A journey together

May 21, 2018

In a business landscape where sudden change is unpredictable, with mergers and acquisitions happening in the blink of an eye, the priority of HR leaders is to ensure that their prerogatives do not take a miss. Most prominent among these are employee engagement, employee retention, and workplace culture.

Attracting and engaging talent is a major challenge today, so it is up to HR to ensure a strong employer brand in order to get ahead of the competition. It is a difficult task to ensure that you hire the right people at the right time, and be sure that an applicant will actually be a good fit for your organization’s culture. The only way to do this is to make sure your culture speaks for itself. Employee turnover is expensive and can also potentially impact your bottom line.

Remember that every time an employee leaves, they take with them the institutional knowledge of how things get done and the relationships that enable accomplishments. Increased globalization, new technology, access to data, and political unease in some regions of the world could lead to economic uncertainty, which may be detrimental to HR hiring strategies, compensation policies, and other decisions. A smart HR professional would identify and take notes from those workplace cultures that incorporate the basics of a great place to work. This includes, but is not limited to, focusing on people first, getting everyone’s input and buy-in, corporate social responsibility initiatives, and opportunities for employee learning and development that relates to their daily work.

Today’s leaders need to keep the workforce inspired and aligned with organizational goals in order to continually guarantee customer delight. It is not enough to share the vision and goals, but leaders ought to help connect the organization’s mission with the individual mission so that employees view their job as a means of living their purpose. Today, the conceptions of traditional leadership hierarchies are being challenged by empowering specifically those leaders who can thrive in rapidly changing environments. Knowledge is power, and the greatest leaders are those that never forget this piece of advice and never stop learning. Reading, listening, engaging and asking questions are the foundations for success, and employees know it. They want to be treated with respect and appreciation for their daily efforts towards building the organization. Every employee wants to make a contribution, and effective leaders  enable that and help them see that. It is quite simple, and leadership is key here—it is crucial that managers and high level executives inspire trust and cooperation within their teams. In a 2016 Dale Carnegie 2016 study:

  • 76% of employees said a leader who gives praise and honest appreciation would be more likely to inspire them than someone more focused on getting the job done.
  • 74% are more motivated by a leader who ‘encourages them and makes them believe in their ability to improve’.
  • 57% said that leaders who praised them for improvements in performance are more likely to inspire them, compared to those who recognized employees with only tangible rewards.

Two results of great leadership are employee job satisfaction and a keenness to remain with an employer. Employees who are satisfied with their job are more engaged overall, as well as more committed professionally and emotionally to their employer. They perform better, exercise discretionary effort, and are the eventual drivers of company performance. This is because engaged employees are unwavering in the face of shifting environments and get the better of adversity in the workplace despite the odds. High levels of customer happiness and employee engagement are closely linked with companies that master it out-performing the rest.

However, India’s low employee engagement scores are severely negating the output of its workforce. According to a Dale Carnegie India survey, less than a third of employees in India were pleased with their senior management, while a meagre 16% were out-and-out unhappy with their leaders. These low results are most likely due to a weak approach toward creating and executing engagement plans. Leaving aside a few stalwarts, most workplaces typically implement a couple of ad-hoc approaches and then abandon them while failing to assess value or effect. The intent is not enough—CHROs and senior leaders alike ought to ensure that employees are acknowledged for noteworthy achievements. Those who display potential should be assured that they will eventually be considered for a leadership succession pipeline.

Positive reinforcement is by far one of the most effective, most direct ways to up employee satisfaction, enthusiasm, and engagement. Praising an employee’s forte is much more effective than critiquing weaknesses. Gratitude for doing the job right substantially improves the likelihood of an individual to continue to work toward building a dramatic impression on the company. There should never be a limit on applause or commendation.

Steady communication is also essential in order to keep your employees engaged. Teams whose managers hold meetings are much likelier to have higher engagement scores when compared to their counterparts. If, as a manager, you make your team feel calm and considered, they will return this tenfold in the form of optimum productivity and business innovation, as well as alignment to the company culture. According to Dale Carnegie’s Igniting Millennial Engagement study, this key demographic is significantly likelier to be engaged than their older colleagues, with one of their requirements being ‘a desire for full disclosure and transparency’. Millennials want to be informed of the organization’s happenings and be considered equal stakeholders in its ups and downs. It is imperative that they know every minutia in order to see the entire picture and make educated career choices. A rewards and recognition plan that wholly recognises employee achievements draws a parallel with the millennial want for transparency, and is one of the many arguments for incorporating such a strategy into an organization’s HR activities.

At Dale Carnegie India, we have employed a tool to do just this through our brand new recognition plan, the Champion’s Passport. Each employee is allotted a blank passport which enables him or her to attain recognition under specialized criteria: individual achievements, performance, value endorsements, special recognitions (such as employee of the month), CSR initiatives, and learning and development achievements. Individuals with the maximum stamps will be awarded periodically.

My advice would be to approach engagement optimistically, and view any partially negative engagement scores as a productive exercise. Leaders and HR should consider warnings of disengagement as an initiator of meaningful conversations that could bring about learnings to help with future talent. Using real-time employee engagement reports, HR should collaborate with management teams to attack problem areas with thorough, actionable plans that illustrate first the areas that need urgent attention as well as those that can be tackled later. With concerted efforts directed at keeping track of your workforce’s engagement levels, the employee productivity and retention rates can be directly accounted for—meaning that your strategy to effect change can be positively streamlined to your workforce.