Employee happiness is no more about cutting cakes on birthdays: Ruhie Pande, CHRO Godrej Properties
What defines employee happiness? A great pay alone? Being appreciated at the workplace-besides the annual birthday celebration? Flexibility in working hours or an open, cool, snazzy workplace? Or something more than all of these combined? Today it is no secret that happy and healthy employees lead to more productivity and growth. The indispensable role of the workspace in driving the happiness and productivity has been confirmed by several reports like White Papers by Haworth, yet organizations face a humongous task in terms of tailoring their policies and programs to keep their employees happy and healthy.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Ms. Ruhie Pande, Chief Human Resource Officer, Godrej Properties Ltd. threw light on the importance of creating happiness at work and how it becomes imperative to explore what employees think would make them happy at work to foster an organization’s long-term sustainability goals.
How has the relationship between happiness and productivity changed for employees over the years? What are the shifts you have seen in the two decades of your journey?
Over the last few years, HR itself has shifted and the focus of organizations on people has shifted, across all big scale and smaller organizations. They are now no more looking at people as employees but as long-term assets. Gone are the days when people believed the productivity meant working harder or longer or being hierarchical meant more efficiency. People have started thinking very differently, and therefore good companies have started shifting in terms of both spirit and letter i.e. both in terms of the experience of the employees and the policies.
Organizations have started looking at employees as a unit, as a person, and not just as an employee; it’s not a transactional relationship anymore, it’s a more holistic relationship.
Organizations are convinced engaged employees are more productive and studies have proven that. Engaged employees think more innovatively, always go the extra mile, they stretch and give in that extra bit which makes or breaks the deal or creates that unique customer experience.
So the business case for happy, engaged employees has become amply clear to all business leaders. Businesses are looking at employee happiness more holistically. It’s no more about cutting cakes on birthdays. It’s no more spurts of events but a very dedicated effort to keep employees happy. You need to understand the type of workforce you have, their motivations-and then you can design a very 360 approach to employee happiness and morale.
What are some of the ingredients that go into improving employee happiness at work?
What keeps most employees engaged is definitely a great culture, good and supportive policies, an environment which keeps people updated and makes them feel that they are always learning, and lastly all these things culminating into the growth of the employee.
All employees want to come to an organization today not to work but to contribute.
And when they feel this contribution is valued in the form of recognition or in the form of learning and growth opportunity which he is getting, he will feel happy and engaged at work.
An organization will have to do all these things together to keep employees happy. It won’t work if you have great policies but your culture sucks. So if you can design programs around all the above aspects, then it will be a holistic way to approach employee happiness.
What are some of the key practices that can be employed to develop a culture which fosters employee happiness? What is Godrej Properties doing differently to promote employee happiness?
Culture unfortunately is a very nebulous word, very difficult for someone to specifically identify and say this is the kind of culture we want to design and therefore it will happen automatically. It’s nebulous; it takes a lot of effort. Essentially, culture is a set of behavior, of how people would behave.
For instance, at Godrej Properties, our essential value proposition is composed of three things: one is Tough Love, one is called Whole Self, and third is Your Canvas. Tough Love means that while we really care for our employees, we will give challenging and tough assignments to our employees. It’s stating upfront that we are a very meritocratic and a performance oriented culture.
Performance will be given precedence over anything else-which is much more relevant to us as most of our employees are millennials, who look to thrive in an organization that promotes high performance.
The second part Whole Self means-are you able to get your whole self to work every day? Research has proven from time to time that organizations which allow their employees to be who they truly are at work thrive. If you have to be pretending to be someone else or you face a lot of bias at work, or you are forced to behave in a particular manner because you feel inferior or superior, then employees won’t feel motivated to come to work and will be unhappy.
We do a lot of work around this. In the real estate sector and among Godrej, we are highest in terms of gender diversity and inclusion at about 30%. We also do a lot of sensitization programmes around biases to make the organization more open and inclusive. This program is called #Unlabel.
The third part Your Canvas talks about the fact that this is your canvas-now paint it the way you want.
We allow people to choose their career paths. We are very flexible across people moving across functions or people trying to do different things.
This year we are running a program called Disrupt to Transform where we have asked our employees to give their ideas on how to truly take Godrej Properties to the next level. We will put money behind the good ideas and take it to fructification-so there’s a huge reward. This creates energy and true happiness among employees.
The last part of your culture is the leadership- how open and accessible is it, is it high visibility high impact leadership? If you want to talk to your leaders, are they approachable? What are the forums where if you have a grievance, you can escalate it? In this respect, our management committee conducts open masterclasses with employees, in specific areas which are our expertise, lasting from four hours to a day. This gives a great opportunity to our employees to connect with the top leadership directly.
What has been the impact of all these policies that you have spoken about on employee happiness in Godrej Properties? Do you think organizations need to change their strategies and style of working to achieve long-term sustainability goal?
The impact of culture is very long term. Since we almost started this as a strategic initiative, we ran a program called Win for Employee and Win for Business. We clearly stated the agenda-this year, whatever we do, the focus will be on employees. After a year and a half, we are seeing that on all parameters, we are market leaders in four markets, our top lines have improved.
So there is a clear link between an organization’s sustainability goals and employee happiness. Organizations can have short spurts of growth in between-but a long-term sustainable growth is possible only when they are clearly focusing on employee happiness.
Promoting happiness at work not only presupposes active absorption, involvement, and participation but also an innate feeling of being fulfilled. As more millennials join the workforce, how can organizations contribute to the feeling of fulfillment?
The millennials have three to four very specific needs and requirements. I think they add a lot of value as their perspectives are very different. Their ability to look at things with a fresh pair of eyes is amazing. They definitely want an open culture, they want to be a part of strategic and meaningful projects, their need to contribute to the organization at a larger level is very strong, and they definitely care about their personal lives-they need work-life balance. To cater to them, we have work-life policies like two days’ work from home and flexi hours, which help them balance their work life as well as their personal lives. This along with our value propositions mentioned above, adds to the feeling of fulfillment.