Dec 02, 2021 9 min read
When was the last time you uttered
“I do not have t ime.” Or “I wish I had some more time” or, “I wish I had some “ME TIME”. I bet, even before opening this document, many of you would have also thought “Do I have the time to read this?”
You watch cricket matches on television. But if you are invited to play the game, your answer is “Who has the time for it”. (Although in college times, you aspired to become the next Sachin Tendulkar)
You spend three hours watching a Bollywood movie. But when your kids ask you to act thief, your answer is “Who has the time for all this?” (But in a flash of memory, your remember school farewell title – Mr. Amitabh Bachchan of Batch 2001)
Fact is that at some point of your life, you LIKED cricket, you LIKED acting, you LIKED cooking… you liked something. And you still LIKE it. And you would still want to pursue that… If only you had Time!
Time is something, that we all want, and none of us get enough of it.
Next day you come to office and try to ignore your heart’s longing to play that one match or act on stage as main lead or try some experimental cooking at leisure. You try to forget the above conversations you had with yourself and now tell yourself “let me get busy with the real work”. So you finally dip those feelings in the small cup of tea on your office desk, sip it with an ahhh! and transform yourself into a busy professional.
Such is the morning state of mind of most of the employees in most of the organisations, across the globe.
What are we doing about it as Business Leaders or as HR professionals? As a true professional I would not want to start my week with these feelings hidden in my subconscious. Neither, would I want my colleagues and my organization, as a collective, to function with an ignored self. In my opinion, any work environment that requires employees to ignore their inner selves, is a dysfunctional work environment. It breeds disengagement.
The buzzword, “Employee Engagement” is as an important factor that leads to better workplace performance, enhanced levels of innovation and lower attrition1. However, the pre-requisites for engaging an employee are still the age old concepts of employee motivation and job satisfaction. An employee who feels motivated to work, and is satisfied with the work he does, is an engaged employee.
Organisations tend to adopt “extrinsic motivation” techniques of offering rewards, hefty packages, or incentives. This, in fact, dilutes the creation of “intrinsic motivation” within the employee. Intrinsic motivation cannot be drilled into someone, yet, there could be different sources of it. According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of Business Psychology and the CEO of Hogan Assessment Systems, “the more people focus on their salaries, the less they will focus on satisfying their intellectual curiosity, learning new skills, or having fun, and those are the very things that make people perform best.” 2
Individuals differ in respect to their personal characteristics as abilities, attitudes, perception. As a consequence, managers need not just acknowledge these differences but learn how to use these differences for the benefit of the organizations and overall organizational behavior. We need to focus not only on individual learning and motivation but also on their interpersonal relations including work in groups, teams, communication processes, conflicts, power and influences within organization. Additional focus is required on positive individual and organizational behavior.
The factor of relationship between an organization and its employees is called Employee Engagement. An "engaged employee" is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about his/her work and so takes positive action to further the organization's reputation and interests.
If we look at the various surveys and questionnaires used to measure employee engagement levels, there are some recurring themes. As per researchers, employees need the following to be engaged:
clear goals and expectations
opportunities for growth and development
fair and consistent rewards, recognition, appreciation
meaningful feedback on a regular basis
a sense that they and their work matter to their manager and the organization
a work environment, where they look forward to work
While, the set of first three items are more or less covered by the HR processes of Performance Management, Career Progression & Development Process and Reward and Recognition Schemes. However, organisations still struggle to develop robust process for ensuring a satisfying level of next set of employee needs. It is, nowadays, a big challenge for the leadership to leave no stone unturned to create a work environment where employees look forward to going to work. More so, when the organisations have majority of Millennials in the workspace. It is a common misbelief Millennials feel engaged at a workplace which provides state-of-the-art infrastructure, high end technology, and latest gadgets. The reality is that Milennials primarily seek opportunities which help them grow and develop into well rounded professionals.
In fact, be it Millennials, or the Loyalists generation, every individual would feel motivated to work at a place that provides an opportunity for learning as well as having fun. If one asks the Loyalist of a company, “If we officially give you some time off, would you like to bat on behalf of the office cricket team?” I’m sure the answer would be “yes”, atleast for the person who used to be a bigtime Sunil Gavaskar fan. If one asks a Millennial, “Would you like to volunteer for organizing a series of ‘learning new skills’ workshops within the company?” I’m sure the answer would be “O yes!”
Do you wonder why the answer would be a ‘yes’? It is so because such activities excite them. It ignites a spark of doing something that they like(d). It is this spark that an employee longs for. It is this excitement that en employee looks forward to when motivating himself to come to office.
Imagine a situation when your workplace is not just the place where you work, but it’s a place where you are also able to do those things that you left long back. Things you aren’t able to do even at home on weekends. Things like practicing your hobbies, learning new skills, working with different teams on projects unrelated to work, meeting new people, reading new books, travelling to new places etc. It is a place where you can showcase you inner talents and interests – you can rediscover your inner self.
The need of the hour is to engage an employee at a level wherein he/she gets willingly involved in doing things that derive positive outcomes and have a positive impact on self and his/her significant others.
The priority levels of ‘significant others’ for a working individual would be as below:
Employee/ Self: For himself/ herself, an employee seeks opportunities for development of his knowledge and skills, not only related to his work, but also in other domains which may be of his general interest.
Family: Every employee is an integral part of his/her family. For overall ‘harmony’ in the life of an employee, it is important that the family, upto a certain level, is also familiar with and aids in bringing positivity to his/her challenging work environment.
Functional Team: The functional team of an employee is like his immediate family at office, with whom he/she has to interact and share on a daily basis. Thus, relationship with his/her functional team needs focused development and nurturing.
Zonal Team: Once the positivity gets seeded at the above three levels, the employee becomes more motivated and starts instilling positivity higher up. He/she would look forward to camaraderie with people beyond his team by sharing his experiences, spreading knowledge and celebrating occasions and achievements
Corporation: For the corporation, it is important to identify and harness the potential of employees, so as to enhance the productivity and performance at the organizational level and strengthen the leadership pipeline.
Thus, at organizational level, the various employee engagement initiatives need to be undertaken that create positive impact at these five levels. This entire engagement program needs to be institutionalized and integrated into the employees’ regular work cycle.
An organization which is giving a platform to its employees for learning new skills (related or unrelated to work) are in fact investing in enhancing employee work-performance and creating leaders. Amongst many engagement initiatives, it is advisable to include initiatives where employees are able to do what they like to do. For example, companies can organize monthly hobby workshops where-in employees are invited to showcase and also teach other interested employees one hobby that they are good at. A Book-reading club can be formulated that can have some interesting monthly book reviews and meetings. An official Travel Club can organize heritage walks, trekking tours, family tours etc.
Once an employee gets into organizing such activity groups, he/she gets an opportunity to demonstrate his/her leadership and inter-personal skills in a free environment. Demonstration is the start of development. For the organization, it is another platform where future leaders can be nurtured for suitable positions as per their demonstrated potential/ strength areas.
All said and done, question is how to create opportunities for exciting the employees without compromising quality of “real work” and its quantum?
Well, aid them with organization wide super-tools such as self-set targets, transparent performance appraisals, recognition of all ‘types’ of work, flexi-work …. And lastly, leave the task of managing the so-called “real work” to the employees themselves… and I’m sure they’ll (happily) surprise you!
1 Igniting the Employee Enthusiasm by Pallavi Jha; Pg-23, Human Capital Vol.19 No.10 March 2016
2 Is your workforce motivated? By Ajay Kumar; Pg-16, Human Capital Vol.19 No.10 March 2016
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