Change and uncertainty have become an intrinsic part of an organisation’s lifecycle, especially in the current socio-economic landscape. The uncertainty brings multiple challenges such as employee attrition, absence of talent fulfillment, a disconnected workforce, risk of leadership burnout, and more. Added to these are the pressures to succeed and achieve excellent business outcomes. As organisations confront this unprecedented period after the great resignation, how can they create cultures that thrive amidst uncertainty? What are the critical drivers of designing a culture that attracts talent, motivates them to stay, and inspires them to do their best work?
People Matters in partnership with O.C. Tanner hosted a series of roundtable discussions with a select group of senior HR leaders and industry experts to explore these burning questions and unlock impactful strategies on how to shape the future of workplace culture. These roundtables in Mumbai, Gurugram, and Bangalore were aimed to initiate dialogue and exchange learnings on strengthening workplace communities, fortifying weary leaders, leveraging the impact of integrated recognition, and exploring the role of symbolic rewards to deepen belonging.
Gary Beckstrand, Vice President of O.C. Tanner Institute opened each of these insightful discussions and set the stage for the conversations to follow. With over 20 years of expertise in culture-building, Gary shared his incredible learnings and emphasised the importance of four factors critical to fulfilment: community, connection and belonging, growth, balance and purpose. “Employees want to join, meaningfully contribute and stay with companies with healthy workplace communities. Fulfilment is a superior indicator of employee sentiment and contributes to business outcomes,” he emphasised in his opening speech at the Mumbai roundtable, the first of the three-city series.
With some of the greatest minds in the HR fraternity in attendance, these roundtables were expertly moderated by Vishakha Sawlapurkar, Head of Performance, Rewards & Workforce Planning at Adani Group; Renu Bohra, Chief People Officer at DB Schenker; and Krishna Raghavan, Chief People Officer at Flipkart in Mumbai, Gurugram and Bangalore respectively.
Here are some key takeaways from these power-packed conversations.
Employees want to belong and have a sense of purpose
O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report highlights that a sense of belonging results in a 43% increase in retention, an 84% increase in intent to stay and a 38% decrease in burnout. No doubt, building a fulfilling workplace does stem from having a strong sense of community and purpose. Avesh Jha, Sr. VP-OD & Head HGS Columbia at Hinduja Global Solutions rightly shared, “With the advent of tech, people are getting distant and aloof but communities are essential. Workplaces of today must connect organisational purpose to individual purpose and make their people feel like they belong and are wanted.”
When we asked leaders across the roundtables how they are achieving this, Sanjay Jha, CHRO at Mahindra First Choice Wheels Ltd. shared how their organisation is building communities through initiatives such as periodic rewards, instant recognition, assigning their people challenging work that empowers them to become more creative and contribute to the larger organisational purpose. Pooja Chawla Sanghavi, Head-Performance Management and R&R, Tata Consultancy Services added to this, “We prioritise engagement with purpose and ensure its relevant to different associates at different levels of the organisation. This has 5 spokes: transformation, growth, health and wellbeing, community and recognition.”
Leaders are employees too and need support
While organisations have been resilient, we cannot forget how challenging and exhausting it has been for leaders to balance organisational needs and employee needs. There is a danger of increased isolation and burnout, even O.C. Tanner’s research highlights that 43% of leaders are more likely to say that work is interfering with their ability to be happy in other areas of their life.
It is imperative to take a step back and evaluate how the accelerated transformations since the pandemic are impacting our managers, especially our mid-level managers. Their contributions must also be recognised, it is important that they too feel appreciated, and we support them continuously with the tools and resources they need. Urmi Chatterjee, VP-HR-APAC at Honeywell believes that quality of work, upskilling talent, recognition, creating an environment where employees are appreciated and engagement with purpose is critical to retention. And this applies to leaders as well.
Recognition must be frequent, purposeful and meaningful
“We as an organisation believe that recognition delayed is recognition denied. It should be obvious, timely, celebratory and done much more frequently,” emphasised Chandraprakash Jain, Senior Director-HR Operations at Teleperformance. Indeed, recognition should be in real-time and should be encouraged organisation-wide to deepen a sense of belonging and purpose. Additionally, leaders at the roundtable also highlighted how it is important to recognise effort and intent.
Anshu Uppal. HR Partner at IBM highlighted, “Culture is built by purpose, values and leaders. Recognition should also apply to celebrating the behaviours that drive these outcomes and how it aligns with the organisational values.” Another interesting point that was raised by Naveen Manshani, Director-Total Rewards at UnitedHealth Group is the importance of decoupling recognition from compensation. “Compensation can drive performance and results but use recognition to appreciate the work done. We must recognise the efforts regardless of whether we have the desired results or not,” he added.
Symbolic awards are important for a fulfilling employee experience
“Symbolic rewards tell a unique organisational story and create a fulfilling and memorable employee experience. This is important because research shows how fulfilled employees are likely to stay in the organisation for 3 more years. It impacts their long-term retention and inspires them to do great work,” reiterated Gary. The leaders at the roundtable agreed and added how personalisation is key to connecting with the individual and reinforcing how they are adding value to the organisational mission. This rings especially true for performance recognition initiatives as well as company-wide celebrations.
High-recognition cultures that incorporate symbolic awards strengthen the workplace community, increase fulfilment, and support leaders who are at risk of burnout. As pointed out by O.C. Tanner’s research, this then results in employees becoming a part of the organisation’s story and success, rather than merely contributing to it from the margins. When employees are empowered to embody organisational values and translate them into impactful actions, there is no doubt that great achievements are bound to follow. An added bonus is an even stronger sense of belonging at the workplace.
These insightful conversations across three cities which saw the participation of future-forward leaders reflected on the people-centric initiatives that have worked and how we can better these practices. Building thriving workplaces calls for defining and redefining workplace culture practices. Organisations must prioritise talent fulfilment, address the risk of leadership burnout and revisit their recognition frameworks. Ultimately, it all boils down to what people want, how they can be supported in their journey with the organisation and most importantly, how their achievements can be celebrated symbolically. Recognition is not only the key to retention but also the key to fulfilment, belonging and sustaining meaningful connections.
To learn more about how to achieve great work, and build a fulfilling and purpose-driven workplace culture, you can click here to read O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report.