ECONOMY

Mixed outlook for business staff and managers in Olympic year

Remuneration for most categories of business managers registered significant declines in 2003, as the anticipated economic recovery was at best only lackluster. Nikitas Constantellos, general manager of consultancy company KPMG, says forecasts for 2004 in Greece are mixed, as demand for staff is expected to surge in the first half but to subside after the Olympic Games. «We could say 1998-2000 was the golden period for managers in Greece; there was euphoria and widespread optimism in business for growth and investment. This resulted in a proliferation of new businesses and a search for managerial staff, a war for talent,» he says. Pay rose substantially and there was a feeling that staff called the shots and had a choice of employers. «All this changed after the stock market collapse and the economic downturn set in in 2001, and conditions became even tighter in 2002 and 2003. The prevalence of this rather negative climate led to increasing consolidation, mergers and the need to cut costs. Many managers found themselves without a job, while others felt they had to change employer before they were asked to go.» However, the biggest problem, according to Constantellos, was that despite their desire for change, managers are not finding many opportunities in the market while many of the senior executives continue to see their remunerations falling. This is due to the fact that a large segment of remuneration is now variable, mainly taking the form of bonuses given when specific results are achieved, but which under present conditions are very difficult for most managers to attain. «The characteristics of the market in 2003 include a limited demand for senior managers – the situation was somewhat better for the middle rank, the rapid rise in the number of executives who sought the help of business consultancies and human resource companies to pinpoint opportunities, and the rapid growth of outplacement services. All this shows that, on the one hand, many companies carry out staff reductions, and, on the other, that due to difficulties in finding the right people, they assign the job to specialized advisers,» says Constantellos. According to a managers’ pay survey annually conducted by KPMG, in a sample of the 300 biggest companies and recently presented by Kathimerini, total remuneration levels for many senior managers, particularly in financial services and information technology, were lower than in 2002. Limited optimism Constantellos is relatively optimistic for 2004, considering that the economy and business climate are on the upswing and that many firms will report improved results. «I believe the market for managers will go through two phases. The first half will be positive and demand will pick up. However, after the end of the Olympic Games many executives now employed in companies set up especially for the event will be looking for new jobs. Athens 2004, the organizers, will alone shed about 800 staff and 700 lower-rank employees. Taking into account the small size of the Greek labor market and its inability to absorb such a large number of qualified people, it is clear there will be an imbalance in demand and supply, at least for a certain period.» But it goes without saying that the country will benefit from hosting the Games. «I believe that Greece will organize secure and successful Games and this will set the ground for a rise in investment of Greek rather than foreign capital. This in turn will bring about an improvement in the labor market in the ensuing period.» Constantellos is a member of the Greek Association of General Managers (EASE). He believes the market is presently sending mixed signals. «On one hand the number of our members is rising rapidly, indeed with colleagues that recently took up positions of general manager, but on the other, more colleagues are out of a job or have lost their membership because they could not find the appropriate position. On the whole, the new members far outnumber the outgoing ones. But senior managers are expressing anxiety and uncertainty regarding their professional future more strongly than ever.» Human resource management Inescapably, the role of human resource departments will rise to the fore in coming months. «A large number of firms in our country have to upgrade their human resource departments, which is no doubt difficult to achieve in budget-trimming periods. But there is no other way for human resource managers who are striving to gain recognition as strategic partners of general managers and contribute to reaching corporate targets. In order to consolidate their position, they must show that the term human resources is a synonym for profitability and that they are in a position to spread the strategic goals of companies to staff and secure their commitment to achieving them.» Such concerns will be be brought up for discussion at the seventh annual Human Resources Symposium organized by KPMG on January 28 and 29. More than 500 senior managers, including a good many representing well-known Greek and multinational firms, will meet to discuss strategies on specific hot issues. «Our aims are the constructive exchange of views, the dissemination of knowledge, and the recognition and rewarding of innovative initiatives, with three awards to firms that have distinguished themselves in human resource management,» says Constantellos, adding that companies which effectively invest in this field acquire a comparative advantage.