Organizations today face talent challenges due to shifting skills demand, scarce talent, and a strict hiring landscape. In a recent report, SMEs across the e-commerce sector reported facing attrition as high as 80%. With evolving employee preferences around flexibility and purpose, employee engagement and retention efforts must be relooked at and revamped.
HR leaders must build more impactful people strategies and curate the right experience for their employees. A recent People Matters and Keka webcast discussion explored how.
Challenges in Employee Engagement
Employee engagement touches human nature and emotions and is subjective. Some of the key asks to curate an engaging employee experience are:
- Continuous learning and skill-building: Naveen Kumar, Head of People Function, Licious, believes human assets to be holy assets due to the ability to learn continuously. HR must create enablers to ensure people are engaged, such as fostering collaboration, providing clarity on aligning people's thoughts and efforts with the organization's, and co-creating the purpose of work.
- Conversations with concern and care: Employer-manager conversations must be grounded in concern and care. Dheeraj Pandey, VP Cloud HR Advisor, Keka, asks, "Are you caring for the job assigned to your people? Are your people competent? What ecosystem and roadmap are you offering them to build skills for next-level growth?".
- Better purpose and collaboration across teams: People need to understand and be sensitive to others' perspectives. Dheeraj believes that with relations and rallying behind a purpose, achieving the organizational objective and delivering the employee experience is more effortless. Rishu Garg, VP and Head HR – DeHaat, believes it's essential to make the workforce emotionally invested and help them connect with the organization's more profound purpose.
- Curate the right culture: Dheeraj believes that objectives do not drive people; belief systems drive them. "If we are investing in those belief systems, the journey will be exciting", he shared.
Personalizing the Employee Engagement Experience
The challenges to engagement today require a more robust approach to creating employee engagement. "It is paramount to remember that the employee expectation is "meet me where I am", shares Rishu. In the hybrid context, this translates to not just location but is related to mindset and the employees' journeys within the organization. The need is to understand employees individually and personalize the employee engagement experience for every employee in a distributed workforce. Naveen elaborates on how employees require solutions that make sense to them. "Employees today demand I am what I am, try to understand me and personalize according to my requirements, rather than throwing your solutions at me," he notes. The role of HR is to create flexibility in catering to individual requirements within the larger scheme of things - a balance between templatization and personalization. For example, organizations must build cultural elements to recognize employee contributions where managers and leaders become enablers rather than micromanagers. "Learning happens only with doing, experimenting, innovating, and kicking to keep going" is an important engagement philosophy, according to Naveen.
Digital as an engagement enabler
Technology can act as a time saviour and conversation enabler by throwing cues to jump onto accurate problem diagnosis instead of problem identification. Dheeraj believes that tech has the potential to templatize best practices and the power to create openness inside the organization and overcome resistance towards engagement initiatives. However, only the tech-forward approach will not work because of the emotions included in the engagement process. Pratima Pinto Thomas, Head HR, Fino Payments Bank suggests that organizations understand and introspect on their goals, define what they are trying to achieve through their goals, and then look for tools and strategies to engage employees within those goals. "One tool may not fit the entire gamut, and one may need multiple platforms." Today's individuals constantly want something new to engage with. To hold employees' interest, Naveen recommends a personalized, innovative, intuitive and experiential approach per the organizational context and stage.
The power of human touch
Overarching is the organizational culture. The workplace needs to be welcoming and feel like home. People are looking for 'I have friends to talk to, managers who are more like guides than monitoring me, and can have fun at work'. HR leaders need to consider how to keep people interested in coming to the office, find their connections, help them solve never-before problems and create a kick, and enable them to find their passion towards work with learning opportunities.
People want to be in control of things. Provide people flexibility to choose what matters to them.
-Naveen Kumar, Head People Function, Licious
DeHaat has categorized various moments in the employee journey based on working style and inherent individual needs, called 'Moments that Matter'. "We try to ensure we meet these needs using tools, face-to-face interactions, etc. For example, millennials strongly need work-life integration, whereas boomers see a clear demarcation between work and personal life. So we created initiatives which are comfortable and suited to both", shares Rishu. This helps employees be in sync with the company. Dheeraj agrees, "Democratization, making employees feel involved, continuous communication, and ensuring organization's openness and availability will help companies evolve and adapt quickly."
Engagement is about personal and role-based connections; tools can provide flexibility to deal with changes and disruptions to meet future aspects. Pratima highlights, "I would want digital engagement tools to be future-welcoming, and not future-proof". According to Naveen, HR leaders must solve for the organizational context and fundamental things that matter to people. For that, creating a listening mechanism to understand the grass root problems is essential.
Panellists agreed to cultivate the right culture by aligning founders and leaders to 'walk the talk'. But remember that the ones who make things happen are middle managers. So continuously hone middle managers' skills to inspire rather than manage people. This is possible by building a culture based on empathy. Rishu says, "Focusing on empathizing with every individual and empowering the managers will make employees feel valued and get their heads and hearts in the right place." This is necessary to tackle the challenges of engaging people in the future as well.