It’s that time of the year again. Employees across advertising are busy filling their respective appraisal sheets while the agency heads contemplate on how to reward their performance once the process of evaluation is over.
Broadly, one will hear the oft-discussed issues like general economic indicators, health of the business, and general trend of talent cost; before the final numbers are frozen. Cutting to the chase, do agency leaders expect to give better appraisals or hikes this year as compared to the last?
Answers Ashish Bhasin, chairman (India) and chief executive officer (South-East Asia), Aegis Media: “I expect this year to have average increments, given the overall economic conditions.” While this might come across as a word of caveat for some, Bhasin adds that he is aware of the high inflation rate and wants to make sure that good talent in his organisation is adequately compensated.
Nakul Chopra, chief executive officer, Publicis South Asia, accedes with Bhasin on the economic situation but he is optimistic of good growth despite that. “Our annual performance review cycle works from July to June. We’ll take a decision after seeing results of the first half,” he adds.
For Ajai Jhala, chief executive officer, BBDO India, it’s fundamentally about the company’s performance, in which case, economic indicators become inconsequential. “If the economy grows at 500 % (for instance) and BBDO grows only by 10%, the appraisals won’t reflect on economic growth of the nation. Appraisals will depend on who we are evaluating, their current and future potential,” he explains. If the economic downturn is not going to affect appraisals, does that mean adlanders stand a chance of getting better hikes this year?
“No,” he retorts adding that appraisals are not about hikes and raises alone. According to Jhala, they involve decisions like how much investment one is to make in their talent’s training and exposure.
Joseph George, chief executive officer, Lowe Lintas, has just finished one cycle of review in December’12. “Unlike most other agencies, we were probably the only ones who gave out hikes in full, and on time,” he affirms. But as far as the road ahead is concerned, his agency is equally underwhelmed with the growth delivered by them in 2012.
While there are signs of uncertainty looming over the media and creative agency business, Sidharth Rao’s Webchutney is riding high on the digital growth bandwagon. The chief executive officer and co-founder of the digital agency says, “We’ve had a blowout year with about 50 % growth, so certainly it will reflect well on our best performing people and teams.”
Apart from these five, we tried reaching a host of other leading network and independent agency leads, to gauge the outcome of appraisals this year. What stood out was a clear reluctance to comment on the issue. Perhaps a sign of how the appraisals would look like come April? Perhaps not! Like one of them stated, if you comment on what the fraternity can expect from their appraisals this year, it ends up becoming a company memo and then you’ve to live up to it irrespective of any constraints. All the signs are not good, opine some of them. It’s going to be tough this year, say others. Yet, there are high hopes on the annual budget. Will adlanders, dissatisfied with their appraisals, fall into the cycle of aggressive poaching in the coming months, yet again? Guess we’ll have to just wait till the poachers strike.
Ashish Bhasin, chairman – India and chief executive officer – South-East India, Aegis Media
At Aegis Media, we have a very well structured system of MBOs (Management by Objectives), wherein key managers are aware of their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), their performance is regularly discussed with their supervisors informally and is formally appraised at least twice a year. This process is the key contributor in making of these decisions, which we endeavour to make as fair, transparent and merit-based, as is humanly possible. We constantly make sure that our good performers are well paid and benchmarked with the best at their level in the industry.
Ajai Jhala, chief executive officer, BBDO India
Appraisals will differ from agency to agency depending on multiple factors: the size of the agency, its overheads, the fact that it is in an investment mode or not. You might see uniformity in appraisals across a BPO industry, for instance, but not in advertising. A downturn affects everyone but brands have to spend even during tough times. Therefore, it’s critical to invest in the right people and keep them motivated. We are not a factory. All we have got is people.
Nakul Chopra, chief executive officer, Publicis South Asia
There are pros and cons of the past and present methods of evaluating performance and rewarding accordingly. Earlier, agencies were privately owned and therefore freer to decide how much money to part with. But that process brought in individual biases. The current system (that of network agencies), however, is more process oriented and institutionalized. While you have to be answerable to shareholders, the flipside is that judgements are made more on the basis of fact and less on the basis of how an individual feels about his employee.
Joseph George, chief executive officer, Lowe Lintas
The most challenging aspect of an unpredictable business environment is to be able to plan accurately or indeed even stay the course after you take a decision. So yes, in some versions of scenario planning, they (appraisals) are better and in some worse off. Our increment cycle kicks in mid year i.e. July. Our actual performance in the first half ( Jan-June), our confidence at that point on our organic, inorganic or even client driven initiatives yielding results for the second half( July-Dec ) and beyond; will play a huge role in deciding appraisals.
Sidharth Rao, co-founder and chief executive officer, Webchutney
We have a transparent system for appraisals and the feedback system ensures all team members are aware of the expectations that the organisation has from each individual every quarter. This helps minimise the ‘Appraisal Shock’ in April for both the organisation and the crew members.