Happier your folks, the better it works

Intellectual capital is by far the most valuable resource an organisation can have. Since there is no disputing this fact, corporates are increasingly seeking new ways and means to keep employees connected with the organisation.

Research speak

Deloitte recently announced the findings of its report ‘Employee engagement in recessionary times’, a survey of companies across industries in India on how they are managing employee engagement in today’s turbulent economy.

Companies are heavily investing in building a strong leadership pipeline — identifying, engaging and developing high-performing employees from within the organisation.
Says Four Soft Ltd. Vice President, Marketing Umashankar S “As part of designing and delivering solutions, we do interact a lot with our customer base and the employees are encouraged to do this directly. They get to talk to customers both in person and through electronic support, in terms of understanding customers’ requirements, involving them for getting to test the solutions built and also do joint- project management.”

Studies show that employees who are ‘engaged’ tend to be more committed to the organisation’s future goals, are more productive and experience higher job satisfaction. In the long term, it can also help retain employees. 

“We offer the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which provides free confidential professional advice, counselling and referral services for all employees and their families. Employees can receive help before it impacts their morale, health and performance at work,” says Cisco India Director, Human Resources  Subash A K Rao.

A recent McKinsey survey rightly suggests employee engagement as an important aspect of organisational wellbeing. Only an engaged employee is bound intellectually and emotionally with the organisation, feels passionately about its goals and is committed towards its value.

“As an employer, it is imperative to understand the expectations, personal and career goals of your employees. Knowing them always consume significant amount of time and effort but is an essential element of a good HR practice,” says India Marlabs Software Associate Vice President Vignesh Hebbar.

Investing in people

Employee engagement can happen in various forms, but whichever be the form, it has to be slowly built into the DNA of the organisation over time. “The people best suited to flag problems and suggest improvements are those actually doing the job. If the management thinks that only a few can think for the rest and also make improvements on behalf of the rest, then the organisation is said to be having no employee engagement programme or structure in place.

The idea here is to engage employees, to most importantly be able to flag problems, without fear,” says Kaizen Institute Director & Founding Partner Jayanth Murthy.
The Toyota Corporation in-house suggestion scheme generates over 2 million ideas a year. Over 95 per cent of the workforce contributes suggestions; that works out to over 30 suggestions per worker per year. The most remarkable statistic from Toyota is that over 90 per cent of the suggestions are implemented.  Employers are going the extra mile to bring the best to their employees, to build a nurturing, symbiotic relationship with them. Like never before, employers are more sympathetic to their wards’ needs — and many have instituted an entire department to foster this very culture.

Today, the best places to work at are the ones that identify, encourage and celebrate individual potential. Ness Technologies President and Managing Director- India Satyajit Bandyapadhyay says, “We believe in a people-driven philosophy. When our employees win, our organisation wins, which is why we provide them all that we can, from opportunities to experiences.” eMids Technologies Vice President - Operations Vivek Subramaniam, adds, “Our  initiatives have ensured that the ‘learning curve’ is always on for employees and there are numerous opportunities specially created for them to contribute not only in their regular work but other areas of interest as well.”

Collaborate and interact

As Kansai Nerolac Paints Ltd Vice President - Human Resources Shrikant Dikhale says, “It is important to continuously interact with the employees and understand their perspective and this is carried out through a dialogue process termed as HR Connect.” Like with any relationship, the foundation needs to be strong and should be founded in clear two-way communication, he added. Collabera Head - Global Delivery Krishnamurthy Ramamurthy, explains, “We also facilitate interest groups like culture club, reading club, quiz, technical lectures, knowledge sharing sessions etc. ”

One97 Communications Sr Vice President Vineet Kaul adds, “Being a young organisation where the average age of employees is 25 years our Fun Committee works on organising a number of activities through the year, like Fun Fridays, which are small activities organised on floors to ensure inter team interaction.”

Whether it is providing opportunities for self-development and learning, financial compensation or a fair and rewarding work environment, organisations are increasingly becoming sensitive to what employees actually want. As Infosys Technologies Limited Vice President and Group Head, HR, Nandita Gurjar says, “We believe that employees are our core assets and we work towards adopting best practices that provide a great encouragement and motivation to our employees. We work toward providing the ideal work environment as well as numerous facilities and amenities to all employees that encourage them to feel engaged and motivated. We believe in establishing a strong connect with our employees to foster a sense of ownership and belongingness.”

“Employee engagement is a key focus area for us for we believe it will help us strengthen our commitment to people, engender pride and sustain our employee spirit. There are many things that we do in this space — from wellness sessions and camps to yoga classes to offering employee assistance programme to offering “employee clubs”, adds McAfee India Centre Sr Director Human Resources Rajeev Malik.

An employee who is intellectually and emotionally connected feels strongly about the quality of the products and services that the company offers, resulting into superior quality delivery and operational excellence. Such employees are also more likely to continue with the organisation for a longer time. KPIT Cummins Infosystem Chief of People Operations Sachin Tikekar  said  “The impact of an engaged employee is best experienced in customer facing roles, where such people are much more likely to treat customers in a way that ensures longevity of the account, better collaboration and improved profitability.” Adds Convergys India Senior Manager of HR Ashish Garg, , “By starting with our employees and their interests, Convergys’ employee engagement activities feature a compelling mix of events and opportunities that drive strong employee participation and foster solid employee-employer relationships.”

Win-win situation

As Yodlee India Vice President and Managing Director R Subramaniam says , “It helps the employee in achieving a sense of belonging to the company, helps them perform better and encourage an open transparent culture. There is a sense of increased interaction among members of different teams.” Engaging with employees helps create a high level of transparency and ownership.  Employees better receive organisation decisions and strategies and employees start demonstrating more ownership in everything they do.  The level of trust within the organisation also improves significantly. All of this has a very high positive impact on employee morale and retention. Employees feel they are part of a larger family and part of the decision making process. They get the opportunity to connect with managers more openly, proactively participate in organisational initiatives and share their ideas. Employees see this as an avenue to a well-rounded career.  There is clear and mounting evidence that high levels of employee engagement keenly correlates to individual, group and corporate performance in areas such as retention, turnover, productivity, customer service and loyalty. Says PeopleTree HR Services Vice President  Vivek Chettur,  “Some of the key drivers of employment engagement that we look at are the emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organisation, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work.”
MetricStream Sr Manager - HR & Recruitment Pavithra Bopanna adds, “These help employees find out what is going on within the company outside of their immediate team. They also help to create an environment of trust and openness within the organisation where they are able to talk openly.”

Co-creation happens when any new concept is ideated and created by a larger community of employees during the institutional meet that happens once in a year. “Employees from all the business groups, locations, services and support functions are invited to be a part of this community to co-create and co-own the new concepts and ideas,” says Ma Foi Management Consultants Ltd Director Latha Rajan. Omega Healthcare Management Services Head - Human Resources Guruvayurappan PV, adds, “Almost all our supervisory and managerial leaders are home grown and that makes our commitment to leadership development more important. In order to engage our employees we focus on the following strategies as part of leadership development since, engagement is all about getting employees to give it their all.”

Zicom implements various engagement activities with its employees on a continuous basis. Zicom Electronic Security Systems Ltd Head - Human Resources Vice President - Corporate Human Resources, says, “Our 3C (Control Coordination Centre) is an initiative where the HR acts as an interface between the employees and customers. If an employee refers a person who requires the company product, the same is forwarded to the concerned person in the sales. Once the deal is closed, the employees gets stars that can be redeemed for points.”

Organisations are looking more intently at the unique behaviours that drive organisational performance that in turn requires a high performing and engaged environment.  “The changes in trends can be attributed to the change in times, workforce and economic growth. Organisations are also looking at global best practices that drive business performance and link engagement to business metrics such as profitability, long-term share holder value and others, to understand the impact of the organisation’s engagement to these business metrics and create specific strategies to improve engagement,” says Kenexa Regional Director Client Services Sidd Partha.

Ongoing practice

The most successful organisations make engagement an ongoing priority, not a once-a-year event. “They take a multi-faceted approach to address problem areas and improve engagement scores organisation wide. Moreover, senior management should be clearly visible in building excitement about the future and creating a positive environment that boosts employee morale,” says Steria (India) Director Human Resources Shantanu Banerjee . e4e Inc Vice President, Human Resources Chitra Swamy adds, “Nobody will excel in their job unless they want to excel, at e4e we create that ‘want’. While it is important for employees to like their job, it is vital for us to keep them ‘engaged’.”
In fact, employee health is also a matter of concern. Tata AIG Life Insurance Co Ltd Senior Vice President and Head HR Neetasha Joshi says, “Our corporate wellness programme, an ingenuous partnership with leading practitioners in the medical field to helps employees gain access to the best available health-care. Additionally we have tied-up with a medical centre to ensure periodic availability of doctors on our premise.”

Adds Bharti AXA General Insurance CEO Amarnath Ananthanarayanan “We created a structured approach to idea collection when we realised that a large number of our successful programmes like our Pre Underwritten Product in health insurance (an innovative health insurance product that eliminates the hassle of medical checkups) came from employees.” And as G E former CEO Jack Welch said, “It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energised employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.”

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