As a part of this new series, we ask some of the top HR influencers a couple of quick questions about the theme of the month and in return, they share some solid wisdom nuggets. For our first column in the series, we have Dr Deepak Malhotra, Chief People Officer at NHSM Knowledge Campus and named among the top 25 HR Influencers, In Leaders Making a Difference & Top HR Minds. We asked Dr Malhotra what does workplace happiness mean to him and how can employers create a truly happy workplace?
Q: Why are we not seeing people smile? Why most workers don’t love their jobs?
A: The reason is very simple, they are either not recognized by their superiors or they do not feel aligned to the overall scheme of leadership, organisation, and its vision. You are thinking right! Bang-on! They are here to receive their remuneration month on month!
Q: What are the biggest employee engagement concerns then?
A: The numbers are alarming and dipping. In India, the employee engagement scores of fully engaged employees are in the range of 9 percent. To top it up we would soon be one of the youngest workforces in the country. With employability and employable skills being another big challenge for our economy, unless we work on making our workforce good & engaged, we are going to hit the glass ceiling!
Q: Why should we be concerned about employee happiness?
A: Everyone thinks there are more important issues than an engaged and happy workforce. Aren’t there more important issues such as sales, marketing, finance, and operations? The truth is all of these issues are better met by employees who are happy and enjoy their work. We need to attract them, charm them, engage them, identify special projects, build innovative retention schemes, and communicate that we are a friendly employer.
Q: With nearly 2 1⁄2 decades of exposure, what according to you is the most important thing which leaders forget while addressing employee happiness index?
A: We all know good and engaged people are our key assets. Period! In every organisation, there is diversity, generation gap, which generates different outlooks. Diversity impacts directly on an individual’s skills or knowledge fissures, technology management, self-confidence, multi-tasking drive, ability to peruse challenges, and work in teams. This is different for different age groups. There is no one-fit-for-all approach at an organisation level. We people leaders must always keep in mind that with any generation and especially with one-clicks, every intervention must be need-based or individualistic. Whether it is engagement or compensation or career path, I am unique, so are my aspirations and needs, we as people leaders must not forget it. Most of it is common sense, but common sense is so uncommon in human beings.
Q: Why are our engagement needs different and why do you emphasize on it so much?
A: Engagement needs differ in a generation, mostly due to different outlook created because of our overall upbringing and culture, core beliefs, values installed in us, technological and political views in the country, and the overall world at large. Social security is equally important. One size does not fit all, and that’s the reason why ‘matching the age’ was born. Just as a casting director in movies engages a particular actor for a role, keeping in mind the story of the movie, the age bracket, and his potential to do justice to the role. A leader plays a pivotal role in identifying the right actors, by ‘matching their age’, their potential, efficiency, and the dedication to do justice to the assigned roles. In other words, ‘keeping them engaged’ and extracting the best out of them.
Q: Then what engagement would mean to you at an organisational level?
A: We all are looking for engagement, as a state where a team member desires to go beyond the call of the duty. People leaders must note that the performance management system and career prospects of the team members are viewed as the most important engagement drivers. Happiness can be momentary. Can be when you get your salary, spend time with your friend, or even when you are producing results. Engagement is more than it.
Let me give you an example: Do you remember the terrorist attacks in Mumbai? The employees of Taj and Oberoi hotels were asked to leave. They did not leave until the last guest was safe. I am keeping it short, it is the best example of Organisational Citizenship Behaviour (OCB) or Highest level of engagement at the organisational level. They need to be happy and engaged with the organisation, leadership and self, to do that!
When without supervision also you perform more than expected or you do what you are asked not to also, this to me is ‘engagement’. There are many day-to-day examples in our real life.
Q: What according to you is the biggest threat to engagement?
A: In Asian cultures, we falter mostly in distinguishing between performer and non-performer. Team members notice this quicker than you can fix it. The fence sitters can quickly be disengaged. It is equally interesting during my study I noticed, 94 out of every 100 are looking for a new job or role. The average first job of a new graduate is decreasing and now it is 9 months.
Q: That was a nice example and very related Dr Malhotra. Then at the organisational level or personal level, have you would have identified some new traits which engage or keeps them engaged! What are they?
A: Engagement also directly depends on the value system of the organisation. So for me in the current world, it’s important to align opportunities to learn and grow, aiding environment which continually supports performance, work and life balance, and attainable timely booty month on month. Availability of the leader on the shop floor, especially in a 24X7 environment also makes a lot of difference to one-clicks, as they keep timely feet forward as one of the key parameters of measuring their leaders & indirectly organisational culture. One more thing which attracts this one- click generation is relationship/alignment/contribution to the big picture. For example, interestingly as per studies more than 60 per cent of engaged employees report positive fitness & are happy to be at the workplace.
Q: Anything else we should keep in mind while engaging with these next generations?
A: We need to attract them, charm them, engage them, identify special projects, build innovative retention schemes, and communicate that we are a friendly employer.
This was Dr Malhotra, talking to us about Happiness at Work. Have thoughts? Want to contribute to the next rapid fire? Feel free to reach our editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.