Lead Capability and Development
AstraZeneca Pharma India Ltd
An Engaged Workforce– Technology is the game changer for HR
Terms like HRIS, LMS is no longer just HR lingo or jargon.Most corporate executives seem to be well versed with it. It gives a bare glimpse of how techno powered today’s HR work is.
Organizations today want to be fast paced in their approach to business and decision making.
Technology has played an instrumental role in helping organizations achieving this major aim. From emails to MIS , technology has made it possible for businesses to get quick access to information required for decision making
Kusnet, almost sums up what a formidable number of employees feel about their jobs. Human Resource executives in most companies today are having to work with employee engagement issues as commonly and frequently as they would with training and development or compensation and benefits. At a time when employeeengagement is gaining center stage, it is time for the human resource fraternity to take an inside out look at the challenge at hand and consider some out of the box approaches.
What really is the challenge?
Most companies believe that keeping employees engaged is critical to high performance. In recent studies conducted by Hay Group, a global management consulting firm, it was derived that high levels of employee engagement can boost revenue growth by up to two and a half times.
Companies like Sears, Best Buy and J.C Penny have correlated their increase in revenues to an increased level in employee engagement.
The Malcom Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, which sees participation from many companies, also has “Workforce Engagement” as one of their 7 categories.
However many survey results suggest that employee engagement has seen a continuous downtrend in the recent years.
A recent study by MSW Research and Dale Carnegie training suggests that only 29% of employees are fully engaged while 26% are disengaged. Human resource executives along with senior management of most companies are constantly identifying new themes to work upon to improve the engagement levels of employees. This also does not seem to be a concern faced by few sectors or industries. In fact companies across sectors and industries haverecently witnessed an alarming dip in employee engagement levels worldwide.
According to Mercer’s 2012 “Attrition and Retention Survey” almost twice as many organizations today (24% versus 13%) are reporting reduced levels of employee engagement compared to two years ago.
Gallup’s Research conducted in 2012, which saw a participation of a 1.4 million employees, from 192 organizations, highlights that employee engagement strongly relates to keyorganizational outcomes invariable of economic climate. Even during difficult economic times, employee engagement is a competitive differentiator for organizations.
In short the employee engagement challenge staring in the face of the human resource community worldwide seems to be a large and ever increasing one.
Top drivers of employee engagement
Employee Engagement is found to be driven by various factors. When we consider employees of an organization at large, these drivers could be as varied as the organization’s culture, dynamics at the workplace owing to the kind of industry, leadership, clarity of job role, career growth options, reward and recognition practices, highly competitive compensation and benefits packages available in the market, opportunities of travel and exposure to world cultures, competence development initiatives, value for employee opinion, participation in decision making etc
The study by MSW Research and Dale Carnegie training threw up three top drivers to employee engagement namely:
- Relationship with immediate supervisor
- Belief in senior leadership
- Pride in working for the company
Branding and corporate communications in companies are now being given a lot of importance due to its role in employee engagement and talent attraction.
Key findings from the 2013 Employee EngagementResearch Update report from Blessing Whitestate that clarity on the organization’s priorities, getting feedback, having opportunities to use skills, and career development are the key drivers.
Apart from these industry wide surveys, most companies run their own climate surveys to identify most relevant key drivers of employee engagement, motivation , satisfaction etc.,
A study conducted by Mercer known as “What’s Working” concluded that engagement drivers can vary by geography , industry and even time.
Efforts made to sustain an engaged workforce
If we were to look at the currently rampant practices, which have been practiced over the past decade to enhance employee engagement, we will not be in dearth of findings.
However the fact still remains that there is a lot left to desire. Management of companies are increasingly looking forward to their human resource teams to come up with innovative and highly effective solutions to meet this challenge.
While there are many well-known players offering consultation in this area, management of companies are showing increasing faith in solutions that come from within, since the employees of the company know more about the company any day . They also believe that this is one more opportunity for Human Resources to make a return on investment using their expertise and intellectual capital.
If we were to take a look at some of our top Indian companies and business houses who have been attracting sizeable talent over these years, we find some of these long standing practices which have no doubt had their share of positive impact.
Wipro, Mahindra and Mahindra for instance have been offering their employees democracy to choose their wages and perks based on their lifestyles and needs.
Infosys and Wipro have their own social networking sites meant for their employees to interact and support each other and hence build a healthy society within.
Some companies host chat shows/ town halls with their senior management where employees are invited to come and interact, ask burning questions, raise critical issues etc.
This is their way of practicing open communication which is a very important factor that drives employee engagement.
A research conducted by Kenexa, a leading Global HR solutions provider that included India, US, UK, Denmark, Brazil, Canada, Australia, China, France, Finland, Germany, Japan, Spain, Mexico, Sweden, Russia, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands and the Gulf countries, revealed that Indian companies took creative and unique initiatives to improve the engagement levels of their workforce.
It is indeed with pride that I realize that the initiatives implemented by the human resource capital of India Inc.,have gone well beyond offsites, parties, annual bashes, team picnics , culture festivals etc.,
Some companies have come forward to show a very genuine approach to address the top drivers of employ engagement.
Career Growth: In this post-recession period when companies are ever more trying to stay fit and lean to maximize on operational efficiency and report higher savings by cutting on operational costs, flat organizational structure has become a buzzword. By cutting down on hierarchical levels , companies are trying to achieve a smarter and more agile organization and cut down on delays in decision making and overhead costs of a flabby management structure.
However in the bargain what employees loose are opportunities of growth, since there is less of the pie now to fight all the more for. And the competition that ensues need not be a healthy one. It many a times is one which inspires talent to look outside the organization for growth opportunities which comes along with a higher salary package than a promotion could fetch them.
Suddenly moving from one company to the other appears to be apain free and more rewarding choice. In a growing economy like India the market also seems to have accepted this trend of churn. This makes achieving employee engagement all the more complex than it seems.
Not many companies have clearly defined career frameworks and criteria for consideration to the next level or position.
Companies that have made an effort in this direction have realized that employees are keen to make a career with them since their growth ambitions have clearly visible targets.
Some companies with fewer hierarchical levels focus more on the skill set enhancement of employees when they design career paths. They encourage what has come to be known as horizontal movements, where after an 18/24 month stint in one role, an employee is encouraged to consider a role at the same level, requiring different skill sets. Employees value such career paths when there is an opportunity to get multi skilled, or relocate to a different region or when the role is in the same line as their main interest, for example when the role is customer facing and such.
However there are companies where employees are hired for a particular role and there is no option for career growth apart from a steady annual increment while the employee is expected to stay in the same role for his entire work life. While this is not unheard of in the west,this is hardly feasible in India in knowledge driven companies. It may still be acceptable to a certain extent in factory set ups but even there employees can be expected to nurture ambitions to move to supervisorial roles.
Development and Exposure: There was a time that many college goers in the cities of India gave a one year stint in a BPO the same value and status as of a finishing school. The reason was the opportunity they would get to work in an MNC atmosphere, training inlanguage, accent, etiquette and the opportunity to interact with customers from western cultures all this while getting paid handsomely too.
A critical aspect of choosing a job is its enhancing effect on the profile. While the job role is critical, the designation is considered of greater value in the Asia Pacific regions. The designation has an impact on social status and the importance with which an employee approaches the job much more than the role or job description. With more and more companies opting for flat organizational structures, fewer jobs carry managerial designations compared to some 5 years ago.
We now hear of many companies offering a dual designation for a role, one within the company that adheres to the internal norms and one which is at par with the local market.
Companies today are moving away from the approach of development equals trainings. The belief that so long as you had trainings under various categories like technical, soft skills and leadership development was taken care of, no longer holds water.
Companies want their learning and development professionals to look at a competency based approach. Starting with the key competences of the organization, working down to the competencies required to perform at the entry level roles, competency models and mapping is carried out. As a result the developmental gaps identified are not just plugged through training. The developmental initiatives could also include buddying, cross deployment or even coaching and mentoring.
Brand Image: At Novozymes, a Danish bio innovations company, one of the employee engagement initiatives carried out companywide is called “Great to Be a Zymer”. As part of the initiative, the CEO made a tour of all the company facilities talking to people about what made them feel proud about being part of the company. A high percentage of employees stated that the Environmental profile of the company is what they were proud of. Companies today have a whole new meaning associated with Corporate Social Responsibility. A product portfolio which aids to achieve a green tomorrow by using less natural resources makes employees proud to talk about them. Making their employees the face of their advertisements, hoardings and involving them in roadshows is another way of engaging employees.
Corporates contributing to social causes within the society of their employees is another trend. Apart from contributing to causes like the rehabilitation of Tsunami victims or running a school for the underprivileged children, corporates now park budgets to participate in social causes proposed by employees which have a direct impact on the society/localities the employees are part of, or causes that they support in their personal time.
Another critical aspect which scopes this challenge is the push for companies to look for non-monetary rewards and schemes as part of employee engagement initiatives. While this approach ensures that the very essence of employee engagement is not diluted in the momentary satisfaction brought in by monetary rewards, the importance of monetary rewards simply cannot be undermined.
There is all this mentioned and more that has been done across the corporate world to improve employee engagement.
The human resource fraternity will continue to face this challenge in new forms with new faces with the evolving times. However, hidden in this challenge is an opportunity for human resource professionals to prove their mettle; an opportunity for us to improve our work environments and improve the productivity and efficiency of our corporate world.
It is best to approach employee engagement with the knowledge that this is not a disease that can be eradicated; It is a challenge which is here to stay.