Article (October-2018)

Articles

Develop ecosystem of empowered teams in a decentralized command environment

Debjani Roy

Designation : -   Chief People Officer

Organization : -  SRL Diagnostics, Gurgaon

01-Oct-2018

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In a conservative working environment where open communication is not the standard, how do you encourage employee engagement?
DR Organisations have to understand that employee engagement can be a powerful factor in your business success. Engaged employees are more productive, customer - focused, and profit - generating and employers are more likely to retain them. Also, employee engagement is not about Human Resources, but a key strategic initiative that drives employee performance, accomplishment, and continuous improvement all year long. The employer's responsibility therefore, is to create a culture and an environment that is conducive to employees making the choices that are good for your business.
It is a fact that free-flowing and effective communication is the backbone of any environment or culture that encourages employee engagement. But if that was not to be - then other ways in which one might be able to encourage engagement in an otherwise conservative environment are :
a) First and foremost - to have committed effective Managers in the system who actively promote and use 'engagement' as an integral part of their business strategy.
b) Managers who measure employee performance and hold employees accountable.
c) Managers who would pursue employee development, required to ensure success.
d) Those who would make commitments to the employee (in times, tool, attention, reinforcement, trainings etc.) towards keeping the employee engaged over a long haul, because they sincerely and fundamentally believe that no other no other strategy would produce similar success.
Besides the above, other factors that could work well in a communication - deprived, conservative work environment would be :
  • Effective recognition and reward system.
  • Frequent feedback from one's manager (different from routine communication) that assures the employee that he is valued.
  • Shared values and guiding principles, since engaged employees thrive in an environment that reinforces their most deeply held values and beliefs.
  • Demonstrated respect, trust, and emotional intelligence. Employee's direct supervisors need to demonstrate that they are personally interested in and care about their employees.
  • And finally, positive relationships with co-workers.
Ultimately, employees in an organisation stay and feel engaged, only when role clarity exists for them, there is satisfaction in the jobs they do, they feel empowered, there's care that they sense from their managers, there are learning opportunities available for them, there's fun too at the work-place and last but not the least from any count - see their purpose in the organisation aligned to the overall organisation's goals and objectives. And all of these go much beyond having just effective communication in place.
How do you see the challenges in the employee engagement space?
DR "An engaged employee is an emotionally invested one."
We have often all heard of the above saying, which in short means that people are not machines who can be 'engineered' into doing things.
Along with the traditional bottom line, companies have a second bottom line, namely return on human investment that advances a larger purpose beyond just making money. A motivating 'reason why' we exist, why we do what we do, and why we come to work every day. That 'reason why' is the intrinsic motivator that people need in work as well as in life. It comes from great branding, and it's what drives high employee engagement and retention. And no, it's not a token mission and vision statement stuck in a framed poster in reception. It starts at the top and is lived and breathed by every person at every level. This is so-called "soft stuff" - human energy, commitment, passion, enthusiasm, devotion - and it's what makes the difference between good and great; between growing 3% and 10%; between being on budget and on fire. That's the biggest challenge of all.
Having said that, what else could be the challenges to employee engagement?
I outline the same here in the form of rhetorical questions that are probably self-explanatory.
a) What are your employees engaged to?
b) Who are your employees engaged to?
c) How are successes, challenges and changes communicated across your organisation?
d) How will employees adapt to new opportunities and stay current in their thinking?
e) Do your employees trust your leaders? Why should they?
f) How do you know that you're succeeding?
g) How do you understand and motivate yourself and others?
h) Are your employees encouraged to work as a team?
i) Are your teams the most efficient and effective they can be? And finally …..
j) What's right for your organisation? One size fits no one.
It is in the answers to the above questions that the real challenges to employee engagement lie.
The 4 key pillars otherwise, on which employee engagement stands strong are namely communication, trust, growth opportunities and Feedback. And striking the right balance in all four and making them tangible to the employees goes a long way in overcoming the above challenges in a sustainable manner.
When you look at the last three years surge in technology, how do you see its impact on employee engagement?
DR The Internet, mobile devices and cloud technologies are allowing businesses and employees to connect more than ever before - even when out of the office.
With organisational employee - value proposition and a people - focused culture cited as the top employee engagement drivers, it's not surprising that companies are adapting their work cultures to cater to the ever - changing demands of employees and the new dynamics of the workplace. Fortunately, there are new technologies that can help businesses bring some flexibility into the traditional office, promoting a people - focused culture and foster high levels of employee engagement.
What role does technology play in the effort to increase employee engagement? Today, vendors of gamification systems, social recognition tools and collaboration platforms often cite boosting employee engagement as a key value proposition of their products. However, because employee engagement springs from complex feelings that are difficult to engender simply by implementing a system, such as enablement and sense of autonomy and purpose, organizations should first strive to create an open, collaborative culture that fosters these values. Thereafter, technology and culture can support each other in a symbiotic manner. For example, the success of an enterprise social networking platform can both benefit from and enable transparent communication. Even something as seemingly mundane as a labour - scheduling system can have an impact on employee engagement because it supports a culture of workplace flexibility. Flexibility is a component of employee satisfaction and engagement, - so even a technology like that can be an important tool in an overall employee engagement strategy.
Social recognition systems are top of mind for many organizations today, to demonstrate to employees that their contributions are meaningful and valuable. They are a great way to help foster employee engagement, to drive visibility, start shifting the culture from being a closed door, manager-to-employee communication style to a transparent peer-to-peer culture of continuous recognition. Another example could be implementing gaming tools into the Company's rewards and recognition program.
However, the fact remains that it takes more than technology to make an employee engagement initiative successful. Technology is only an enabler of engagement and certain initiatives, but engagement generally stems from the specific actions of supervisors and managers that are not directly tied to technology.
Can you tell us about efforts undertaken by your organisation for employee engagement? What lessons have you learned so far?
DR Today more than ever, organizations rely on the energy, commitment and engagement of their workforce in order to survive and thrive in the twenty-first century. And SRL is no different. 
SRL Diagnostics is the industry leader in the field of Diagnostic services, rendering yeoman service in the fields of Pathology and Radiology as an integral part of Health-care. The reason for our leadership has been the fact that we have ecosystems of empowered teams that are fully engaged and working in a 'decentralized command' environment - meaning that they are emotionally invested in committing their time, talent and energy in adding value to their team and advancing the organization's initiatives.
Efforts made by the organisation to create an environment as above have been multi-fold. They include :
i) Ensuring that there is work clarity amongst employees which leads to them feeling satisfied and empowered.
ii) Providing employees with resources and learning opportunities that help delivery and success.
iii) Make available opportunities to those deserving; assist others to come up-speed to the same.
iv) Ensure that there exists a culture that encourages equal amount of healthy praise and recognition to those deserving, while at the same time, positive criticism to those who need the same.
v) There is trust - building consciously happening through interventions in work relationships - boss-subordinate, peers, leadership-employee mass etc.
vi) People's voices are heard through structured as well as non-structured mediums.
vii) In various ways, employees see and feel alignment to what they are expected to do to what the Organisation needs, as well as stands for.
viii) Make available developmental inputs that allow for both professional as well as personal development.
All the above are facilitated through learning & development initiatives, multiple communication activities, Trust building and feedback interventions, culture building initiatives, CSR, and last but not the least - pure fun at work sometimes. Interventions and facilitations happen through internal resources as well as external SMEs. Mentoring, coaching and communicating are considered lifelines at SRL - that help create the adhesive that holds employee engagement together.
But above all, the biggest learning one has had in all of the above is that the manager remains the catalyst for active engagement to happen. Irrespective of what the organisation does, it is the people - supervisor who sets the norms, walks the talk and takes people along in the journey of pride and belonging for their company. That is a common thread that is echoed by all at SRL - whether top management, whether human resources or line functionaries.
What's your employee engagement road map for future?
DR One that is a congruent 'whole' consisting of many parts, such as:
  • More and more employee exposure to enterprise social networking platform - whereby an extraordinary working experience is created for them. An intranet can be the backbone of a business, if it's done right. It should focus on the needs of people - provide an enjoyable experience, relevant content, and an easy way to connect. New platforms are designed to enrich the employee experience. Various niche software can be further attached, like surveys, quizzes and quests to make things more exciting.
  • Providing instant messaging tools which can help start a one-to-one, group, team, or org-wide chat. That would help employees stay connected across locations and up-to-date on projects. Easily connect all of our people, irrespective of role or work-sites.
  • Consider 'engagement' as a dynamic force, and not an event. Ensure that as an organisation we are listening, responding, measuring, reporting and adapting. Focus on changing behaviours, processes and systems - not just messages or programs.
  • Fuel trust and credibility at every stage, knowing that transparency and authenticity leads to relevance and impact.
  • Not consider engagement as too serious a strategy - but allow Gamification, humour, and originality - that would make content more compelling.
  • Would be absolutely open to customize, localise for relevance - using data, input to segment and personalised outreach.
  • Build on existing DNA; foster through recruitment.
  • Drive the complete value-chain of engagement through :
  • Internal Branding - Execute compelling campaigns to illustrate, celebrate and recognise identity and DNA. Consider using staff - generated stories and content.
  • Trans-media storytelling - Develop original multi-media narrative content that details company vision, strategy and developments. Strive to use innovative, intuitive technology and interactive platforms.
  • Crowd sourcing Innovation - Boost participation and interest by involving staff in finding solutions to company challenges. Have employees rank, refine and manage best solutions and
  • Real-time Surveys - Use frequent, online surveys to gauge engagement, cultural alignment. Leverage data to drive hiring, manager outreach and workplace policies.