Employee Engagement: Three simple solutions Indian firms can use

Bhavna Dalal
Published: 10, Jan 2018

Bhavna Dalal ( www.bhavnadalal.com) is the Founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners [www.talentpowerpartners.com] a Leadership Development company based in Bangalore, India. She is a Team Leadership Coach with ICF PCC Certification, IIM Calcutta Executive MBA, and B.E.(Electronics). Also, the author of the book Team Decision Making [https://www.amazon.in/dp/B01MXF5QEM] endorsed by former CEO's of Target, Lowes, LimitedBrands,bank of Baroda, 3M , Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, Dr. Manoj Pardasani (Associate Dean Fordham University) and many others. Bhavna has been serving on the Board of Directors of Bodhi Education Society (A not-for-profit that supports schools in rural Andhra Pradesh in India ) for the past 5 years.

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I am fortunate to get a glimpse into many different types of organisations through facilitating leadership development workshops, consulting or 1-1 coaching. The organisations vary in size a startup with few people to large companies with thousands of employees, for example, large conglomerate multinationals to family-owned businesses to not for profits and small companies. The industries they belong to also varies significantly. Each organisation has its own unique culture.

There is a lot of research - most of it from the West, on what keeps employee engagement high. While there is truth to all that research of understanding an employee's intrinsic motivation - their values, personal vision aspirations etc., I started reflecting on some common patterns that I noticed about the people at the organisations I touched. Through formal interactions and informal banter during the workshops, the energy shifts in the room on certain topics and the deeper insight into senior leaders, heads of organisations, among others, I saw some realities. I began to introspect on what is it that keeps people really happy, loyal, committed and engaged in the context of our current diasporas in the cities of Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi and Hyderabad where most of these companies are typically based and their employees reside.

I want to empathise with the problem that organisations face, that is, spending a lot of money to retain their employees and the huge losses incurred in losing them. However, they are still baffled on what it is that will really work. My suggestions are an attempt at a win-win for all, bridging the gap between the two parties - the company and Indian employees, in particular. Three things emerged.

1. Having a loyalty carrot policy Let us get a little history behind where we have come from as a nation. We are a country where fewer resources are shared by a larger population. Even if we are now receiving abundance ( read opportunities, money, learning ) somewhere we hold onto the notion that we need to keep working hard to achieve this and that and then some without taking stock of the fact of where we are at and how far we have come. The Indian gen y and gen x did have to struggle for the luxuries of life, so to speak. A greater influence from the West on the neverending lust for material things that money can buy further instills the need to own more and more. All this coupled with our very rich family values of wanting to provide for all close family members including parents and siblings. Certain companies offer a substantial loyalty bonus like a car, a lavish international vacation or the down payment on an apartment on completing a sizable duration of time for e.g. 3 years with them. This works in fulfilling the really dominant extrinsic motivators amongst Indians.

2. Good food and lots of it
Due to age-old civilisation being invaded by different rulers, our culture is diverse and our cuisines neverending. Add to the fact the exposure to the world and the frequent travels that this crosssection of the population now has access to - there is an additional influx of adaptability and interest in global cuisine. Basically as we like to call ourselves foodies - a term you will only hear in India and not in the West. Food is important in all cultures, however having worked in different parts of the world, it is not as intense as it is in ours. The fanatic nature for food is deep-rooted. Some companies have large cafeterias with many different items clearly indicating the importance of feeding their employees well. They hire experienced people to be part of their food committees. Firsthand talks with employees of companies that have good food options, verify that this provides as a big reason for them to stay on and continue to love working there. Believe it or not, in an influencing workshop, the employees wanted to learn how to be an influencer for food committees in addition to their line managers, peers and direct reports.

3. Flexibility
Challenges like traffic, weather and transport issues are something these employees are dealing with constantly. Giving them the flexibility to maneuver their work lives around these challenges really relaxes them and frees up space for them to operate at their best in their jobs. Companies that are cognizant of this, acknowledge it and create policies in support of this tend to have employees that will think twice before leaving the workplace even in difficult and trying times. Flexible policies on work from home, vacation schedules, goals and on-site facilities like gyms, ironing, grooming are some factors that makes their lives less stressful.

So, yes, while the intrinsic factors of motivation are important, simultaneously taking care of the above extrinsic factors will go a long way in retaining employees, especially in the Indian context.

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