In a conservative working environment where open communication is not the standard, how do you encourage employee engagement?
NS In a conservative working environment, the culture is averse to change or like status quo, usually don't trust change especially sudden change. In my view, these are those traditional businesses whose inherent nature cannot be changed or this is how they operate.
The best approach in such environment for employee engagement is to clearly define' Why they exist/purpose the Organisation and offer stability in job. Communicate job expectations; provide standard operating procedures to follow.
The expectation is 'follow what is required to be done'. 'Do the known' and 'do it more efficiently'. In this scenario, most important thing is to get the similar talent on board and in team so that they don't run away rather like to be in the organisation and enjoy their work.
Adding perspective from psychometric model of Thomas assessment, that people, who show characteristic like high on steadiness and compliance and low on dominance and Influence will enjoy such working environment and stay engaged.
The talent who is onboard will look for security and written guidelines to operate. If there is any change then that needs to be again clearly written to follow.
In such environment the biggest engagement factor is
(1) Provide job security and clear instructions to follow.
(2) Recognise the best outcomes based on expectations.
(3) Take enough time if introducing change so that everyone can absorb it. (4) Hire such people who would like to operate in such environment. Few examples where we see such job and talent exists are like traditional/handloom industry, textile, tea gardening etc.
How do you see the challenges in the employee engagement space?
NS The challenge in employee engagement space is majorly at two points - at the time of hiring and then retaining. While an organisation is searching talent the challenges they face are due to high bargaining power in the hands of job seekers, multiple job opportunities and organisation culture. This is outside - in perspective of a candidate when he/she is pursuing a job opportunity with an organisation. They look for 'best place to work for' in the pursuit of the same they pick multiple job offers, ensure they are landing at the right organisation which suits their requirement. That could be a preference related to job location, big organisation, healthy compensation, challenging assignment, title & above all superb work environment.
Even more critical aspect post hiring is to retain the top talent. The need of engagement changes at each stage of the employment, initially after joining they want to be accepted and seen as contributing to the assignments. After some time the need of engagement changes and it goes in various directions which is not limited to variety in the job, affiliations, well-being, onsite opportunities, promotion, lateral movement, change of manager or team, opportunities of two way communication, giving new ideas, autonomy at work, growing compensation, changing career aspirations, changing geo location preferences or need of flexibility etc.
Gallup's latest research shows that only 31% of employees are engaged at work (51% are disengaged and 17.5% actively disengaged).
For ensuring employee engagement an organisation needs to design engagement strategies around - providing meaningful work, variety in work, market deterrent compensation, long term career advancement, wellbeing and create open communication, belongingness and practice values to build trust and respect among employees.
When you look at the last three years surge in technology, how do you see its impact on employee engagement?
NS We are dealing with diversified workforce (age, geography, religion, nationalities, gender etc.) and the easiest way to handle is use technology and makes decisions to communicate better by just adding a workflow or purchase tool. There are various cloud based tools/software's available in the market today to pick the best suitable for their organisation.
An organisation needs technology for engagement related to -
- Promoting employer brand through social sites like LinkedIn, Owler, Glassdoor etc. and create visibility of the brand to current and prospective employees.
- Attracting talent - with the help of creative tools it is possible to post jobs to multiple job portals in one click, easy ways of tracking applications, actively engaging and communicating with the candidates and manage complete interview process online.
- Communicating and collaborating at work - tools enabled HR businesses processes for self-service support.
- Enabling organisations in managing entire performance cycle through online tool and easier ways of capturing peer or manager's feedback.
- Educating employees on various programs through such engagement tools and getting employees feedback through poll surveys, pulse surveys, engagement surveys to measure engagement.
- Collaborating through official networking sites like Yammer. Using shared locations for office files and docs on the go.
- Recognising employees on social platform - use tools for rewards and recognition program and given employees opportunity to appreciate peers.
- E-learning, webinars, live sessions have taken learning to next level with not so huge investment on travel for trainings all the time.
Technology has given opportunity to the organisation to enable two-way communication and correct the course to ensure they stay as 'Employer of Choice'.
Can you tell us about efforts undertaken by your organisation for employee engagement. What lessons have you learned so far?
NS With my experience for working with various organisations, I have seen that it is a critical decision to pick best tool/technology for HR business processes. With the more participation from employees we get to measure the effectiveness accurately.
There is no simple answer for 'employee engagement' it is a continuous process which involves conscious efforts by leadership & people managers in addition to HR to make it happen.
It starts with few questions like - why anyone will work for the Organisation, what are the offerings, what is the culture, why will someone continue working, what is the long-term career advancements etc.
No matter how beautiful or fancy or exhaustive are the HR policies, until we engage everyone in the process it will not come to life.
In my recent assignments with few organisations what helped in getting high engagement score is by working very closely with leadership and people managers on single messaging, clear communication and job expectations, practiced equality and some amount of autonomy at work, constantly keep developing people managers and employees on desired behaviours & use tools/techniques to work on HR business processes like performance management, get feedback from employees, stay focused on different themes of engagement throughout the year, use social platforms to stay connected with employees.
What's your employee engagement road map for future?
NS This is an area where one can keep doing innovation and stay creative to keep engaging employees. The reason we need to do this is because employees needs to associate themselves at work and with teams & leaders very clearly. Everyone would like to participate and contribute for the 'Purpose' and would like to be valued and respected at the workplace. The ultimate objective of employee engagement is to have 'A team players' in place who can achieve business objectives and stay the course. The future road map for employee engagement is to continue reviewing talent, keep building talent pipeline, effectively measure performance and set expectation at each level, 'listen' to employees to get their feedback. Keep an eye on market demands and talent availability internally vs externally. Also, keep an eye on innovation which can be used to simplify processes further and reach out to employees in more effective and methodical ways.
It is recommended to keep a theme or calendar for the year may be quarterly to stay focused on the long-term plan. Have a buy-in from leaders on the plan. Most importantly, keep monitoring progress through feedback mechanism. Be prepared to try new things.