04 Mar 2016 18:37 IST

The Holy Grail of employee engagement

It is what differentiates an irresistible work culture from a regular one

Gone are the days when employee engagement was viewed as one of those itsy-bitsy HR initiatives. It is now a much talked about and discussed topic in any boardroom.

What is engagement?

Engagement starts from having an interesting and challenging work environment, which helps employees develop themselves and contribute meaningfully to the organisation.

As long as an organisation is able to deliver on this fundamental need, people stay engaged and connected, which ultimately translates into tangible results, such as enhanced productivity, positive impact on bottom line, and faster time to new product launches.

Conversely, the absence of engagement can result in tardy customer service, increased absenteeism and turnover, poor brand equity and so on. We know of companies targeting high performance, customer centricity and innovation at the cost of a cut-throat and insensitive work culture.

This approach sets me thinking. In a digitally connected world where business is subjected to multi-pronged pressures, how does one connect with employees while still driving high growth rate, innovation, customer delight and profitability at the same time?

Time to rethink

The demand is a big one and maybe it’s time for us to rethink of engagement differently. Especially in a digitally connected world, the decision of joining an organisation has shifted from the company, to the prospective talent. Employee experience in an organisation is today reflected to a larger community outside through socially-interactive channels like Glassdoor.

Which is why organisations are forced to go back to the drawing board, and re-craft their people engagement strategy. Today, many forces influence engagement.

~ Digital disruption and advent of artificial intelligence.

~ Increasing virtualisation of work.

~ Increased presence of just-in-time workforce.

~ Multi-generational global workforce.

~ Evolving employment contract.

Building connections

So what can an organisation do to really connect with its talent? There are four issues that need to be addressed:

1) What does employee engagement mean in my company’s context and what do we want to achieve as tangible outcomes of our investment?

2) What tools and technology can the organisation deploy to assess and measure engagement on a real time basis, while discerning factors that negatively impact engagement?

3) How can my engagement strategy be integrated with the business strategy?

4) Can the engagement success factors be identified using metrics such as absenteeism, talent retention, and talent mobility?

In the process of setting up the engagement architecture, maximum impact can be derived when the engagement effort appeals to the emotional and social needs of the employees, especially the younger lot.

The how-to

A great place to work is no longer limited to the workplace alone, and employees are increasingly looking at a higher motivation quotient, linked to a sense of pride and purpose.

Borrowing upon an idea from the bestseller Workplace of 2020, organisations and leaders have to focus on the triad of people, planet and profits to create a vibrant culture for tomorrow.

Smaller organisations can always approach employee engagement through a personalised approach, whereas globally distributed organisations need to have a framework that allows empowerment at a local level to create the difference.

In my opinion, a structured response to building the next-gen an irresistible organisation will revolve around three design principles:

Digital Bonding: Leverage social media and enterprise 2.0 to accelerate engagement.

Get mobile: Take the organisation to the employee through handheld devices.

Localise engagement: Create a localised and customised engagement approach for different employee groups balancing tech and touch.

Employee engagement is at the heart of an organisation’s success and touches every individual, irrespective of hierarchy. It is the magic dust which truly differentiates an irresistible work culture from a regular one. There’s nothing called a perfect employee engagement strategy. It’s evolutionary in nature and needs to be flexible to respond to changing organisational dynamics.

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