization while ensuring workforce needs are being met? And, what is the best market entry strategy?

Today, 5 in 10 people live in urban centers in Asia, representing 54% of the world's urban population1. Over the next two decades, one billion more people are expected to move to Asian urban centers; this equates to one million new arrivals each week. Soon, the continent will be home to 60% of the world's megacities.

In India, this trend is even more accelerated, with more than 200 million people migrating in search of a better quality of life and greater financial prospects. Urban centers of India will grow exponentially in the next few years, and the bulk of the country's GDP is expected to come from cities. And given the pace at which Indian cities are growing, India will soon be home to new megacities and hundreds of new towns.

On a trip to India, the country's expansive growth is palpable, its dynamism and vibrancy simultaneously exhilarating and overwhelming. The feast of colors, sounds, tastes and smells — from the open-air markets and street vendors to the hustle and bustle of hotel lobbies and meeting rooms — assaults the senses. At the heart of it all is people.

Rapid growth, however, brings formidable challenges for cities, old and new alike, for highly connected — or "smart" — cities, as well as for startups, local firms and multinationals. To better understand the obstacles and opportunities, Mercer conducted an extensive study, People First: Driving Growth in Emerging Megacities, which provides an examination of living and working in emerging growth cities.

The study gleaned perspectives of employers and workers across 15 cities globally, with four rapidly growing cities in India — Ahmedabad, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata. The findings provide actionable insights for potential beneficiaries of India's urbanization. Below are our three key findings and imperatives.

1. Understand What People Value Most
 

The study explores people's expectations from cities and how well the cities are delivering on what they deem most important. Globally, there was a 30-point gap between workers' quality of life expectations and how a city is performing against those needs. Around the world, the top three factors that affect how people feel about the cities they live and work in are security, safety and lack of violence (first); affordable housing (second); and transport, traffic and mobility (third).

The findings in India are strikingly similar; however, there are some regional differences. Residents of Kolkata feel challenged by the lack of sufficient career opportunities (gap of 25 points). People in Ahmedabad and Chennai, meanwhile, want their cities to perform better on managing air and water quality/pollution (gap of 14 and 19 points, respectively); and pay/bonuses emerged as the top challenge in Hyderabad (gap of 10 points).

                     

                      Source: People First: Driving Growth in Emerging Megacities, Mercer

To ensure cities can better meet residents' needs in the overpopulated and resource-constrained urban centers, governments and businesses must engage in a coordinated effort. The study found that workers do not expect any one group to be responsible for addressing the systemic issues of a city at scale. 

Instead, they want effective collaboration between the city or local government (77%) along with the support of the national or federal government (62%) and large businesses (53%). No one entity can solve the infrastructure, talent or people needs of a rapidly growing city — this can and must be done through collaboration, shared interests and pooling of resources. 

2. Prepare for the Future of Work
 

Cities are often the testing ground for automation and emerging technologies, and the workplace is typically one of the first areas to experience the benefit from their effects. In India, "connectedness" is a way of life — more so than in some other global economies — and digital platforms are widely used. According to estimates, more than 40% of purchases are set to be highly digitally influenced by 2030.2 India is one of the world leaders in creating a national artificial intelligence strategy; it is at the forefront of adopting blockchain technology and is pioneering the use of drones.

Our research found that both employees (45%) and employers (52%) believe work will become more efficient with automation and AI. Globally, 62% of workers expect that AI could replace at least half of their tasks in the next 5-to-10 years. In India, automation is predicted to play a bigger role: 61% of employers and 8% of employees expect technology will take over more than 50% of their role. As a result, only one in five people are confident that they are not going to lose their jobs in the next five years — signifying a call to organizations to prepare for the future of work and the skills and workers that the future requires.

There is a journey ahead. Our study reveals that, presently, only 30% of the Indian workforce in the cities of tomorrow has flexible working arrangements. As technology continues to augment human capabilities at an increasing pace, businesses will not only need to plan on where work gets done but also how it is done. They will need to explore alternative talent sources and new skills and place even greater importance on distinctly human qualities for a sustained competitive advantage — such as complex problem solving, creativity, superior client service, cross-cultural collaboration, judgment and empathy. 

In effect, companies will benefit by putting people at the center of technology — not the other way around.

3. Be Indian, Buy Indian, Partner with India
 

As international companies seek to scale their operations and expand globally, they would be remiss to ignore India. By 2025, the number of Indian households will triple in size with 80% of them comprising middle-class families. And, with a growing middle class comes demand for a better quality of life, from basic necessities to luxuries and all forms of services, from better housing, education and health care to more robust transportation and safety.

As global blue-chip firms expand into India, they will need to devise well-informed and relevant strategies. For some, the best mode of entry may be partnering with local companies with deep knowledge and expertise in how to navigate cultural norms, the regulatory environment and business practices.

Expansion also means a shift in mindset, from considering India as a path to cheap labor and a valuable source of talented, educated people growing in their purchasing power. For all, it will mean letting go of traditional ways of working and, instead, adopting local partnerships, practices and leadership.

Being patient and relentless in the pursuit of sustainable growth will drive value in the long term. Lastly, it benefits everyone to keep in mind that, before many of us retire, India will overtake the U.S. economy and will likely become the world's second-largest market.3

Growth, like time, does not wait. Done right, there is profitable growth potential in India's rapid urban expansion. Critically, for all to benefit means putting people first.

To access more insights and practical advice on how companies and municipalities can accelerate their people strategies and realize commercial gains, download People First: Driving Growth in Emerging Megacities.

1U.N. Economic and Social Council, "Urbanization and sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific: linkages and policy implications," March 7, 2017, https://www.unescap.org/commission/73/document/E73_16E.pdf.
2
Ojha, Nikhil and Zara, Ingilizian, "How India Will Consume in 2030: 10 Mega Trends," World Economic Forum, January 7, 2019, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/10-mega-trends-for-india-in-2030-the-future-of-consumption-in-one-of-the-fastest-growing-consumer-markets.
3
Wang, Brian, "World GDP Forecasts for 2030," Next Big Future, January 14, 2019, https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2019/01/world-gdp-forecasts-for-2030.html.

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Still, if not done well, remote working can exacerbate challenges with inclusion, accessibility and emotional support. Some simple tips for staying connected in times of social distancing can help: Inclusive teaming when working remotely requires effort. To make sure every team member’s voice is heard, communicate expectations and agendas in advance, encourage people to be visible on the call, ask people to come with comments/questions, and set up discussions by hangouts and chats in between calls. Pre-brief senior people in your team to be vocal and embracing. Create an informal climate up front with small talk. Remote calls require a redesign of the meeting. As a rule of thumb, halve the time you would allocate for a face-to-face meeting for a call where people are dialing in. Leverage pre-reading to ensure those who are more introverted or reflective feel ready to contribute. Small group preparation and post group actions are vital to building team spirit. Establish new rituals.   Take time to address the emotional, not just the practical. Take a few minutes at the start and end of a call to find out how everyone is feeling. Pulse-checking questions people can type responses to in a chat function (e.g. “Use one word on how you feel about what we’ve just shared”) can be a great way to take a temperature check. Communicate that managers are still accessible by phone, even if not in person. Use old and new technology (phones as well as video conferencing services) to stay personal, especially with workers not used to working remotely. Don’t let email (and even chat) be the only way you communicate. The volume can become deafening if not managed. Leverage community sites and project boards to train people in how best to stay connected. In our study, 22% of employees believe that some necessary human interactions have been lost, so finding ways to inject warmth and a bit fun into exchanges is a good idea.   The social distancing required in response to COVID-19 has, rightly, got many companies reexamining their digital work experience. Forty-seven percent of executives are concerned about employees’ digital experience — or the energy-sapping nature of not having it. Nearly half of employees believe there is room to improve on digital transformation: 20% of employees today say HR processes are complex, and a further 29% say they have been simplified but still have a long way to go. In the longer term, it will be valuable to revisit the company’s EVP and interrogate how technology-enabled HR processes are today and how capable working tools are with coping with mass remote services. Intermediaries such as ServiceNow, Mercer’s Mobility Management Platform and digital outplacement solutions can help. How we care is how we win   Employees are understandably concerned about the health of their families and communities and organizations are quite rightly putting the health of their people first (their #1 workforce concern this year). But financial market volatility, and the impact on individuals’ jobs is a mounting concern that is weighing on people’s minds. Meanwhile, businesses are examining whether their practices are agile enough to withstand unpredictable events such as COVID-19, if they are resilient enough to sustain themselves through this period of hardship, and innovative enough to stimulate demand afterwards. We’re being challenged to do things differently — in companies big and small, on new platforms and with new technology, and we see emerging new ways of caring for one another. And in their wake we will not go back to how we operated before. Necessity breeds innovation. We are on the cusp of new ways of working and living that, if executed well, will build a bright future.

Dr. Sebastian Fuchs | 26 Mar 2020

Everyone’s job has, in some form or another, a job title. Be it a Brick-layer, Accountant or CEO. The common understanding is that the job title depicts the respective job and its roles and responsibilities. Our work with different clients of different sizes, with different structures, maturity levels, and in different economic and cultural environments, however, suggests that there is much more heterogeneity in job titles than one would suspect. In one organization, for example, an Accountant is called ‘Financial Advisor’ whereas in another organization, s/he is called ‘Finance Officer’. In Mercer’s 2019 Global Total Remuneration Survey, on a sample of 182 organizations based in the United Arab Emirates, as an example, the Mercer Job Library position ‘Accountant–Experienced Professional’ is tagged against more than 180 different job titles. This suggest that more than 99% of organizations included in the data set label this type of job in a unique, idiosyncratic manner. In a similar vein, Mercer’s 2019 data from Australia shows more than 360 different job titles across 313 organizations. A similar report for India from 2019 shows over 520 different job titles across 360 organizations for this type of job. In Brazil, Russia and the UK, the same analyses produced very similar results. This means, to be specific, that similar jobs even in the same organization are often labeled in a heterogeneous, unconcerted way. Problems associated with purposeless job titling   While the Accountant example provides some insight into the actual responsibilities of the role, we often see organizations labelling jobs in less meaningful, purposeless ways. For instance, we find job titles such as ‘Senior Supervisor Financial Accountant’, ‘Business Analyst’, ‘Finance Executive’ or, more recently, creative titles such as ‘Accounting Guru’, ‘Accounting Ninja’ or ‘Accounting Rockstar’ in this area of organizational life. In our view, this creates five key issues: 1.   In markets that are suffering from employee disengagement, the rise of passive job seekers and a growing appeal of self-employment and entrepreneurship[1], a job opening with an inaccurate job title faces two key problems. Firstly, the job applicants may be over or under qualified for the position at hand and, secondly, potentially suitable applicants may not apply as they believe the job is not a good match. 2.   Breaches of the psychological contract between employees and their employer may occur. To be precise, “the psychological contract encompasses the actions employees believe are 1.      expected of them and what response they expect in return from the employer”[1]. To this end, a purposeless job title may provide an inaccurate view on the actual roles and responsibilities to be performed by the new joiner. For instance, a ‘Financial Advisor’ may execute on the classical accounting tasks, such as processing accounts receivable and payable, but the job title, however, indicates that the job holder would spend some time interacting with stakeholders and provide advice on financial matters. The lack of defined possibilities to engage in such activities may constitute a psychological contract breach, leading to cynicism towards the organization, turnover, job dissatisfaction, reduced commitment and an overall decrease in performance. 3.   Another important issue to consider is an employees’ propensity to boost their current job title. This is linked to two mechanisms. Firstly, boosting one’s job title ultimately serves to enhance one’s status and self-identity[1]. Secondly, an enhanced job title is likely to attract attention on the external job market. 4.   Perceptions of fairness may decrease due to inconsistently labelled jobs. For instance, a job may be called ‘Finance Lead’ that is, in terms of roles and responsibilities as well as qualifications required, very similar to a ‘Head of Finance’. For most people, a ‘Head of Finance’ is classified as a higher ranked job despite both jobs being very similar in nature and potentially having the same job grade. This can create perceptions of injustice leading to employee turnover, lower levels of extra-role behavior and greater levels of withdrawal, deviant and retaliatory behaviors[2]. 5.   Purposeless job titles may also be detrimental for internal and external communications. Internally, there might be a certain degree of ambiguity to what the hierarchy level of a an incumbent is and consequently how messages should be phrased. Externally, purposeless job titles may further lead to misunderstandings in terms of authority levels and responsibilities an employee holds. Reasons for purposeless job titling   The reasons for these five issues are manifold. First and foremost, only few organizations seem to have adhered to a coherent, up-to-date and intuitive job titling framework. In fact, in many organizations job titling is either left to the line manager or, in some cases, left to the job incumbent. This, by definition, is likely to create a certain degree of heterogeneity among job titles. In addition to that, even in leading organization, there is often no clear, well-defined organizational process in place to govern this element of organizational life. We advocate, and outline in greater detail below, that there should be a process in place including clear roles and responsibilities in terms of who sets and ultimately approves the titles of jobs. We also see that organizations often seek to develop job titles that adhere to the specific cultural contexts in which they operate. This, as a consequence, also adds to a certain degree of incoherence in job titling. Lastly, the high degree of change to which many organizations across the globe are exposed to, also contributes to incoherent job titles. To be specific, when organizations adopt new structures and amend roles and responsibilities of their jobs, job titling should also be considered. However, for many organizations this is an issue of limited importance of the time of restructuring so this tends to get neglected. As a consequence, especially with numerous rounds of re-structuring, a heterogeneous, incoherent landscape of job titles is likely to emerge. Conducting purposeful job titling   The above-mentioned observations raise the question of how organizations can move forward to actually create purposeful job titles. Meaningful or purposeful job titles usually consists of two key elements. Firstly, purposeful job titling should indicate the actual function and with this associated roles and responsibilities the job incumbent is tasked with. If an employee in Finance is responsible for maintaining the Finance IT systems, then the job title should indicate that this employee looks after IT for Finance, as opposed to more generic IT activities. Secondly, a purposeful job title also indicates the hierarchical level, or, to be more specific, should hold reference to the actual job grade the job has been mapped onto. In our work across the globe, we see a certain degree of inconsistency and incoherence in this respect. Frequently, strict hierarchical levels are used to create job titles, even though the job evaluation may not indicate such job titling. For instance, the responsible job incumbent for managing financials in a country managing set-up of a small to medium sized enterprise owned by a multinational corporation may be called ‘Chief Finance Officer’. This job title indicates a fairly senior position. In reality, however, such a job more closely resembles the activities of a ‘Financial Accountant’ or a ‘Finance Manager’. Such discrepancies between the actual roles and responsibilities of a job and its titling typically become clear when job evaluations are performed. As such, we advocate a certain adherence to job grades when it comes to job titling in order to derive purposeful job titles. In Figure 1, we outline how an approach to purposeful job titling could look like. It indicates the main components of a job title, i.e. (a) what the job’s hierarchical level in the organization is, (b) its function or area of expertise, (c) to what organizational unit the job belongs, and (d) what the actual scope of responsibility of the job is. For instance, a ‘Senior Vice President Finance EMEIA’ uses the elements A, B and D of the framework. Element C, the organizational unit, in this case is not required. For professional jobs, as another example, an ‘Advisor Finance Downstream Abu Dhabi’ would have all elements in her or his job title. This way, the same protocol and nomenclature for different job titles is applied universally across the organization, and thereby meets the requirements of purposeful job titling set out above.                           Figure 1: Mercer’s Purposeful Job Titling Framework In addition to adopting such a framework, organizations should consider who owns and governs job titling. The governing department should make sure that there are employees who have ownership of this process, and that no job requisition and its related activities as well as any internal re-structuring fails to comply with the framework. This way, purposeful job titling gets embedded and institutionalized in the organization. Sources: 1. 2017, ‘The talent delusion: why data, not intuition, is the key to unlocking human potential’, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Piatkus. 2. 1994, ‘Human resource practices: administrative contract makers’, Denise M. Rousseau and Martin M. Greller, Human Resource Management, 33-3, page 386. 3. 2005, ‘Understanding psychological contracts at work: a critical evaluation of theory and research, Neil Conway and Rob B. Briner, Oxford University Press. 4. Ibid. 5. For an interesting review see: 2019, ‘The five pillars of self-enhancement and self-protection’, in the Oxford handbook of human motivation, Constantine Sedikides and Mark D. Alicke. 6. For a good overview please refer to: 2001, ‘The role of justice in organizations: a meta-analysis’, Yochi Cohen-Charash and Paul E. Spector, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 86-2.

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