Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

India's best employers: Shaping a better future

In the wake of the pandemic, the best employers demonstrated resilience, actively engaged with employees and were passionate about charting a new brave path

Published: Feb 28, 2022 05:12:01 PM IST
Updated: Feb 28, 2022 05:35:03 PM IST

India's best employers: Shaping a better futureThis year, the Kincentric Best Employers study showed that great organisations are able to find and create windows of opportunity even under the most challenging circumstances

The  best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’. This Robert Burns adage best captures the last two years. While 2020 was unprecedented, 2021 tested the resilience of the human spirit to the core.

For corporate India, just as business had started getting back to normal, they were once again thrown off track as the pandemic continued to reshape the business environment. Yet, it brought out the best in many and they used the disruption to carve out a unique employee and customer experience.

This year, the Kincentric Best Employers study showed that great organisations are able to find and create windows of opportunity even under the most challenging circumstances.

While the Kincentric Best Employers study remains as rigorous and intense in its processes as always—employee listening for their engagement levels, audits on all the people practices and leadership interviews to check for alignment between business imperatives and employee experiences—we had the Best Employers continuing to ace the demanding asks.

And here’s what the best did differently from the rest:

The Best Employers 2021 have accelerated on delivering their core promise. While the global employee engagement levels dropped in 2021, the Best Employers India have held employee engagement scores steady. Not only does India have overall better engagement scores, Best Employers in India also have an even higher average.

The Kincentric Best Employers in India managed higher productivity through the pandemic to improve business results through people.

An employee is engaged when they want to ‘Say, Stay and Strive’, according to the Kincentric model.

India's best employers: Shaping a better future

Say has elements of being a positive brand ambassador about the workplace, Stay has the essence of wanting to be a part of the future of the organisation and Strive is that discretionary X factor that an employee is willing to put in to make things happen.
The Best Employers have managed a distinctively higher Strive score (7 percentage points over the rest) which means employees in Best Employer companies were at their productive best and wanted to and did go over and beyond to accomplish goals. Productivity levels have been up for the Best Employers despite misconceptions on work from home and the slackness it assumes.

WHAT explains the strong performance of the best: They exemplified agility

The employees experienced their organisation’s highly adaptive, innovative and inclusive response to the changing needs of customers. Innovation and agility have been buzzwords the last two decades and organisations that translated them to reality reaped the benefits. The pandemic forced the acceleration of innovation and digitisation and the Best Employers ranked high on ‘Innovation’ and ‘Collaboration’.

Eight-three percent of their employees strongly agreed that their organisation invests in new ideas and 87 percent concurred that they have a work environment that supports a collaborative culture. Far from feeling isolated or alienated as everyone moved to a work from home arrangement, the Best Employers made best use of technology to actively create more connections and productively build networks to learn and deliver. Cross functional/cross geographical teams were more common and used effectively to brainstorm and solve organisational problems. The technology provided truly enabled employees to be effective and speed of decisions reinforced agility in enhancing employee and customer experience. 

India's best employers: Shaping a better future

Leaders led the way—engaging leadership

The leaders at Best Employers deeply connected with employees to drive engagement, communicate a clear vision and exemplified strong personal values. Eighty-one percent of employees said their senior leaders make employees feel excited about the organisation’s future. Leaders demonstrated resilience, actively engaged with employees and were passionate about building a future that was not about going back to how we were as much as shaping a future that is better. Engaged and engaging leaders made the difference in keeping the faith and charting a brave new path.

India's best employers: Shaping a better futureA virtual environment demands a more caring, connected and engaging leadership style versus the traditional “command and control” model. In the wake of the pandemic, employees in the Best Employer winners report feel more connected to their manager; eight out of 10 feel their manager has become more effective at creating a positive team atmosphere.

Unrelenting focus on talent
Eighty-eight percent of employees in Best Employers say they get adequate support for learning and development and 84 percent said their organisation is attracting the right talent. Best Employers stepped up in talent investment and differentiated themselves by having career conversations with the right talents. Succession plans were intentional. Best Employers went back to the drawing board to aggressively work on articulating their culture and made it a fundamental differentiator.

Prioritised wellness

Health and well-being were at the forefront for Best Employers. Eighty percent of employees say their work-related stress was manageable. The health, safety and engagement of both on-site and remote employees were prioritised and Best Employers strove to provide as much flexibility when it came to determining when, where and how work gets done. Employees were encouraged to take time off and access to total wellness was at hand anytime.

In conclusion:

The pandemic was a crisis like no other and Best Employers focussed on the opportunities to re-engage with their workforce and create excitement about the future. They used the disruption to create a compelling narrative of agility, innovation, leadership, culture and wellness. It is no coincidence that their productivity scores were significantly higher—86 percent did their best to go beyond job requirements. What stays true over the years is that being a Best Employer is not a trophy, it’s a journey and the secret sauce to doing better business.
(Anita Sharma and Shreya Saini are consultants, Kincentric)

(This story appears in the 11 March, 2022 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)