How to enhance engagement in a diverse workforce
Gone are the days of one size fits all, especially when it comes to talent engagement and development. Valuing diversity is an important component of engaging any workforce, it is essential to recognize and appreciate differences between people and value them for who they are.
The workplace is fast growing wider and more diverse. Research suggests that soon there will be a multigenerational workforce with five different generations operating out of the same office space - each with their own preferences, skills and set of strengths. However, workplaces will be dominated by millennials, particularly in the technology sector and that further adds to the dynamics and the ensuing challenges.
Building and nurturing a great work culture and environment where everyone finds a place to bloom, every day is special, everything is learning and everyone is involved is an achievement par excellence. The environment where employees get excited about the organization and feel proud of, can be created only by enthusiastic and highly energized people who derive enjoyment from their work and also make it a pleasure for those whom they work with. Such an engaged workforce is the real asset of any organization and drives it to a position of invincibility.
Engagement in any workplace can be measured by listening to employees as to what is working and what is not, how they feel about the organization, their sense of pride as expressed by them, and their focus as seen at work.
One of the most frequent questions every employee asks these days is ‘what is in it for me from the role, goal and growth perspective’. Any initiative that addresses any of these three things, they are willing to engage with. The other observation is that the young generation look out for four things as fundamental to them i.e. Earning – A wholesome and friendly rewards system, Learning – Building and increasing employability, Fun – Enjoyable and flexi work environment and Pride – In being and doing.
"Moving the 'diversity discussion' beyond gender and race to also discuss generational diversity — and generational inclusion — is a major theme in HR for the next few years."
Josh Bersin, Founder, and principal at Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP
It is evident that employee engagement needs to be customized not only for the different generations of employees but also for each employee within the generational groups. The engagement expectations for a tenured employee, high performing employee, employee at the entry level and leadership level etc. could potentially be different. It is important for the HR business partners and engagement champions to have the right insight about the needs and wants of the diverse and multi-generational workforce. These insights need to be smartly picked up through regular and constant touch point sessions with different categories of employees mentioned above. Traditionally, what worked in the past is no guarantee for the future in this regard. Organizations that have come of age, do not look at engagement in the traditional ways anymore.
Respecting and valuing the unique flavor and strength of every employee, and binding them through a common shared vision and purpose is quintessential to forging a strong connect. A work culture that has elements of collaboration, supportiveness, result orientation, appreciation and respect cannot but be strongly engaged.
"The main challenge in engaging employees across generations is that generations differ in the way they approach work/life balance, loyalty, authority, and other issues that affect your organization."
Diane Belcher, Senior Director, Product Management, at Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning
Perhaps one of the reasons organizations struggle with low engagement is the advent of the new generation workforce, whose nature and expectations from the workplace are substantially different from others. Further, their expectations are diverse, varied and do change quite frequently. Studies indicate that unlike Gen X, or the baby boomers, Gen Y, do not see job as an end, rather is only a means to an end. In other words, they see purposes beyond job, it could be social cause, entrepreneurial ambitions, philanthropic initiatives etc. This indeed is a radical change in the thinking and behavior. It is important to recognize these and provide them the avenue to nurture these as well.