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Posts Tagged ‘Employee Engagement’

 

Vision and Mission Statements of corporates adorn their walls and can be readily copied. However, the value system of an organization is not something which can be copied very easily. It permeates the entire organization – its hierarchy, its various divisions or departments. It rubs off on most of its employees. Even service providers and supporting manufacturers get tuned to the same frequency.

Our youth are already reeling under the impact of latest technologies being unleashed on the unsuspecting work-force with gay abandon, leading to drastic changes in the skills required to survive and do well in the times to come. Were they to decide to join an owner-driven smaller business, it would be wise on their part to be aware of the nature of values that such outfits could be following.

Those who get hired by such businesses are the ones who offer willing service and selfless cooperation, even to the extent of taking pay cuts when they are told that business is in the red. They need to be quiet, respectful and deferential by nature. They need to have an adventurous outlook on life and be always prepared to receive a pink slip at a very short notice.

Employees are expected to be timid and behave like worms endowed with a backbone made of cottage cheese. Smarter ones who have backbones made of sterner stuff would be inclined to look for greener pastures within a few months of joining up. Those who somehow survive longer would soon find getting hauled out unceremoniously, much like worms found floating on top of a bowl of chicken soup meant for the Lion King.

While entering the company campus, the employees find it worth their while to leave their ego at the main gate. A doormat-like behaviour alone ensures that they do not suffer the spiritual anguish like that of the person who, having grown accustomed to opening the crackling salary envelope on the first day of each month, reaches out for it one day and finds it empty.

When asking for leave, they need to deploy tact and delicacy. Long vacations are obviously ruled out, simply because the stiff-upper-lip visage of the Lion King simply discourages such inane requests, work-life balance be damned.

The proceedings are invariably of a nature as to create an inferiority complex amongst its employees. Whenever anything goes wrong, even if the decision had emanated from either the Lion King or a member of his family, they willingly take the rap and get frequently ticked off by the top brass. Over time, they start resembling one of the more shrinking and respectful breeds of rabbit.

One of the values which some owner-driven companies find difficult to imbibe is that of respecting its people. Employees often get treated like chattel, getting hired and fired based on assessments made either in the bedroom or on the dining table of the owner’s abode. If the mood of the Lion King fluctuates in tandem with either the Dow Jones Index or the Sensex, the employees feel as if they are always on a roller coaster ride.

An incoming employee is never permitted to meet the outgoing one, thereby ensuring that negative vibes do not get passed on from the latter to the former. Inevitably, this ensures that past experience continues to get lost. Continuity in systems and procedures becomes a victim. Each incumbent keeps trying to reinvent the wheel.

When a meeting gets called, the Lion King alone presides. When he throws out a statement of opinion, a respectful silence prevails. He looks about him expectantly. This is the cue for the senior Yes-Sheep to say yes. He is followed, in order of precedence, by the middle-rung Yes-Sheep and then the junior Yes-Sheep. Then the turn of all the Nodder-Dormice comes. They simply nod, one after the other.

When the Lion King delineates a new business plan, he merely informs. He directs the Marketing-Monkeys, the Production-Bovines and the Supply-Chain-Management-Goats to get down to their respective tasks without delay. The Human-Resources-Canines are told to take care of their part of the work, while the Finance-Felines are told to keep a sharp eye on the collections against invoices raised by the Marketing-Monkeys. The Research-Pachyderms are exhorted to keep coming up with innovative products and services. The System-Giraffes are advised to ensure that the high-hanging fruits of the latest advances in technology are made available to the team. The Liaison-Fox is tasked to see that all regulatory permissions are in place well within due time.

Working in a smaller outfit has some unique perks as well. Besides being able to observe the core business processes at a close quarter, one is apt to face mighty challenges, thereby growing spiritually. One can pretty soon evolve into a Spiritual Manager who practices detachment and handles tough situations with alacrity and equanimity.

Peter Drucker, the renowned management expert, has this to say about imbibing spiritual values:

‘The individual needs the return to spiritual values, for he can survive in the present human situation only by reaffirming that man is not just a biological and psychological being but also a spiritual being, that is creature, and existing for the purposes of his Creator and subject to Him.’

Different organizations sport different cultures, presenting an interesting rainbow of values. The most prominent colour in such parabolas of joy happens to be black, denoting profits. The most disliked colour is obviously red, a prospect which leaves many a business owner and CEO cold in the feet and shuddering.

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An annual get-together where families also get invited is a good idea to make people feel the humane side of the organization.

Plan entertainment of all kinds– primarily focused on kids–and see how much the parents love their day (or evening) out. Ensure that spouses hog the limelight – it is they who support the company’s operations in a silent but effective manner.

(Excerpt from my book ‘Surviving in the Corporate Jungle’, the English version of which was released recently.)

(This is how you can lay your hands on the Portuguese version of the book, launched in Portugal during March, 2016.)

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What is it that makes a professional fondly look back and remember the time spent with a particular organization?

The initial package sounds jaded over a period of time and the Law of Diminishing Utility eventually kicks in. The seniority for which one so adroitly negotiates at the entry stage fails to charm after some time,  unless backed by further achievements, recognition and rewards, added responsibilities and advancements. Time also takes the glow and shine off the social prestige which goes with being associated with one of the better known brands in the industry.

So, what is a professional left with after having left an organization?

The Lingering Sweetness

Much after the association with an organization has come to an end, the everlasting impression one carries in one’s mind depends on two simple factors. One, professional achievements which were individually attained but facilitated and enabled by the support systems ingrained in the culture of the organization. Two, the manner in which one was treated as a human being. Often, one of the results is the number of long-lasting relationships that one makes while the association lasts.

Organizations happen to be made up of people of all sizes, shapes and temperaments. But the treatment received at the hands of key people one comes in touch with determines whether the after-taste remains sweet or sour; also, how long it lingers in the taste buds of our memory cells.

The Brand of the People

A brand represents an element of trust and reliability. The concept is not limited merely to the quality of the product or service on offer.  In fact, the systems and procedures followed by an organization, their sturdiness in the face of adversity and change, the element of fairness in its dealings with diverse stakeholders – all go on to add to the allure and enigma of the brand.

Much of the aura which characterizes a brand emanates from its people. It is they who create a buzz in the employment market. The lingering sweetness of an association is often determined by the Employee Brand Value.

I have had the opportunity of working with several companies. Each one had a different culture and a unique way of handling people. Nevertheless, it was interesting to observe how employees got treated far better by companies which had a stronger brand identity.

Allow me to share with you some of my experiences which have left me with a positive feel and a sweet after-taste!

The Human Touch

The care and companionship I was fortunate to receive in all the companies I worked with was unique in more ways than one.

When the management decided to shut down an operation headed by me, a colleague of mine and I were mercilessly beaten up by a gang of misinformed workers. Prompt medical attention, legal support, counseling for the self and the family and a compulsory vacation followed automatically. A month later, the then MD, nine rungs above us in the rigid hierarchy, called us over for a friendly chat over a cup of tea and instilled in us a sense of pride and fulfillment for having stood up to the rowdy elements in the work force.

In another company, a colleague met with a serious road accident on a busy highway while reporting for work. Over the next two years, he had to undergo a series of reconstructive surgeries to regain normality. No effort was spared to ensure that he and his family got the best support available. This, despite the company facing a severe financial challenge at the time.

In yet another case, my entry was marked by a gentle induction into the operations of the company. As my role expanded and evolved over a period of time, support – technical as well as emotional – was invariably close at hand. Above all, the HR policies facilitated a healthier work-life balance to be achieved. Which is not to say that there was ever a compromise on the goals to be achieved.

A Premium on Compassion

While I was on a personal overseas trip, a much revered colleague suddenly died of a cardiac failure. A prompt mail came from a colleague of mine. I was simply devastated. When I called back to find out precisely what had occurred and how, I was given only sketchy details. Subsequently, an inquiry was instituted to find out who had made the bloomer of conveying the disturbing news to me at a personally critical time!

A woman playing a critical role on the operations side faced a dilemma on a day which was very crucial for the company. Her husband, working in a far off city, was to return home for a brief period on the same day, that too after a gap of a few months. Having delegated her tasks and arranging a smooth conduct of her area of responsibility, she requested for half a day off from work. The immediate boss was in no mood to oblige, but relented after the top boss decided to intervene on humanitarian grounds.

Separations as Brand Building Opportunities

In one instance, a popular and effective manager suddenly decided to leave the company. At a glittering farewell ceremony, he was showered with lavish praise and presented with a gold medal by the President of the company himself. Within six months, he found that he was a cultural misfit in the next company. Feelers came in through informal channel and he soon rejoined us.

In another case, a much pampered and popular junior decided to leave the company after a long stint when he was in fact being groomed to take over a key department. A red-faced bunch of seniors met to discuss what steps could be taken to prevent the person from leaving the company’s employment. When all efforts failed, the group decided not to be vindictive in nature. Instead, the exit was facilitated so as to leave the employee in a highly positive frame of mind. The result is that even today, the , channels of communication between the company and the ex-employee remain open and smooth. Whenever the employee needs support in his new assignment, the company is there to back him up.

When the time came for me to part company (due to personal reasons, of my own accord), a smooth and graceful exit was ensured. In a farewell meeting, seniors, colleagues and others from across the company paid rich compliments in a manner which would forever remain fresh in my memory. An informal association continues till this day.

Winding Up With Minimal Resistance

Since business was not doing well, management decided to wind up the operations at the unit I was associated with in the past. The unit, directly employing more than 1,000 persons, happens to be located in an area which has seen multifold increase in labor disputes of all kinds over the past decade. As of date, there is hardly any unit which does not sport a red flag on its main gate, declaring the union which is active therein.

And what happens in this case? A well thought-out separation package gets rolled out. Most of the management staff get either relocated or out-placed. A well-rehearsed PR campaign gets underway with all the key government functionaries to ensure adequate and effective communication. This outcome is this well-designed initiative is that there are no unpleasant obstructions to the winding up plans of the company. Also, no one in authority enjoys the dubious pleasure of subsequently claiming that he or she could have done something to stop the loss of employment to a plethora of people, had they only been told of it before hand. A smart winding up, no?!

The Trust Reposed in the Employee

A common feel-good factor is the exemplary support provided to a senior manager on a critical mission. Just the feeling that one was free to take a call and will get backed up by the management, come what may, does the trick. An intrapreneur gets enthused no end when he or she is working on a mission wherein the survival of a business entity depends on him or her ensuring that a particular issue gets settled favorably. The top man merely looks him in the eye and tells him to go for it – and the goal is met. The after-glow of a professional  achievement of this kind surely lasts a life time!

Building up the Employee Brand Value

Organizations focus on crafting a powerful employee brand so as to attract and retain the best talent. Here are examples from the ones which have added to their brand value by focusing on separations as well. A well thought out plan for winding up can ensure that while business goals are met effectively, there is no damage caused to the brand.

When alumni recall their positive association with the organization, it is a sure sign that the memory of its brand is getting leveraged right. Making an employee feel valued even after he or she has parted company only adds to the long-term allure of the brand.

(Related Post: ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/ramping-down-a-business-the-smart-way)

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