In my HR career spanning over 6 years encompassing factory and corporate HR, Employee Engagement unfortunately has been one of the most understated phrases which I have come across in the industry. Often riddled with slapstick comments like ‘Rangoli making department’, the sheer power and impact of this HR sub-function is usually ignored. Mark my words, if the organisation focuses on a robust employee engagement strategy, executes it wholeheartedly, there isn’t any area in the organisation where you cannot drive an impact; be it operations, sales, R&D et al. I was grateful enough to work on this portfolio for 2.5 years and that too amidst the pandemic. We drove some highly impactful engagement initiatives including the Health & Wellness interventions which led to significant business impact.
To begin with, what is Employee Engagement? On the literary front, it loosely translates into something to do with engaging employees. I don’t want to demean the physical and now virtual birthday and festival parties, they are hygiene and definitely drive engagement, but in today’s anxiety rampant world, this alone won’t satisfy your employees.
Today, there are so many pertinent issues that are a possible threat to your company’s employee resource management. Basic quintessential needs like a healthy working relationship with the manager, fair and transparent working environment, and access to the top management, etc. are a must, but they are not enough.
To put this in simple words, gone are the days when employee engagement was all about the ‘softer’ elements, now it’s all about hitting on the ‘core’. If an engineer working in a plant is not able to deliver the operational efficiency of a machine due to non-availability of resources or if a front line sales employee is unable to issue a spot claim to a dealer because of non availability of stock or if a marketing brand manager is not happy with her current digital agency, they all will be disengaged which in turn will impact the overall performance of the company.
Capture voices from the ground
They might not be your typical HR problems, but they have a significant impact on engagement and your engagement strategy should be fool-proof to capture these voices from the ‘ground’ apart from your regular HR voices alarming you about the traditional work-life balance and culture issues.
A yearly employee engagement survey followed by a detailed in-sighting exercise can be an effective way to capture such voices. Please note that this process will only be credible if over time the employees are able to appreciate the fact that how well their feedback was put to use. You may move to a biennial survey if you think that you might need an extra year to justify the actions emanating from the survey. That’s better than rushing for another survey in the next year and further adding to the disengagement of the employees. Meaningful HR, as well as non HR insights, will give you the power to constructively intervene in business operations, only to improve the overall scenario for the employees.
Buy-in from the top management
There is one major caution to the above testament though, buy-in from the top management. If you don’t get that, you might land up in a delirious situation. For driving almost all the significant interventions you might have to involve functional leaders who have to be committed to improving the status quo. Once the commitment is made, it’s all about the true business partnering which any functional head will expect from their HR personnel. Both of them can sit together, brainstorm and evolve the actionable items for their area guided by the survey and in-sighting results. Seamless execution of the plan will be equally crucial, but with the business head’s support, this journey can be less of an effort and more of a fulfilment.
They say that data is the king, indeed it is. One of the significant repercussions of the entire employee engagement strategy is the impact on HR credibility. If the process is carried out effectively, HR has every right to question the status quo, even if it involves questioning the business. If you have the right data, the business will respect you as for them it’s all about numbers and data. It’s simple, you speak their language and they will listen as that’s the only language they understand.
In the end, this in-depth business partnering will not only impact the overall organisation but as HR professionals, it will give us that innate satisfaction of ‘making a difference’ and most importantly ‘a pat on the back’ from the business. How so ever people debate on the existence & value of HR, it is quite clear that we are for the business and not vice versa. If we are able to create a positive impact on the employees, it’s sure to get transcended in the sales numbers, production numbers in tandem with revenue and finally profitability, which is the ultimate reason for any company’s existence.
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