Article (October-2018)

Articles

Practice agility to the ever-changing needs of employees

Samriti Malhotra

Designation : -   Associate Vice President

Organization : -  Global HRD, Denave, Noida

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?
SM Employee engagement is the quotient of commitment, involvement, and contribution that an employee showcases towards the organization's vision, mission & values. It is not limited only to happiness quotient or employee satisfaction, but, is the emotional connection and commitment that the employee feels towards the organization and is willing to go beyond the call of duty to contribute to organizational goals.
The benefits such as learning & career development opportunities, compensation - design & parity, work-life balance, autonomy, advocacy & recognition are some of the key drivers of "Employee Value Proposition". However, a strong foundation for employee engagement gets laid as & when the employee builds an emotional connection with the organization.
The emotional connect originates from the organizations' ability to influence the employees on three major aspects of workplace culture, even when open communication is not the standard. These are : "Camaraderie", "Empathy" & "Autonomy to unleash self-potential."
The employee engagement, in the conservative & traditional work environment, may be encouraged by inculcating spirit of "camaraderie". This creates a bond amongst the co-workers towards the shared vision or experience and a mutual trust, that is one of the key factors for teamwork. It becomes relatively easier to positively influence a larger workforce by creating brand ambassadors for higher employee engagement.
"Empathy" is a well - recognized at the workplace that influences & augments employee engagement. Empathy is the ability to understand and experience the others' emotions and respond with care to the same. Empathy at the workplace create long - lasting connects and relationships. The managers should make a deliberate attempt to deal with employees' feelings with genuine respect & care. This shall lead to a stronger bonding, engaged employees and, eventually, more productive workforce with a positive impact on business bottom-line.
"Autonomy to Unleash Self-Potential" is the differentiating factor that unites and inspires employees within an organization and is strongly connected to employee engagement. There is a majority of employees who believe that their freedom to unleash their creative potential is lacking in the current organization. Such employees are willing to act the same, not limiting to shift in the jobs, with employers who offer them a platform to voice out their opinions and take actions. The organization & its top management should start treating their employees central to the solution by lending a listening ear, adequate involvement and allow employees to add value through their experience, expertise, and ideas.
Needless to mention, "Communication" is a powerful tool for employee engagement, when combined with "Employee Value Proposition". It creates a positive influence for engaging the employees.
However, in conservative working environments, there are minimal communication channels available. Such scenarios primarily require a shift in thought process and change management that gets driven by the top management & leaders. HR, as the custodian, plays an important role towards creating the desired workplace culture for engaging employees.
How do you see the challenges in the employee engagement space? 
SM It has been established through various studies that employee engagement is one of the key imperatives for increasing productivity, improving overall performance & executing the business strategy & henceforth making the organizations successful.
Employee engagement, however, comes with its own challenges & barriers.
Lack of ownership & accountability by people managers still comes across as one of the biggest challenges in the employee engagement space. Most of the times, the accountability for driving employee engagement is left solely for HR rather than making it a business priority for the people managers. This leads to an inconsistent & half - hearted buy-in amongst the middle management who themselves may not be fully invested and engaged. The employee engagement needs to be envisaged as an equal priority with the business centricity with an equal ownership across management layers. HR plays a crucial role in standardizing & unifying all mediums, initiatives, people & processes with the overall agenda of employee engagement.
Inadequate & ineffective employee communication leads to unclear or diluted messaging, leaving the employees in a state of disengagement with the organization. It is important to have easily accessible communication channels, charting out clear directions on organizations' vision, values, and goals to do away the feeling of uncertainty amongst the employees. The failure to set up robust internal communication platforms restrains the information authenticity and accessibility to the employees and creates a disconnect with the organization.
The absence of mutual trust & facetime is responsible for abolishing employees' emotional connect, involvement and longevity in the organization. Mutual trust is an important element of employee engagement. This gets manifested through employees' real-time experience, positive reinforcement & leadership practices on the propagated organization values. Mutual trust & facetime with the managers serve as a foundation for nurturing the workplace relationships & inspiration to the employees. The sheer absence of facetime to offer positive feedback, guiding & coaching leads to demotivated employees.
Diverse workforce with different expectations also contributes to new age challenges in employee engagement wherein "One size fits no one". Workforce diversity has taken a drastic leap wherein there is a constant effort going in managing the multi - faceted engagement drivers to instill a sense of purpose and value addition towards achieving organizational goals. The organizations are encountering the challenge with respect to not only retaining employees but also engaging them fully. Hence, it is becoming imperative to have a thought through "Diversity & Inclusion" agenda and capture the minds and hearts of its diverse workforce at every phase of their work lives to keep it engaged.
Looking at the last three years in the context of technology surge, how it has impacted the employee engagement?
SM Technology surge has had a huge impact on employee engagement. With the persuasive positioning of employee engagement, the organizations are now turning to technology tools to create a predictive analysis for decision making and proactive measures. The tedious task of measuring the employee engagement has become simpler, more comprehensive & on the real-time basis by technology. There are multiple applications & products that allow the managers to get the real-time data and insights on what their employees are feeling. This has helped the organizations to be agiler and customize their initiatives in alignment to the employees' expectations.
The Internet, mobile devices, and cloud technologies are helping businesses with continuous connect even when employees are working remotely. The organizations are focusing on employee value proposition in alignment to ever-changing workplace dynamics. The newer technologies such as virtual workplaces are harnessing people - focused culture with high levels of employee engagement.
However, technology may be used as just the medium or tool, but not the absolute solution or answer to employee engagement. At the end of the day, additional efforts and initiatives shall need to be put in place to touch the emotional chord or build a connection with employees for a long-term association and desired value-add for a positive impact on the business performance.
Interestingly, the cognizant application of technology breakthroughs in employee engagement arena shall establish its manifestation as "Boon" or "Bane". After all, it is about managing human emotions to derive conducive behaviors.