For corporate employees, multitasking bears a different meaning today than it did historically. Primarily, the sheen is off the label. The multitasking tag no longer means that a cherry-picked employee is assigned multiple tasks at his level or above it, with the subtext: he is one of the brightest in the organisation. The global meltdown has stripped the cachet attached with the multitasking label.
"It is now two notches down from its perceived stand," says Sunil Kalra, a leading HR consultant. A post-slowdown multitasker neither enjoys a greater role responsibility, nor any attached authority, nor an envious pay packet. "Basically, a manager now has to do work which he did as a fresher," sums up Kalra.
So, it's a small wonder that Jeet Singh*, brand manager of a leading PR firm, has to go on sales calls, prepare quotations, service the clients and collect outstanding payments. "With my team size now cut down to four from earlier nine, I have to step out for the field work, which I have not done in the last five years," says the 32-year-old.
Smita*, a corporate manager with an excellent track record of 11 years at a leading global HR consultancy firm, quit her job two months ago when she was asked to take up sales and marketing functions as additional responsibility. Not keen, she tried to reason it out with her employer and was met with "take it or leave it" shrug.
"Handling additional responsibility is one of the most common changes that people have been compelled to make due to the recession," states a survey conducted in March this year by TeamLease, a Bangalore-based staffing company. The survey titled 'Changing Expectations at Workplace' in the wake of the current slowdown revealed that 43 per cent respondents have had to change their role or department to keep their employment safe, while a smaller 24 per cent had to change their sector.
If you are faced with a situation which requires multitasking what do you do?
Save your job
"There are two ways to look at the situation, either brush off the responsibility or volunteer to be an integral part of the organisation and be a survivor," suggests Kalra. One of the key findings of the survey was that around 80 per cent employees believed in 'survival of the fittest' and felt that improving skill sets was the best thing to do in the current scenario.
In shaky times, cross-function exposure becomes the differentiating edge. Companies will be all too willing to shed staff who are confined rigidly to their work-roles and are unwilling to move to other functional areas. Usually, in stressed situations, duties are clubbed. For instance, administrative duties tend to get aligned with HR or Finance role.
Don't test waters now
Despite the reverse tide, Samir Seth* left his cushy job of six years to join an international advertising agency on a 100-per cent salary hike. Little did he know that he would be a one-man army. A marketing executive, he has to fulfil other responsibilities like drafting an internal communique, making official speeches for the CEO and preparing newsletters. His adaptability is cushioning his job. "I wasn't aware that I will be asked to do this mundane stuff but my interest in writing actually saved me," said Seth, conceding that he made the mistake of switching jobs at a time when the job market is at its worst.
Smile and take up extra responsibility
An organisation wants the assurance that it has loyal employees who will stand by it through thick and thin. So if you have been assigned extra work, do it without a grouse. In situations where you see that your extra labour will not be rewarded monetarily, then create a situation where the company is forced to recognise your efforts.
For instance, if you have been given the extra work of designing a brochure, then ask for a separate desk or a space where you can execute the design work. At the allocated time, move to the new workstation to conclude the work. "This way an employee can not only emphasise the additional responsibility, but can also ensure that his commitment is seen," says Kalra. 'Ensure visibility in the organisation' advise HR experts.
Help generating revenues
Revenue is what companies are interested in in tight financial situations, explains Kalra. "Suppose you are a banking executive, you can commit dedicating 30 hours a month to meet three new clients to generate revenues for the company," he says. It is all about adapting and assuming a new role responsibility. From a teller, you can turn to sales and marketing executive for your bank. This would mean adjusting your work-timings, maybe arriving a little early and putting in an extra couple of hours.
Add one competency each year
Irrespective of the mood and whims of the job market, an employee should, even in boom times, add one new competency every year and work on the proficiency levels in an existing competency. If an employee has nothing extra to add in his resume even after a year, it's a sign that complacence is creeping in and the employee is risking falling out of favour from the employment market.
So, just take a few progressive steps to keep ahead of boom and bust times.
(*names have been changed.)