By Shubhankar Malakar *
I remember when I was working with a Super Brand Tile company, I had been told by Management to reduce the attrition rate of Area Managers and Regional Managers. I did everything possible to arrest the attrition but was not able to meet the management expectation. I pondered upon ‘what’s wrong’ day and night. It took me more than two years to understand that this was due to a lack of employee engagement from top to bottom.
Understanding employees’ aspiration is a must. We can cultivate an employee engagement culture once we understand the need for employees. There are employees who are staying far away from family, so they would need activities which connect them to the family. Management could send Thank You letters to such employees’ parents, thanking them for putting their son/daughter in your organization and he/she is a true resource for achieving organizational goals. Likewise, there are employees whose hobby is singing. Surely we can engage him/her with creating a formal interdepartmental competition. There has to be two-way communication wherein we take feedback in a formal way, maybe on every fortnight, through teleconference/video with all Project Coordinators across India involving HO process owners for on the spot solution and on the same time telling HO requirement to all Project Coordinators on EHS, Reports and Process Compliance.
Work assignment is one area to directly engage an employee. I remember a case wherein one employee told me, “Sir I am not enjoying my work. Quality is my forte and I have been assigned in production.” This is the case of at least 10 percent of the employees of any organization where a role has been given not as per the interest of the employee but purely on the requirement of the organization. To solve this, there could be mid-year surveys among employees to identity cross-assignments and explore job rotations.
Traditional negative attitudes of bosses are a major lacuna in any employee engagement. I can’t recollect any single initiative where a BU head has not confronted HR for engagements. Bosses would come out openly on ‘work pressure myth syndrome’ believing employee engagements would kill their team’s productivity time and consequently would delay achieving quarterly targets. Fortunately, I have been successful in convincing HODs that employee engagement is going to give long term benefits and effectiveness indeed seen by organizations. Bosses have to buy into the idea of employee engagement which refreshes employees, enhances customer satisfaction, productivity, project delivery and reduces attrition.
Any Employee Engagement would not be successful until top Management & Promoters support the entire lifecycle of Employee Engagement. Engagements include guidance, approving the budget, motivating teams to have all-round effect and cultural changes. Maturity has to be shown by management once a HOD blames HR for taking out critical time of the team for employee engagement. Forums like ‘Coffee with Directors’ are catalysts for new trends of employee engagements.
Geographical challenges are a nightmare for HR. Take for example Telecom companies. There are engineers who are working in different project locations from J&K to Nagaland in disturbed and remote locations. The question is how to engage them while HR is based centrally in metros. Visiting HR in every location is a costly affair. Few activities which gave results are Monthly ESS calls (Employee Satisfaction Survey) wherein HR interacts with engineers working in harsh areas to sort their grievances and impart a personal touch. Second is online engagement wherein games/movies are being provided to them with free mobiles sponsored by the employer. AI has played an important role in this category where online bots answer HR queries, incentive & HR welfare policies. Recently, I conducted an online Quiz Competition and was amazed to see the curiosity of employees while doing something different from monotonous routine work.
I have been to one software company and was amazed to see those offices don’t have staircases to get to the next floor; instead, they must climb Poles. This enhances their physical activities and brain cells faster than being seated the entire day on a workstation. I have observed much organizational R&R not able to flourish due to too much database, PROC & documentation, as HODs treat this as an additional time-consuming affair. Informal R&R is another aggressive Employee Engagement tool – simple appreciation ranging from certificates to cash prizes. So we have asked all Project Managers to capture simple data on a monthly basis of whosoever they have said or texted ‘thank you’, ‘good job done’ ‘great work’ or they have sent an e-mail stating thank you for any good task. Numbers of such simple appreciation examples are to be sent to HR at the end of each month wherein HR ensures transforming these appreciations into certificates/prizes and publishing them in monthly newsletters.
* Shubhankar Malakar, CHRO – Telecom Network Solution Pvt Ld.