In the post-pandemic era, we have been witnessing the trend of Great Resignation and how HR and employers are re-visiting the people processes and the more significant value proposition. Everybody is in an overdrive mode to come up with new approaches, models, and frameworks to attract, retain and engage talent at the workplace. The impact has been gradual and slow.
It’s good to be contemporary in our people processes, practices, and systems and adapt to the changing workplace trends and business demands. Moreover, change, transformation and growth seem to be the agenda for most organisations.
In my view, something more fundamental that needs to become a way of life and institutionalised in the DNA of any organisation should be prioritised. There is a need to have regular conversations with employees. Organisations, I feel, are struggling today to know and understand the thoughts, expectations, needs, and aspirations of people.
It is extremely important to be in touch with people to understand their pulse. Efforts must be made to know what precise interventions need to be undertaken to drive the agenda of transformation, change, and growth.
It's not just about doing conversations but structuring and framing them as well. It is all about knowing about the variety of conversations that need to be analysed.
Essentially, there are at least four-five different conversations that need to happen at the workplace as shared below.
- Well-being conversations: This is about knowing where the employee is in terms of mental or emotional and physical wellness. It’s about attempting to know the employee’s well-being on the personal front. Let’s not forget that the home ecosystem has a bearing on the state of mind of the employee and influences his workplace behaviour. Extend a helping hand wherever possible.
- Developmental conversations: It’s about getting to know the developmental needs and aspirations of the employee. Every employee wants to sharpen his skills, knowledge, and competencies to grow professionally. Taking interest in knowing what the employee wants and supporting him in whatever small or big way makes the employee feel valued.
- Mentoring conversations: It’s about relating to how the employee is adapting to the workplace challenges, demands, and expectations and guiding him through experiential inputs to help him more effectively, and enhance his contributions at the workplace to get the desired recognition and appreciation. These conversations are aimed at helping the employee do well and succeed in the workplace.
- Performance conversations: These conversations are very crucial, fundamental, and looked forward to by employees. Most organisations have a process of having these conversations, which are more focused on feedback, at least once or twice a year. What’s needed is to make these conversations much more regular and real-time so that the employee gets an opportunity to go for course correction and gets timely appreciation which can stimulate him or her to take performance to the next level. The shift is from periodic conversations to continuous performance conversations.
- Career conversations: Every employee has an aspiration to grow in terms of his responsibility and role. It’s important to have a conversation with the employee to know the career goals and how he or she is progressing on the growth path and what support is needed to encourage the individual. It also involves educating and counselling the employee honestly and realistically. These conversations should happen for both the talent pool and solid citizens of the organisation.
It’s important that the depth of each conversation is appropriately contextualised and fine-tuned to the individual’s need, background, role, level, etc. Many good organisations carry some or all of these conversations but regularity, and comprehensiveness are extremely important to stay updated and be responsive.
These conversations ideally need to be led by the immediate manager/superior. HR needs to facilitate such conversations. An individual employee, needless to say, experiences the organisation to a large extent through his Manager because he builds the immediate ecosystem for the employee to work, learn and contribute. He plays a primary role that influences an employee’s engagement and decision to stay or leave. There are researches to suggest that employees join organisations but leave managers. The value proposition of the organisation has to be maintained with credibility by the manager. Conversations are the starting point.
An employer needs to train the managers and leaders to conduct these conversations. HR needs to play a key role in enabling the building of this capability in the organisation. Such discussions need to be done in a manner where the employee feels that the space is acceptable, authentic, and genuine. The managers initiating conversations should not only have the required skill and knowledge but also must be emotionally and socially intelligent. Maturity, objectivity, credibility, and authenticity should characterise such conversations. Listening with openness is a very important element of any conversation and listening to the silence is very critical for a deeper understanding.
Conversations are the biggest driver of employee experience. Healthy conversations influence to a great extent an individual’s rational engagement and emotional connection. This in turn has a bearing on his / her discretionary effort, which further influences his overall experience with the organization.
These have become extremely essential in the current work-from-home and hybrid working environment. There is a growing feeling of disconnect, and distance on the part of the employer and employee. There is a struggle to relate to each other’s needs and expectations. Conversations act as a bridge to build alignment, appreciation, and acceptance.
Conversations make an employee feel valued, respected and wanted. They go a long way in building trust, understanding, closeness, alignment and understanding the pulse of the employee. It may not be possible always to meet and fulfil all that emerges out of such conversations but they at least provide an opportunity to understand, offer scope for clarification and know things realistically. Conversations provide the organisation with enough data points that can help reach conclusions to prepare a note on the employee experience. It is crucial to make the employee feel relevant, meaningful and valued.