Employee engagement as a concept can have different connotations – however, broadly it can be defined with the help of three core elements- 1) the extent to which employees feel passionate, happy and committed to their jobs, 2) the extent to which they are connected with the vision, mission and ethos of the company and 3) perhaps the most important element, ‘how much discretionary efforts employees are ready to put in to achieve organizational goals to ensure sustained, superior performance’. At times, engagement is also equated with how much fun employees are having at the workplace however, engagement is a way deeper concept than this and requires concerted efforts from both individuals as well as organization’s side.
Engagement has emerged as an important construct over all these years and if we quickly delve into its genesis, we find that several eminent behaviourists recognized the criticality of the construct and put forth their observations like, Mary Parker Follet in 1920s proposed the early ideas around engagement and used terms such as employee morale, work ethics, productivity and motivation. During the 1950s, Frederick Herzberg propounded the idea of vertical enrichment where line managers provide developmental opportunities to the direct reports. The era of 1990s saw ideas such as- personal engagement, burnout antithesis approach, needs satisfying approach, popularized by William Kahn and Schmidt. However, it was Gallup which took the concept to another level and developed extremely popular ‘engagement survey’ which is still being used by the top companies.
Engagement in TVS
At TVS, the engagement framework is called as ‘visibility impact matrix’. The meaning of visibility is `engaging self or others in initiatives or activities which provide high adrenaline rush but for a temporary period of time’- organizing birthday parties, offsite, hosting fun events are some examples of conducting high visibility programs. On the other hand, high impact programs target at removing obstacles and bring more lasting impact on the organization as a whole. Such programs garner more respect and attention from the key stakeholders. The effort should be made to come up with high impact programs which should then be made visible so that the same can be emulated for the larger good. For example, in TVS a robust succession planning program was created which gave good returns by impacting the bottom-line. It was a high impact program which was made visible when the same was presented in the company’s forum as one of the most successful HR interventions. The need for HR managers is to be critical of themselves and deliberate how others perceive HR as a function. There is a need to choose between being popular vis a vis being respected for the work.
Why engagement is needed?
There can be many reasons to seek engagement like keeping employees’ morale up or retaining them however the main reason is to solicit discretionary efforts which people need to put to achieve organizational goals. People should be encouraged enough to contribute without much of coaxing or pushing. Employees should be motivated and engaged to walk the extra mile. Willingness of people to put in ‘discretionary effort’ is the real essence of engagement. However the question arises, under what conditions or circumstances, employees will be willing to put discretionary efforts. Let’s have a look at some of the engagement fundamentals:
- Perception of importance of the job: The extent to which employees perceive their job to be meaningful and important.
- Clarity of the roles to be performed: When employees find their role and work responsibilities to be clearly defined.
- Career paths and future at work: Employees’ finding their career paths to be clearly chalked out.
- Feedback: The extent to which employees receive constant and constructive feedback.
- Leadership attention: The extent to which leaders pay attention and spend good amount of time with the key resources in order to meaningfully engage them.
- Values: How passionately organizational values are rolled out and lived by the leaders.
- Communication: How organizational vision, mission and values are communicated by the leaders.
- Voice: Opportunities given to the employees to voice out their concerns.
- Empowerment: Extent of ‘work-related control’ given to the employees.
Tools for Maximising Engagement
In TVS, the tool to maximize engagement is called as MAP (Mastery, Autonomy, Purpose) which posits that ‘autonomy’ and ‘mastery’ give good control to the employees while ‘purpose’ shows employees why are they here and what exactly they are trying to achieve. By giving MAP to the employees their levels of engagement can be increased. Furthermore, leaders can play a huge role in facilitating engagement among employees by bringing in alignment with the vision of the organization and the competency levels.
Moments of Truth
How can leaders know if their employees are really engaged? ‘Moments of Truth (MOT)’, a marketing concept can be used to determine the extent of engagement among employees. It is basically a moment when customer interacts with a brand or uses it to form or change its impression. MOT has various levels ranging from zero to three where the third level indicates the highest level of brand advocacy . Similarly, within the context of engagement, it is desirable to attain level three where employees become the true ambassadors of the organization and don’t hesitate to put in discretionary efforts to achieve organizational goals. So in all, employees who show more of discretionary efforts are deemed to be more engaged and connected to their workplace. The question arises- can this third level of engagement be achieved- answer is yes to a great extent with the help of some effective ‘Rewards and Recognition’ strategies.
Designing and Implementing Customized Reward & recognition Strategies
Within an organization, employees can perform several roles; ‘core role’- doing only what is there in the job description, ‘career role’- doing things meant to advance one’s career, ‘team role’ - moving out of the core role and providing support to the team, ‘innovator role’- making innovations leading to work improvement and ‘organization role’- helping organization by demonstrating citizen-like behaviours. In order to increase engagement levels of the employees, it is desirable to design variety of reward programs that felicitate employees for their contribution at various levels. It is advisable to find out what motivates employees and then craft reward strategies accordingly. Some employees value autonomy and flexibility so give them that and let them decide their rewards, e.g. gift vouchers and cash prize will lend them this control. The 6Ds beautifully summarize what engagement is for TVS – it is "Doing, Daily, Directly, Deliberately, Diligently and Distributedly" says Madhu Raghunath, Head of HR and Organizational Capability, TVS and Sons
To conclude, it can be said that engagement is not a onetime event rather a deep construct which has the potential to impact organization wide outcomes. The efforts should be made to provide conducive working conditions to the employees so that they willingly put discretionary efforts to enhance the organizational outcomes. Furthermore, the need is to recognize employees’ role in the organization and design reward and recognition strategies accordingly.
(Excerpts from the ‘engagement webinar’: presented by Madhu Raghunath)