Committed employees are the greatest asset for any organization. People are committed and engaged when they feel they are being cared for in the organization.
Caring is one of the important elements of the Culture Assessment Model of Great Place to Work® Institute, identified as one of the nine key practice areas. According to this model, caring has three parameters - balancing, supporting and including. ‘Balancing’ looks at distinctive policies and programs that respond to people’s needs to balance their work with their personal lives. ‘Supporting’ refers to policies for helping employees cope with family/personal crises, and ‘including’ refers to practices that help in promoting an environment of inclusion of various demographics.
An employee feels cared for when the organization values him/her as a person and not just a resource to get work done from. It gives due respect to their personal needs and provides support during times of personal tragedies or difficulties. Presented here are lessons learnt from the best workplaces, can serve as references of ‘care for employees’:
It is not work or life; it is work and life: People have both personal and professional needs and must be accepted with both. Fulfillment of one alone cannot satisfy them. Therefore, workplaces need to have initiatives that address the personal needs as well. Qualcomm has a comprehensive work-life balance program, called QLife. The programs and services offered through QLife are organized into six different “communities”: community life, family life, healthy life, leisure life, team life, and life resources. It includes volunteering for social activities like helping underprivileged youth, workshops on parenting, safety calendar, health check-ups, and indoor recreation and adventurous outings.
Flexibility is the key to work-life balance: Different employees have different kinds of requirements as far as support in personal life is concerned. It works best if organizations can clarify expectations as far as work is concerned and give employees the freedom to decide how they want to do it. The flexible time (flex-time) option at Intel enables employees to make time adjustments to regular work schedules or take time off for personal requirements. Summer flexi program at American Express allows time off, for example, parents with young kids or employees with aged parents are given the option of alternate work models (shorter work week, work-from-home, early/late start time, etc.)
Team plays a critical role in enabling work-life balance: Most employees work in teams and it helps if teams can come together to define arrangements that are beneficial for all. It not only helps employees get support during critical times, but also builds relationships that go beyond work and the organization. The vacation donation program at Qualcomm allows employees to donate vacation time to assist other employees, who may need those extra days in the event of a personal emergency.
Communicate that using work-life policies is desirable and not a taboo: Employees often have a mindset that expecting work-life balance is equal to not exhibiting the required dedication, and that their loyalty may be judged by number of hours spent at the office. This mindset is detrimental for both the individual and the organization and is also contagious. Organizations need to proactively discourage this and communicate the importance of work-life balance for the well-being of all. At Bharti Airtel, “8 is late” is an initiative that discourages employees from sitting in office post 8pm. Late sitting is tracked and employees are required to fill a permission slip for staying late. SCOPE has instituted an annual “Work-Life Balance Award” that assesses the various business units on their contribution to a healthy work-life balance, like implementation of 5 days a week work, team bonding initiatives, automation of processes and efficient utilization of manpower resources. The ‘Smart Work, Smart Reward’, aims to measure productivity of the employee by penalizing every extra hour of work over the stipulated guideline, thereby reducing the incentive earned by the employee.
Support is not charity; it is collective self-help: Support should aim at encouraging the commitment of the individual in being helped and thus, strengthen him/her to take charge of the times ahead. Infosys has a ‘Samaritans Network’, where samaritans are employee volunteers available for providing emotional support to their colleagues. They are trained counselors from various units. When Google was affected by the changing economy, it had to eliminate a small number of redundant positions. Despite the tough news, Googlers together worked to support those who were directly affected, by posting information about available jobs within other departments. Over 40 members of their people operations department, offered their expertise to those in need by reviewing resumes, doing practice interviews, and providing networking and general career advice.
Clearly communicate the conditions under which you provide benefits: It is essential to clearly communicate the responsibilities that employees have towards the various benefits that they enjoy. They must understand that the benefits they enjoy may cease to exist, if all involved are not responsible to act according to the design and intent of the particular benefit.
Believe that diversity is essential for continued success: Businesses go through changing times. Customer preferences, market dynamics and relationships with stakeholders change. To cope with the changes and to prepare for the future, organizations need multiple perspectives and varied talent. In the absence of the same, it can miss opportunities and may become extinct if the times change drastically. GRACE (Grow, be Responsible and Accountable for Career Enhancement) is a mentoring program for women employees at American Express. This helps aspiring women to grow into mid-management/leadership roles and build successful careers.
When organizations adopt such practices, they go an extra mile in ensuring the well-being of their employees and the culture is transformed from being transactional to building a relationship with the employees. When employees experience organizational support for their family/personal responsibilities, they are more committed to the organization and therefore, more effective in their work. Organizations can express their care for their people if they have the intention and believe that it is a win-win for both parties.
Ralsi Sharma is Project Manager at Great Place to Work® Institute, India. Views expressed here are personal. You can read her articles and blogs at http://www.greatplacetowork.in. Ralsi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org