Monday, September 13, 2010

Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid

While there has been much discussion about the Lat Prof. C.K.Prahlad's fortune at the bottom of the pyramid, my post has nothing to do with it. The fortune Im talking about is not from the perspective of the business opportunity that lies within the lower middle class, its about the employment opportunity that lies with everybody today.

Last year, when my college placements were going on, there were quite a few moments when we would all go “whoa!” over a huge package offered by a company. This trend seems to only get better and better as the years pass on. But once I started working, I observed few other things as well which were as surprising. Unlike our parents generation, the kind of remuneration offered by companies today is not really dependent on how many people work under you or how big a team you lead. In some firms, there are employees who earn more than the top man/woman, even though they are in a department of the same organization.

It goes without saying that I was quite intrigued. So I tried to find out a little more. A friend of mine, who works in a techie organization with world renowned practices shed some light on it. She told me that in her company, people were assigned grades according to how they perform. But going up a grade does not have anything to do with whether you get into a managerial role, or shift departments to get more exposure. For example, if there is a person who is a very good engineer and wants to be involved in coding work only, it doesn’t mean her growth prospects are low. She could move up grades being a software engineer. This means that there could be a software engineer who is a grade 10 working in a team under a project manager who is a grade 9.

To me, this is the ultimate form of a free organisation, where people do what they love and in turn enhance the productivity of the organization as a whole. I remember the famous Peters Princple which basically says - “One always gets promoted to the level where he becomes incompetent”. This system is the perfect solution to the principle. What it also means is that today, an employee can actually take a decision on what she wants to do and how long she wants to work. With the introduction of flexible working hours and telecommuting, she can even decide when she wants to work. Talk about choosing your own work-life balance. It also means that today, she could decide to work in the same position she is in for the rest of my life and earn her fortune, even if it’s her first job right out of college – right at the bottom of the corporate pyramid.

With the lean organization becoming more and more popular, and outsourcing becoming a phenomenon, it makes a lot more sense to pay more for executives from day 1. The idea that Lean organisations need fat people is becoming a popular one, primarily because its expensive to replace them and also because they could eventually specialize in that job year after year and become an invaluable asset at that level. So I think more “whoa!” jobs are definitely for the taking in the coming years.

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