Let’s face it –employee induction programs are almost passé as today’s generations fall more into a pattern of holistic social engagement or end up as ‘digital recluses’. So, if the lifestyles of the current generation employees have changed, co-working and co-habitation spaces are the ‘in thing’, it is perhaps time to re-look at social engagement at the workplace. Quality of work life therefore, is about how employee engagement can evolve to a richer and fuller social engagement for the modern workforce and keep them fully engaged. Read on to get some interesting perspectives….
We conducted a research pilot last year to introduce our program called ‘Happy Workplaces’ wherein we created a gamified assessment on specific aspects to understand how employees could be made aware and be accountable for their happiness at work. The factors we considered included Personal Direction, Attitude, People & Relationships, Personal work efficiency and Organizational / Manager support. Interestingly, we were able to identify specific areas for individual and organizational focus based on the patterns from the assessment results.
To remove any group bias, we invited all levels of employees for the exercise followed by a focus group. We were pleasantly surprised at how different employee groups used the opportunity to create a common agenda around individual and group actions through a self-empowerment process. So, our learning was that ‘happiness’ provided a powerful anchor to improve social engagement.
Voice of Employee
When we shared our research with larger organizations, we found that they preferred to depend on their employee feedback or conventional ‘Voice of employee’ tools to identify areas to work on. In some ways this put restrictive boundaries as employee groups across different work hierarchies and business units had different perspectives as their ‘sub-cultures’ were different.
So, today’s employees are happy to speak up on various topics that impact their work life through a combination of smaller and leaner initiatives with sharper focus round the year based on quick opinion polls (we used an App we had developed to check this) rather than a lengthy questionnaire on employee satisfaction. So the shift in behaviour was how the employees were taken through a more inclusive process based on their natural preferences than HR driving through its own agenda. This required finding themes that were both relevant to organizations and employee groups. Working with smaller groups also allowed for better execution specific to individual business units.
Values & Ethics
One of the assessment tools we love to use is to study values and understand ethical behaviours as there are concerns often shared by senior management. In our project experiences we found that making employees aware and aligned around core values and also looking for patterns across different layers of workforce clearly showed value cluster ‘gaps’ in the organization’s social fabric which would have been caused by generational shifts or by lack of communication and articulation of core values which led to a diffused culture or silos of strong opinions and biased behaviours.
Obviously this had a profound impact on how social interactions took place and what boundaries got created, transparency in communication and perception around rules and guidelines.
Some of the other organizations we worked with showed a specific pattern of employee concerns around career road maps and growth. While we observed that most organizations were trying to put in place ‘Corporate Universities’ with proctored and non-proctored learning (we helped create a couple of such academies) to create an organizational discipline for career progression, the core need was the freedom that employees desired to choose their careers which needed a very mature culture of mentoring and career facilitation and not just courses and evaluation!
This was a clear opportunity to address learning & development needs in an innovative manner and create unique learning experiences and easier movement of employees into new roles which were aligned to individual needs and aspirations and in a broader sense met organizational career pathways.
Freedom of Expression
The simplest form of social engagement is to create opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate employee contribution and collaboration – while organizations of today use gamified platforms and leader boards, this may not have the human touch as it creates competition for everything which may actually lead to disengagement.
We have found that since employees have diverse interests, activities like volunteering for social causes, informal focus groups, creating breakout spaces that foster employee creativity and simple cultural /small group activities and programs that allow employees to engage with each other beyond the organization structure would in the long run bring up the social quotient of an organization.
Mentoring and Coaching
For some organizations, we worked on creating mentoring and coaching programs for managers to address succession planning and encourage a different way of cross pollination of skills and thereby provide growth / career progress. This also provided a platform for people to reach out beyond their reporting relationships for addressing their individual learning needs and thereby pick up skills real time quickly rather than wait for a training calendar.
We encouraged informal mentoring and coaching more than relying on structure as this helped break down structural barriers faster. The other aspect we learnt was to pick up managers who shown a genuine interest in developing others as mentors and coaches rather than a force fit. Skip level mentoring was also found to be very useful.
Employees today perhaps are more detached than previous generations to their organizations and it is in this context that social engagement and social engineering becomes more relevant as a series of micro interventions in any size of organization. Even when employees move on, if the social engagement with the employee is good, they stay connected instead of severing ties completely.
The responsibility of social engagement lies on every manager and business leader and not just HR teams as people engagement is every manager’s responsibility. The strength of a social fabric of an organization directly thus reflects in the Quality of Work life – considering that employees spend more than 40-50% of their week at work, social engagement is an area that needs due attention of all management levels.