Engagement is the continuous process of commitment through the right intention by leaders to engage their teams, especially when different age groups are involved. Let’s find out how can leaders engage with them!
Would you believe when I say most workers hate their jobs? The reason is very simple, they are either not recognized by their superiors or they do not feel aligned to the overall scheme of leadership, organization, and its vision. Bang-on! They are there to receive their remuneration month on month. Is this something related to how happy or engaged the employees are at the workplace? But why should we be concerned about employee happiness? Aren’t there more important issues such as sales, marketing, finance, and operations?
The truth is that all of these issues are better met by employees who are happy and enjoy their work. And to understand the dynamics of such a scenario, the first logical step would be to define what ‘engagement means to your organization’? It is important to consider as this can mean different things to different people and one definition of the ‘ideal employee’ may be different from the other. The next step would be to distinguish between engagement and its consequences, which involves whether you would like to develop your own measure by creating an internal benchmark or use a measure, which is used worldwide like Gallup. I strongly believe that apart from measurement, action planning and its correction with the right intent, is the key to engaging teams.
Just as a casting director engages a particular actor for a role, keeping in mind the story of the movie, the age bracket and the actor’s potential to do justice to the role, a leader plays a pivotal role in identifying the right actors, by ‘matching their age’, their potential, efficiency, and the dedication to do justice to the assigned roles. In other words, ‘keeping them engaged’ and extracting the best out of them!
A happy workplace can have a significant impact on the business results and the overall success. It is no rocket science to conclude that there is a huge impact of engagement on productivity and this co-relation between engagement and efficiency is proved time and again.
As a people manager, you would agree that in every organization there is diversity and generation gap, which tend to generate different outlooks. Diversity impacts directly on individual’s skills or knowledge fissures, technology management, self-confidence, multi-tasking drive, ability to pursue challenges, and work in teams. And this varies in different age groups, where there is no one-fit-for-all approach at an organization level.
Good and engaged people are our key assets. Fully engagement score of just about 9 percent in the Indian context is quite alarming. Leaders should move from ‘team-focused’ approach to a more ‘individual-focused’ approach. We all are looking for engagement as a state where a team member desires to go beyond the call of the duty. Entrepreneurial leaders must note that performance management system and career prospects of the team members are viewed as the most important engagement drivers.
You would second me when I say that performance either makes or breaks an organization in the testing waters. You as a people’s leader should know, who would fit in your organization, what will it take for a good team member to stick with the organization, and how would they like to be treated. Engagement also directly depends on the value system of the organization. It’s important to align opportunities to learn and grow, aiding environment which continually supports performance, work and life balance, and attainable compensation month on month. It is interesting to note that more than 60 percent of engaged employees report positive fitness and are happy to be there.
Thus, the factors that we need to work on as people leaders to ensure talent retention is to resolute to the key issues, ethics, core values, conduct of the leaders, and work and life balance, especially in a 24X7 environment.Engagement needs differ in generations mostly due to different outlooks that are created by our overall upbringing and culture, core beliefs, values installed in us, technological and political views in the country, and the overall world at large. But when given an opportunity to learn and grow, teams remain engaged and are empowered to take critical decisions.
The responsibility is on the leaders to provide them with the correct learning opportunities, pass on the baton, and groom them for future. Interestingly today, the younger lot wants to contribute to make the world a better place. They all wish to be their own bosses, work in teams, have flexible work-life options and dedicatedly invest in their careers. Their mentors need to have all the characteristics of an exceptional school teacher, as for them, timely feedback is very important.
But how can we truly engage the younger generation? Taking a clue from the above, let’s look at simple solutions:
Flexible work options: Apart from flexible work options or timings, going forward ‘made to order’ relationships would be the future and this would be a big differentiator. Organizations may look at options like allowing pets or children to work when the need arises, 4 days flexi-week, paid time off, vacation time selection, etc.
Allowing the use of social media: General myth is that the Gen Y is killing time by being active on social media, which can be used for organizational productivity. Studies show that people who are active on social media are 20 percent more productive. Are you surprised? Encourage it as a learning tool.
Up gradation of skills: Create and enable an environment with on-the-job preparations, by virtue of continuous up gradation of skills and finding alternative ways of skill enhancement.
Career or personal aspiration paths: Mapping their individual career paths and development needs into a common bundle may help.
Fair compensation: Fairness of compensation, measurable benefits and their timely distribution through reward and recognition is essential.
Open-door policy: Ethics and conduct of leaders is the key to the open-door policy, and it’s real on the shop-floor implementation. Let the younger generation share ideas, innovate, remove the fear of failure, and empower the talent you have hired.
Make them part of a success story: They want to contribute, so be the brand leader through innovation and contribution. About 50 percent of youngsters want to start their own business and this figure is up by 30 percent since 2010. We should use this to our benefit, especially in a country like ours which will have one of the youngest workforce and demographics.
Promote a genuine best employer brand: Aiming to be in the best places to work would be the stepping stone to your intent. A strong employer brand will make your organization distinct from your competition and make you a market leader, rather than a follower or challenger.
Mentorship: Professional evaluation of the progress is the key to mentoring the younger generation. In critical times as a people’s leader, you need to be present 24X7, on shop-floor or phone and keep mentoring them.
Make them socially accountable: When we know the power of social media and their overall virtual world, we should use the biggest plus of team work from these two to our benefit. We can easily build the overall organizational culture based on it.
Let’s look at the one-click generation, which would be our workforce (currently they are still in school and colleges)! They differ from the existing young workforce in terms of using virtual world and gaming, messaging, and downloading. They are far more active on social media and are closer to the technology. They believe in self-learning, and are better team-players. For the, Gamification of learning, leadership and community involvement can improve their engagement levels. Mentoring at early stages, giving responsibilities and autonomy, clarifying expectations, and sharing experiential learnings, would to help engage them better.
Looking at the other side of the coin is equally important! The middle generation or the Gen X needs to believe in the overall mission of its leadership team and organization. They have a lot of self-pride and recognition needs, and we need to take a pit stop, and work on them. It is important, as the overall organizational performance depends on these frontline supervisors and managers, as they control the teams. If this group is engaged, it can produce unmatchable results. The fact that they believe in blended cultures, freedom, adaptability, flexibility, and are quite close to younger lot when it comes to the usage of technology is significant. Measurable and timely compensation, distinguishing between performers and non-performers, empowerment, trendy gifts, and clear set of expectations would motivate them. This generation can be trained through web-based trainings, question-based approach, brief and easy material or small sessions, multimedia usage, and simple logical knowledge based database.
Everything is practical as long as you get your work done, meet and exceed customer expectations, and improve productivity. We may need to look at a very interesting thing as leaders, which is‘made to order employment relationships’. We need to look at the large workforce in India, and most of the third world nations, which is heading towards retirement. Good news is that, because of the overall lifestyle, this generation is still fit, and can be used post retirement, especially to pass the baton. They can be easily trained and made responsible to groom the other generations. They are also very useful, when it comes to customer engagement, especially in industries like financial planning or real estate, where the customer is of similar age, experience, and bandwidth. Similar life skills become critical.We need to attract them, charm them, engage them, identify special projects, build innovative retention schemes, and communicate that we are a friendly employer.
If hiring a mature worker would benefit your business, than why not hire them? Talented leaders develop environment and make it attractive. Each generation brings to the table their own sets of values, beliefs, and attitude, towards organizations, leaders, colleagues, career path, and the overall environment. Entrepreneurial leaders need to manage diverse needs. So what can help?
Recognize talent and not the age: As a people leader, you are responsible for creating positivity across the organization. Regardless of age, we should look at some positions which may need only experienced workforce.
Be empathetic towards all age groups: Take time to learn about all four generations and as a leader, use this information positively.
Prepare your interventions to be ‘one-to-one’: Entrepreneurial style of leaders should move from ‘one-size-fits-all’ to an individualistic, ‘one-to-one’ approach in engagement. Look at my need and engage me based on it.
Be flexible: Communicate, communicate, and again communicate flexibility. It has to be inbuilt in the core values of your organization.
Guide and share knowledge: Honor their skill-sets, experiences and employ them as subject matter experts. You can use their experience and build a best practice bible for future. Also you can make them champions of change through buddy systems.
Today, criteria like ‘high energy’, ‘exuberance’, ‘youth’, needs to be balanced with ‘experience’, ‘skills’, and ‘loyalty’. The usage of terminology like ‘all candidates/ages are welcome’, may help in creating a diverse brand. Today, organization-wide efforts on vision alignment, outlook alignment, have become critical people leadership skills. It is important to be with the team, recognize their efforts, show them the path, and help them find the way out in this critical period. Studies prove, that 85 percent of the engaged employees are less likely to leave the organization and may produce results up to 20 percent more than the disengaged ones. This can be achieved through continuous and timely feedback, empowerment, and restoring faith in the current and the bright future ahead.
Key to success in long run is achieved by creating an enabling environment, ensuring work-life balance, working on tangible rewards, communication, and creating a culture of recognition. Happy workers make a happy workplace. Increased productivity and profits would come automatically.
-Dr Deepak Malhotra
Dr Deepak Malhotra is the author of ‘Match the Age to Keep them Engaged’ and is currently associated with group company of SREI as Vice President – HR. He has also been recognized as one of the top 25 HR influencers in India by Growth Inspire.