July 18, 2016

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Decoding art and science for strengthening “employee engagement”

Workplace challenges are quickly moving from being an HR problem to the one being a productivity issue in the boardroom. Despite technological advancements and innovative HR technologies, these problems are compounding. The list becomes too long to work on. However in this blog we will discuss handpicked two strategic challenges- 1) How to strengthen Employee Engagement to drive more productivity 2) How to motivate Employees

When you talk about teams, rather “winning teams”, the world would agree that ‘building’ a winning team is a tad easier than ‘making’ an existing team into a winning one. Imagine if you have to cook the dish from the start, you get to pick your ingredients and spices, you decide the quality and quantity to savor the food. What if the dish is previously cooked and you are then asked to make it a world-class dish in no time! Whoa, it becomes quite a daunting task!

And at that moment, I tell you to replace the “dish” with a “team of professionals”, it becomes all the more a formidable challenge to play with humans (not dormant ingredients this time). Unlike ingredients, humans wear a thinking head top and have their own behavioral patterns; because employee motivation varies from person to person.

Let’s not downscale the problem statement and look at the bigger question to address the perennial workplace issue e.g. employee engagement and productivity.

Imagine, if you were asked, “Where would you like to go to do something meaningful in your professional remit or do meaningful creative work” Possible answers would be “coffee shop”, “basement”, “car”, “secluded room in the house” or may be a “library”. Most of the populace would prefer early in the morning or late at night or a weekend.

Is there any possibility that one will answer “I will go to office” for doing something creative and professionally fulfilling. While businesses all over the world spend whopping time and resources in setting up this place called “office” with all necessary equipment and comfort where people will work, why is that the majority of people don’t prefer “office” as a place where they can do something meaningful.

Do we have a workday at the office or meager work moments? We are 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there, and then something else happens, then lunch and before we know its 5PM. By the end of the day, when we look back we realize, there is nothing meaningful that has been done today. Though we used our expensive computers, actively participated in the calls, important meetings, the end result is most often than nothing meaningful achieved.

Why is that so? Maybe because thinking heads need something called as “stretch of uninterrupted time” to program their minds! You cannot imagine someone to be creative in 15 minutes and think of a master solution. She/he could possibly come with an idea of a light bulb moment, but to fine-tune the idea and design an execution strategy, “a stretch of uninterrupted time” is a must.

Working is like sleeping! Yes, you read that right. These two contrasting activities work on similar grounds. Like sleeping, working has phases. Is it possible for humans to pick-up the sleep from where you left? No, one will have to start all over again. Same goes for work. One just cannot stop/interrupt someone intermittently and expect creativity and innovation despite all the yearning and noble intentions.

In the face of all the talk about work from home, there are dismal takers in business corridors to endorse the idea. Most managers today are still held in old school command control mentality with no realization that interruptions at work are involuntary, unlike home where interruptions are voluntary in action. At work, one is bound to attend your colleagues, discussions, calls and above all “Meeting requests”!!

Manager’s role is mostly to keep a check, if you are on the job, which would primarily mean constant interruptions. Attending that meeting would scientifically mean to stop the functioning of your brain cells in that direction, making dispersion and heading in a new direction which also impacts employee engagement at work and with their work.

Meetings are incredibly disruptive and toxic, to say the least, “no work” happens at meetings. Meetings are mostly about stocktaking of work done in past (ranging from past hours to days to weeks or a year may be) or planning strategy and developing an operational plan. Meetings procreate and work on multiplier effect, leading to one after the other, making it a vicious circle.

After screening the problem statement, it becomes worthwhile to look out for solutions. Can something be done about making the office a better place to work? How about taking a clue from casual Fridays?

Let’s make one day a week “NO ONE TALKS TO EACH OTHER DAY” (e.g. Tuesday or Thursday) resultant uninterrupted day of work. How about the usage of more technology i.e. passive messaging which are voluntary distractions and one can choose when you respond or mute.

Most importantly, what if you have the option to CANCEL THAT NEXT MEETING! Meetings do not add to productivity, the tasks can be accomplished in a more innovative and result oriented way without meetings.