Article: How to drive engagement in a diverse country like India

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How to drive engagement in a diverse country like India

What can be a better example than India to understand the concept of driving engagement when your workforce is spread over different locations, times and cultures? A look at an organization through the lens of a nation with several states as an example.
How to drive engagement in a diverse country like India

The underlying principles and driving forces are consistent and overlapping for both and they emerge from the most fundamental virtue of achieving ‘Unity in Diversity.’ 

Let’s simplify it even more. First, let’s talk about a home. Does everyone in the family have similar tastes, preferences or challenges? While all of them may have shared same values, they are all unique. The same goes for organizations, teams, nations and the world. From the smallest unit to the largest, the key is offering customization and relevance. 

How to Design an Engagement Framework that Unifies Diversity:

  • Leaders at 2nd and 3rd rungs should be given power and freedom to take independent decisions

  • Remember to engage the sectors that have less workforce

  • Diverse dynamism should remain aligned with the overall goals and functions of the organizations

  • Diverse people should have the feeling of togetherness within the organization

An organization that is large, with the workforce in different geographies, times and cultures, will have to be extremely agile, diverse and dynamic for it to create an effective engagement program. Much like a nation, an organization too will have a shared vision, core values, and beliefs that keep the complete eco-system aligned. However, it will also have enough room for local flavors/customization to thrive, be it in the kind of talent pool, regional notions or people’s experiences and expectations.

While Mumbai, being the commercial capital of India, may have the higher profit margins with the greater pool of customers, a location like Chennai or Ahmedabad may have a different panorama filled with prospects and emerging markets. The kind of workforce, lifestyles and their motivations might be completely different while being equally important in the scheme of an overall organization. 

Many times, even two offices within the same location can have different views on what works for them. The most effective way to address this is to go ‘Glocal’ and let it be an open menu for people to chose what works for them.

HOW do we go about designing an engagement framework that’s effective, dynamic yet unified?

Same size doesn’t fit all:

An effective engagement program will have people as drivers and not just participants. What works in Pune may not work in Bangalore. What might be a high-value proposition for Mumbai might turn out to be a fiasco in Delhi. Forget geographies, many times, even two offices within the same location can have different views on what works for them. The most effective way to address this is to go ‘Glocal’ and let it be an open menu for people to chose what works for them. 

States are important, so are the State Heads: 

While Head offices remain the focus point, quite like the Central Government, however, effective governance cannot happen sitting at the top. The second in command leaders who represent States, geographies and large teams that are responsible for the performance of their territory need to be given empowerment, support, and freedom to take decisions that are in the best interest of their region. Often, organizations fail to create an effective overall engagement with their fixation (which can even be as small things as time of the event, food menu and kind of activities planned for the day) to run country-wide/global initiatives without looking at the relevance and impact. 

Minorities Matter! 

Often organizations, quite like nations, get busy focusing on the large geographies and those with higher ROIs and large numbers. To ensure an effective engagement across the organization, it’s imperative that they don’t lose out on engaging geographies/emerging market or locations that have a lesser workforce. On the contrary, it’s far more operationally easy to engage this segment, as a little focus can create world-class engagement for people and make them feel included. 

Diverse dynamism doesn’t mean de-alignment: 

One cannot stress enough on this aspect as most organizations in their quest to become dynamic land up de-aligning with the overall objective or organization’s definition of engagement. Ideally, this should remain consistent for people irrespective of where they belong or which time zone they operate in. For example, if learning is a key element of an organization’s engagement framework, it is not a great idea to say that a top performing market that has a team of superstars doesn’t need any learning intervention and such decisions can be categorized as an ad-hoc approach. 

A successful engagement framework is incomplete if it doesn’t bring everyone under the same roof and focus on togetherness. Annual Meets, Company Off-sites, Family Days, All Hands Meet etc. are some of the many successful ways of bringing the whole organization together.

Diverse people should stand under the same roof:

An organization is an eco-system with various elements and no element can be bigger than the eco-system. While a nation may have a lot of regional festivals, regional languages and preferences, it still is a part of a larger purpose and stands for something bigger and more important. Similarly, in organizations, it’s vital to have the key events, values, vision, philosophies that connect the last man on the ground and bring everyone together at various points and time. A successful engagement framework is incomplete if it doesn’t bring everyone under the same roof and focus on togetherness. Annual Meets, Company Off-sites, Family Days, All Hands Meet etc. are some of the many successful ways of bringing the whole organization together. 

As a CHRO, having worked with similar setups in multiple organizations, one great way could be to ask, what constitutes a great workplace? Cultures differentiate people preferences, but the DNA of all human beings is the same and hence, the core of everyone remains the same. 

A great workplace will help people experience factors like care, connect, inclusion, development, recognition respect etc., which are independent of time zones, geographies, culture and people. How each organization or each business/region/geography goes about achieving this can be very different and unique. Many roads can lead you to a similar destination. We should be fixed about the destination and be flexible about the way we want to reach there. After all, Namaste and Good morning, both have the same sense of respect even if they are a part of two different geographies and culture. 

Topics: Life @ Work, Employee Engagement, Diversity

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