Article (October-2018)


Managers need to unlearn and relearn about real engagement

Shivaanii Agrawaal

Designation : -   Director HR

Organization : -  Homestead, Noida


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In a conservative working environment where open communication is not the standard, how do you encourage employee engagement?
SA It's mentioned rightly as many organisations have started by sole proprietorship and with their own set of learning to drive businesses wherein conservative approach is also seen. You can't see this in negative light only, any change is only possible either employer wants it or stakeholders involved in same business.
There are few approaches like to educate and train immediate managers to take up the task to deliver same information to encourage their subordinates to take up engagement process on a daily engagement basis, like quick 5 minutes get together before starting your day or a cup of morning coffee together. These are baby steps to initiate their engagement level from zero to one. On the other hand HODs will be engaged by HR on their one to one interaction related to employees' issues.
There are few more approaches to reach out your employees like organisation thought provoking sessions through chart making, song/poetry writing, skit presentation. One has to take management into confidence that these activities will not be contrary to the culture of the organization. It's essential for HR to be a bridge and work sensitively in such kind of organisations where most of the employee centric communication is not a welcome by the employer.
How do you see the challenges in the employee engagement space?
SA Any new activity at work place is a challenge for all but it's important how to strategise and put it in place without any negative impact. No manager initially agrees to allow HR partner to interact with their team on issues at workplace or any kind of survey which extract the knowledge about work life balance issue. Managers take it as their review and get uncomfortable. This filters to their teams and generally it turns out a cold process.
Even team also takes it as comparison with other departments and not come out with actual response that is also a challenge of this process.
Sometimes vertical heads don't consider such exercise useful in terms of work output and their behaviour about a happy team only leads to fortnight parties. Such challenges take lots of talks and negotiation to break the ice.
Challenge is not always because of employer and employee but sometimes engagement teams are not trained enough to play their role clearly. Sometimes there is a lack of clarity that why and how such activities help them to achieve work related goals. These challenges can be addressed in team discussion.
Even employees feel low to be a part of any activity due to target achievement as many activities are planned during weekends.
When you look at the last three years surge in technology, how do you see its impact on employee engagement?
SA I guess technology happens for best in any organization. This allows communication on a broader scale. HR department can plan their smallest activity on a larger platform with flooding emails, advertisement, contest, event, secret survey or random data collection etc.
This gives benefits to both sides of party specially manufacturing and production units wherein large number of employees are working, less time to spend on such activities at their work station. Employees can ask queries and gets clarification on instant basis to avoid any confusion.
Employer also agrees to do that without involving so many internal stakeholders.
It's a time saving and record maintaining too. Appreciation goes viral through communication.
Even after many changes, still no one can beat one to one or one to group interaction. Employee engagement team task gets tough but still holds importance more than earlier times. As many activities replaced by an email conversation but still employees look up for someone who can actually hear them out just for their concern, it may not be wrong to mention that employees really have issues related to work place and personal front and they seek help from their HR whether it's their designated person or higher managers.
Can you tell us about efforts undertaken by your organisation for employee engagement. What lessons have you learned so far?
SA In my learning wherever I worked it's a hand in hand activity. We have drafted policies and worked on change management with such activities. My personal experience says that if you 
plan it properly and involve immediate and superiors as third party reviews, it really works. We even come out with employee handbook through this process, inputs and reviews were of great help to maintain the mission and vision of the organisation.
It gives insight and learning along with the process and you get time to rectify your mistakes or process. It sometimes changes your thinking process that what we are planning for employees essentially, they don't need it on immediate basis and their demand from work place is different. It encourages us to keep new hired too in the team to address from bottom to top level.
Organising activity is not a sole task for HR. It takes lot of brainstorming and understanding to always be aligned with central line goals. HR sells concept to internal customers for achieving the larger goals. Creating committee to sort out confidential issues is also a very important role for any organisation. Many others including these activities were part of my work life journey.
What's your employee engagement roadmap for future?
SA Organisation has to take challenge of creating work life balance for employees. This is the first step to show your concern for your employees. If the basic idea to reach out somewhere is clear then it becomes easy to design a roadmap. My roadmap would be to start such small sessions which breaks late night routine for any organisation that not only makes you to complete your work on time but also motivates you to reach home and spend time with family or friends etc. On boarding should be an excellent experience not only for senior role but to all.
Safety and harassment should be considered equal for all genders. Issues should be addressed in the light to resolve it. I would definitely want that after maternity every woman should be provided with meaningful opportunity to add value with great confidence. Work place engagement is must for the organisation those who really meant it as one of the vital pillars of success.