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Employee engagement: A leadership priority

A leadership priority is emerging how to improve employee engagement within companies: There have been disquieting developments in recent times. All over the world, good employee policies exist in the manuals. However, the management capability to engage with the work orce and to implement the policies humanely is under pressure. !n his book The !dea o "ustice, #ro Amartya $en re ers to the two !ndian philosophical concepts o %iti and %yaya. %iti relates to the policies, principles and institutions o &ustice while the %yaya re ers to the actual delivery o &ustice. The ormer is committed to better &ustice, while the latter is deeply concerned with the prevention o in&ustice. #revention o in&ustice is very di erent rom pursuit o per ect &ustice. They are two sides o the same coin, but their value perception is di erent. $o ar as the !ndian legislative ramework is concerned, laws pertaining to worker relations have or long needed to be updated. 'abour re orms have been widely discussed, but the sub&ect remains on the pending agenda. However, at the irm level, managers can act on remedying the nyaya perceived by the employees in the employee(employer relation) its practice can be modernised by orward( looking managements. This requires special e ort by company leaders. *vidence o pressure: +onsider the evidence that employees do su er rom a eeling o un air treatment, resulting in desperation and depression among employees o both developed and emerging markets. ,ell(known -rench companies such as -rance Telecom, .enault, #eugeot and */- have experienced increasing suicides among workers in the last two years. The cynic may observe that the -rench suicide rate is generally high compared to 0ritain, 1ermany and the 2$. That is true. However, even in the 2$, the rate o suicides has increased by 345 in the last two years. *mployees eel that they are expected to o er loyalty to their employer, but they do not receive an equal commitment rom the employer to protect their &obs. 6anagers are so ocused on corporate survival that they seem to have a limited bandwidth to attend to the employees7 eeling o in&ustice. *mployees everywhere say that they are 7in distress7 or that they are 7stressed out7. $urveys in the 2$ over the last ew years show that indices like 7loyalty7 and 7trust7 have collapsed rom the 485 levels to 985 levels. 6ore than hal the respondents eel a sense o stagnation and disinterest in their work. The recession has increased uncertainty simultaneously with a perceived 7onslaught7 by managers to increase work orce productivity.

All in all, in the developed countries, permanent workers are unhappy and are disenchanted with both their work and their employers7 attitude. Temporary workers too have their own grievances. !n $outh :orea, industrial action by temporaries has been experienced at $sangyong and /onghee. !n "apan, the president o .engo has stated his disapproval o ;temporaries being treated the same as robots;. !n !ndia too, we have witnessed hyper cases o industrial action recently. A ter many decades o relative labour tranquillity, company executives have been killed at 1ra<ino in the north and #ricol in the south. $trikes have occurred at 1urgaon(6anesar, +hennai and +oimbatore. *mployees in the emerging markets are deeply concerned about in lation, ood and security. #rices o essential commodities have already increased sharply. -ood experts predict that the rise in ood prices is only the beginning o a serious, new threat. .ichard Henry, chie economist at !-+7s agribusiness department, believes that ;last year7s ood crisis was a airly small one and was cut short by the global inancial crisis the next one is bound to be more prolonged;. !n emerging countries, such orecasts cause very deep concerns. 2niversally, employees are a worried lot. All o these are alarming trends and need to be taken seriously. $olutions must be ound and implemented at the irm level. ,ithin the irm, it must be ocused upon at the departmental level and at the level o the individual relationship. *mployees eel engaged or disengaged at the transactional level within departments. A irm(level approach: 6anagers must consider a our(pronged approach: l -irst, the sub&ect o employee engagement needs to be driven down the company by the +*=. ! think there is a general lack o awareness o the problem down the line. !t is also mixed up with the general economic downturn. #oor employee engagement, it must be clearly understood, is a precursor to some other problem which is brewing. That is why there needs to be top(level engagement. ! enough employees eel disengaged, the consequences will certainly be disruptive. =perating managers have to act. !t cannot be le t to the H. department.

3Cs of employee engagement: Career, competence and care


Ask any H. manager about employee engagement and pat comes a ready list o actions: o site parties and picnics, birthdays and anniversaries cricket matches, qui<<es and painting competitions, cultural estivals. -riday bashes etc. ! was most surprised when a riend pointed me to the ollowing excerpt rom *xpress +omputers >"uly 38?8@: ;,hen $ergey 0rin and 'arry #age had to select a che or their 1oogle campus they interviewed 3A candidates be ore settling on +harlie Ayers. -or a company ounded by two mathematicians who owe their stupendous success to a culture o innovation and creativity, they understood early that it was employee engagement that set them apart rom the thousands o other technology companies. -ree, healthy and well cooked ood was a key ingredient o its employee engagement strategy. The day the company went public the celebration was not a series o senior management speeches about its vision and bright uture ( but a ree ice cream station or employees.; ! have no quarrel with 1oogle or its ounders. However, ! certainly have di iculty in understanding how good ood improves employee engagement. ! am sure neither $ergey nor 'arry said this ( but it is the writer o this article who has attributed this great wisdom to them. !n most companies, engagement is >mis@understood as having un and ood. The unsaid message is: work is boring and pain ul. 'et7s have some un and atone or the sin o asking people to work. !n this context, there are two strong workplace myths that have come to stay in !ndia !nc. >?@ ,ork can7t be un and we must there ore have un ( separately at work >B@. ,orse still, >3@ employees will be engaged i we create a lot o un at work. -or now, let me talk about the second myth ( though, the irst one is another serious problem. "ust a little enquiry ( beyond popular myths ( will reveal that engagement is a serious topic. !t re ers to employees being involved with and enthusiastic about their work and the company. *ngaged employees have a positive emotional attachment with their work and talk positively about it to others. This state o satis action, passion and commitment clearly can7t be achieved by 7bribing7 employees through ood and un events. 'et me propose 9 +s >! hate to do this, but ound it easy to communicate in the ormulae( in ested corporate worldB@ to gain true employee engagement: +areer: The opportunity to grow career through promotions, rotations and signi icant assignments is the most important need o employees. ! the company and its managers spend meaning ul and genuine time in helping employees grow their careers ( employees

will de initely eel engaged. !ncidentally, i because o your attention employees grow wings and ly away to another company, it7s ine. !n a growth market ull o opportunities you cannot, in any case, keep employees arrested. However, i you truly invest in careers o your employees they will stay engaged or the time they are with you ( breeding enthusiasm and good will. +ompetence: ,hile career is about the actual growth, competence is about the ability to grow. =pportunities to learn and apply the learning in real li e tasks grows competence. And most employees are looking or competence(boosting opportunities. They would like to stretch, learn and improve as long as they eel they are growing marketable skills. *mployees who know that their current &obs are helping them become competent or uture &obs will stay engaged. +are: +aring is a ine art that requires managers to be sensitive, empathetic and spontaneous. +aring is experienced by the small day(to(day gestures o managers >not by grand policies o the company@. Are you sensitive to the 7mood7 o your employeeC /oes your employee share with you that her child is sick or he has to attend a parentDteacher meetingC /o you volunteer some time o during those timesC /o you know their workloadC Are you doing something about easing their stressC There are many daily gestures that comprise caring ( which no ma&or investment in swanky gyms and ood courts can substitute. +aring is a culture that good companies oster through a set o sensitive managers who balance tasks well with relationships. !ncidentally, sometimes un and ood(based entertainment helps express caring. Thus entertainment is perhaps A5 o engagement. And genuine caring deepens engagement. "ust as band, baa&aa and baaraat does not equate wedding, un, rolic and entertainment can not create sustainable employee engagement. !ts time we got serious with employees. Chandrasekhar Sripada (The author is VP and head, HR at IBM India, South Asia )

What India could teach the world about employee engagement


How do you engage a pro essor who has written a text book on strategyC 6ultinational strategy, diversi ication strategy, competitive advantage in tech industries versus mature industries, cost versus di erentiation advantage these are all chapters rom .obert 1rant7s +ontemporary $trategy Analysis, now in its seventh reprint, and he can talk at length on all o them. $o much wisdom, but so little time. $o we take the sa est route we can think o and ask the learned 0ritish pro essor about the latest trends in strategic management. %ot surprisingly, 1rant sees the management o complexity as the irst ma&or trend in strategic thinking. ;The world today is a complex, interconnected system where the e ects o ar away events are ampli ied,; he says. ;$tarting with the dotcom bust and ED?? to the inancial crash o 3884 and the Arab $pring, this century has seen a series o ma&or crises and the turbulence will continue. !n such a time, corporates can no longer make detailed plans. 0ut paradoxically, they now need a cognitive strategy ramework more than ever.; 1rant, who is #ro essor o strategic management at 0occoni 2niversity in 6ilan earlier headed by !taly7s economist prime minister 6ario 6onti has always stressed the competitive aspect o strategy, describing it as a game organisations play. +ompetition provides the rationale or strategy and companies play to win. 0ut with many unpredictable external events now playing an important role, 1rant says, ;$trategy is also about indentity. !t is about knowing who you are as a company, de ining your capabilities and then exploiting them to achieve competitive advantage. The worst thing you can do is to try and model yoursel on the most success ul organisation or person you know.; %ational culture, says 1rant, is an important part o organisational identity and !ndian companies should leverage this as much as possible. "ust as :ai<en, lean production and total quality management were all a part o the "apanese Fen tradition, !ndia7s high spirituality quotient can perhaps play a role in corporate culture. ;!ndia7s contribution to management won7t be something obvious like a technique,; says 1rant. ;0ut the country can show the way by meshing its inherent spirituality with everyday work(li e rather than keep these in separate compartments. This gives people a sense o social purpose. !t helps them reach their ull potential as workers and managers.; ,estern researchers have studied the most success ul +hinese corporates and have ound they have little to o er in terms o management insights. 1rant believes !ndia is di erent in that its best organisations seem to have that little something that makes them engaging places to work. -or example, he believes the 7!ndian mindset7 is what made or the Tata7s turnaround o 'and .over in 0ritain. ;They did a better &ob o engaging the managers

and workers at 'and .over. The world over, the biggest challenge companies ace is engaging their people. And !ndian business houses like the Tatas and !n osys seem to do it very well. !s this something academicians should researchC The &ury is still out on that one,; he says. 1rant, who is in 6umbai to teach a course at the newly established 6!$0 0occoni $chool o 6anagement in #owai, believes there are also some things about !ndian culture that corporates need to ignore. $ocial strati ication and power distance, or example. ;The culture in !ndian !T companies, like !n osys, is very egalitarian. Goung people are encouraged to challenge their bosses, which goes against !ndian culture, but they do it,; he says. ,hich brings us to what 1rant believes is the second ma&or trend in strategic research today the study o leadership. The earlier dys unctional ocus on individual leaders has gone out o vogue, thanks to the work done by the likes o "im +ollins. 'eadership is now being seen as acilitating the evolution o the organisation, which has none o the +*= hubris that accompanied the earlier description. ;=ne o the eatures o a complex, modern(day corporation is that no one knows how it works, not even the +*=,; says 1rant. Another interesting area o strategy research that 1rant mentions is the management o real options. -rom the Tatas and 0irlas to the Ambanis and 6ahindras, this is a strategy that many !ndian business houses have deployed to move into new areas like de ense, telecom and retail. 1rant gives the example o 1oogle, which has adopted a strategy o regularly going into new areas like the android system and the 1oogle +hrome browser.

ull Engagement: !hree steps to sol"ing the employee turno"er problem


According to a recent article in The *conomic Times, !ndia is ;in the eye o an employee turnover storm.; ,ith a pro&ected employee turnover rate o 3H.E5 or 38?9, !ndia will lead the world in employee turnover. .ecruiting and training replacement employees is expensive and has a signi icant negative impact on a company7s bottom line. High employee turnover also damages the morale o the employees who remain thus making them less productive which urther erodes the bottom line. 6ost experts agree that the key to solving this turnover problem is or businesses to improve their level o employee engagement. *ngaged employees are not only more productive but they tend to stay where they are. These same experts, however, come up short when it comes to dispensing concrete advice on what a business needs to do to improve employee engagement. .ecently, ! completed a study o a number o companies that have a high level o employee engagement. $everal o these companies, like 1oogle, !ntel, 6arriott Hotels and $A$ !nstitute, have a presence in !ndia. These companies are doing well and their turnover rate is very low. ,hat7s interesting is that when you take a close look at these companies, you soon reali<e they are all ollowing the same leadership process. !t7s a process ! call The *ngagement -ormula and here7s how it works: Step #ne: Create a ull$Engagement Culture that %efines the #rgani&ation and %ri"es 'erformance A ())$E*+A+E,E*! C()!(-E .AS #(- /ASIC E)E,E*!S: 6inimal /istractions(so employees can ocus on per orming their &obs. ! employees aren7t making enough money to support themselves or i they7re concerned with being laid o , they become distracted and are unable to ocus their ull energies on per orming their &ob. This is why businesses with a high level o employee engagement such as $A$, !ntel and 1oogle !ndia o er compensation packages that are at or above industry levels, airly generous bene its, a &ob that is reasonably secure and a work environment that7s pleasant. $ingle $tatus(*veryone is Treated as an *qual Human beings are genetically wired to be treated as equals, not as subordinates or second class citi<ens. As such, they deeply resent being ordered them around, belittled or talked down to. This is why companies with high levels o employee engagement like 6arriott Hotels and 1oogle re er to their employees as ;associates; or ; ellow 1ooglers.; 6ission(this is what we do. A mission is a brie statement o what a business does or stands or. %early every business has one, either expressly stated or implied. -or example, the mission o 6arriott Hotels !ndia is, ;To be the I? hospitality company in the world.; This says that 6arriott ! n t e r (national is continually striving to be the best at what it does in the entire world. A mission, by itsel , may not seem all that pro ound,

but when combined with a set o core values, these two concepts together can trans orm a workplace into something that employees believe in and are proud o . +ore values(this is how we do it. +ore values communicate how the employees within an organi<ation are going to go about the business o executing its mission. As pointed out above, the mission at 6arriott Hotels !ndia is, ;To be the I? hospitality company in the world.; 6arriott has developed these core values that de ine how the company will go about executing its mission: #ut #eople -irst, #ursue *xcellence, *mbrace +hange, Act with !ntegrity and $erve =ur ,orld. These represent behavioral expectations or the employees o 6arriott Hotels !ndia and thus direct their e orts toward the goals o the organi<ation. ,hen a set o core values is in place and everyone in the business is committed to them, employees no longer need a boss to tell them what to do and how to do it. Step !wo: .ire #nly 0ualified 'eople Who ,esh With the Culture +ompanies with a high level o employee engagement are extremely disciplined about using their culture as the primary criterion or hiring new employees. !n order or employees to become engaged with their work, there must be a tight it between those individuals and the mission and core values o the organi<ation. ,hat this means is that i a perspective employee can7t get excited about #ursuing *xcellence, *mbracing +hange and Acting with !ntegrity, than 6arriott is not the workplace or them to thrive in. Step !hree: )eaders ,ust )ead, *ot +i"e #rders !n a high(engagement organi<ation, there is no need or leaders to tell their ollowers what to do and how to do it. !nstead leaders set the example, provide support and do whatever it takes to enable his or her ollowers to do their best work. ! companies in !ndia would ollow The *ngagement -ormula, they will have created a work environment where all employees, including millennials, can thrive. -ollowing the ormula will not only make businesses more success ul, they will become magnets or attracting the best talent. Dr. Ross Reck is author of "The Engagement Formula", "Destination Work", REVVED! , The Win-Win Negotiator

,anagers practice position$ship rather than leadership


NEW DELHI: E !"o#ee en$a$e ent %o es &ro the 'ua"it# o& ana$ers an or$anisation has, sa#s (urt (o&& an, )or*!"a%e %onsu"tant, +usiness s%ientist, and E,e%uti-e .e""o) at the Danie"s S%hoo" o& Business/ He is in India &or 0.irst, Peo!"e 12310, an HR %on&eren%e or$anised +# SHRM India, a su+sidiar# o& the The So%iet# &or Hu an Resour%e Mana$e ent, )here he ta"*s a+out the !o)er o& %o""a+oration and e er$in$ trends in the )or*!"a%e/ In an intera%tion )ith ET, (o&& an ta"*s a+out e !"o#ee en$a$e ent/ !: .ow can organisations build highly engaged workforce1 What2s the role of managers therein1 -irstly, organisations need to stop measuring and start building. 6ost companies have become very good at measuring the engagement levels o the work orce. However, they do not take the next step to discover ways to build these engagement levels. At the organisation level, we can measure as much we want but, a ter engagement levels have been measured, the ocus needs to be on changing behaviours and building an engaged work orce. .ight now, organisations simply do surveys every three weeks but its ocus washes away until next year. !t is the role o the manager to keep in ormation and dialogue about engagement active over the course o the year. To build a highly engaged team, the quality o managers that an organisation puts in ront o their people is important. There are many ways that one can become a manager on the career ladder. However, &ust because you have achieved one rung on the ladder does not necessarily mean that the next rung will make you a manager as you may not have the same talent. !t is extremely important to put managers in the right place because we know that engagement comes rom the local work units and the quality o managers an organisation has. Another way to build an engaged work orce is to have a di erent manager development approach. To build engagement, a manager does not need to work only on the big changes) rather, they can start by tackling bite si<e pieces o their managerial approach. -or example, how a manager introduces an employee during a meeting also plays a role in engagement. An employee may be introduced in a lat way during the meeting as compared to an employee who can be introduced in a vibrant and vigorous way which may increase the sel con idence and the engagement o the employee.

E!: What are the mistakes managers make when it comes to keeping their teams engaged1 =ne mistake is that managers practice position(ship rather than leadership. They ocus on constituency, the people they need the most and depend on, only caring about how they are viewed by the leaders above them, thereby ollowing position(ship. 6anagers orget what it was like to be an employee and the qualities important or managers to have. Also, managers need to maintain strong relationships with the people they manage. ,e o ten hear ( /on7t get too close to your managersDemployees as you may lose ob&ectivity, which is alse. !n act, you gain to communicate e ectively and have a meaning ul relationship. E!: What are the warning signs for an organisation that engagement le"els of the workforce are coming down1 /rop in energy levels at your workplace. !s your workplace energised, is it un, do people look orward to coming to workC =r is your workplace always serious, slower in pace and lacks motivationC Another sign is when there are more people who are saying why they can7t do things vs what they can do. -or example, when there is a new idea, there are more people against it than or it. ,hen people in the organisation become sceptical to adopt new ways, it is a sign o lowered engagement. E!: What should managers do when they see engagement le"els slipping1 .ow can organisations help1 The irst thing that managers need to do is to have a transparent conversation with the team. The power o dialogue is most power ul and the most underutilised thing that a manger does. The manager needs to talk to the team, about the team, bring issues out in the open because long(term disengagements are caused by people who cannot move out o problem mode and get into the solution mode. A manager needs to ask people or help and not shy away rom it. As humans, when we are asked or help, the best o us comes to the sur ace. Thus managers need to address the issue head on, ask or help and expect solutions rather than urther problems.

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