HR Pulse Survey

Stephen Quick
Director, Human Resource Consulting
PricewaterhouseCoopers in Russia

The past year has been a tough time for Russian HR. It has been dominated by the need to reduce costs; head count reductions, pay freezes and recruitment cuts have ruled the agenda of HR professionals. Cost-cutting measures reached their peak in late 2008 and early 2009, but in recent months a measure of confidence seems to have reappeared as a fragile economic recovery begins. As an example of this, a survey PricewaterhouseCoopers carried out in the Russian financial services sector in March 2009 indicated that only 41 percent of companies expected to give pay rises this year but this had increased to 59 percent by July. The effects of the last year are still being felt by many companies however; only 28 percent of large Russian companies we surveyed expected to increase pay for senior executives, and this was a decrease from 33 percent in March 2009.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has recently carried out a CEE/CIS HR Pulse Survey, which provides a regional snapshot of HR actions taken during this difficult year, covering almost 600 companies in 20 countries in CEE and CIS (including 148 Russian companies representing various industries).

Among other things, the survey shows that 73 percent of companies across the region are expecting head count to remain static or increase in the next six months. And almost 55 percent expect base pay to have increased in 2009. The data illustrates that the downturn has affected companies across the region consistently, and differences are generally more pronounced along industry sector lines, rather than geography. For example, the industrial and publishing sectors have been more affected than others: 43 percent and 45 percent respectively have cut head count, compared with 21 percent in pharmaceuticals.

However, there are some regional differences revealed by the research, including:

• Companies in Central Europe have taken more drastic measures regarding head count: 35 percent have reduced employee numbers compared with 28 percent in Russia and 19 percent in other CIS countries;

• Russian companies appear least likely to promote more employees this year than companies in any other part of the CEE/CIS region; only 9 percent expect this, compared with up to 16 percent in other parts of the region.

Overall, the survey gives reason to believe that companies are carrying on with business as usual and looking forward to the upturn, having largely moved on from the “survival” focused behaviors of the last 12 months.

The survey also indicated that across the region, over 40 percent of companies are concerned about the impact of head count reductions and other cost-cutting measures on their reputation amongst employees. In the light of this sense of disengagement amongst employees, companies seeking to gain market share as they grow out of the downturn will need to focus on investing in what is their most valuable asset: their people. There is currently growing interest amongst employers in the areas of performance management, training and development and talent management. Those companies that get these key areas of people management right at this stage may find that they benefit from enhanced business success in the coming years.