Creating buzz at work

Priya de Langen 05 Dec 2012

The book The Enemy of Engagement – Put an End to Workplace Frustration – and Get the Most from Your Employees, says that “engagement involves performing above and beyond what’s expected. In that sense, engagement holds out to organisational leaders the prospect of increasing productivity.”

As the management bible highlights, businesses understand the need to engage their employees, and are looking to introduce effective workplace processes that actively allows their inputs. Mercer’s What’s Working Survey, revealed that non-financial factors play a prominent role in influencing employee motivation and engagement. Workers worldwide say that being treated with respect is the most important factor, followed by work-life balance, type of work, quality of co-workers, and the quality of leadership.

 “Employee engagement reflects the total work experience, and a big part of it is how you are treated, what kind of work you do and how you feel about your co-workers, bosses and the general work environment,” said Colleen O’Neill, a Senior Partner at Mercer and the firm’s Talent Leader in the US and Canada.

She added that financial factors such as pay and benefits are a vital part of the employment deal but other factors also need to be considered. “When financial resources are limited, organisations can leverage these non-financial factors to effectively boost employee commitment and productivity.”

 

Engagement

Companies understand this need to keep their employees motivated and engaged in order to be productive. Engagement for organisations is far from throwing a team building activity once a month and hoping that employees will become motivated – it is about a holistic approach from workplace processes to engaging activities that motivate employees.

Shweta Shukla, HR lead for India, Facebook, says that her organisation considers this holistic approach towards employee engagement a vital part of business. “It’s a combination of great work, freedom to take risks, ability to focus on strengths, career and coaching support, a creative workspace, and engagement activities where people can bond with each other and engage their personal interests,” she says.

Many organisations have put in specific workplace processes to promote workplace engagement that will motivate employees at work and annual engagement surveys are conducted to keep track of these levels in the company as well as find out if there is more room for improvement in certain areas of the business.

“As a fast growing business, employee retention is crucial, and employee engagement is the best way to reduce staff turnover – even more so when the majority of the team is made up of restless Generation Ys,” says Amy Wright, partner at PR firm AKA Asia.

Wright says that the firm engages its team in various ways through on-the-job coaching and more formal training, team building activities, by creating an inspiring working environment, and perks such as an extra day off for a team member’s birthday.

The organisation also provides staff with objectives so staff’s personal goals and ambitions can be tracked and that the company can help them succeed. Also, “we carry out ‘disc’ analysis for each employee to assess their working style – this tool helps the team to understand their personality traits and those of the team around them in relation to specific tasks.”

Wright adds that besides reviewing these goals every six months, the partners have “a general chat to check that (each staff member) is happy, engaged and motivated – any problems are addressed and we work together to look for solutions.”

 

Involve employees

Besides improving workplace practices, businesses are hosting corporate activities, from black-tie events to teambuilding programmes, as ways to motivate their employees and promote teamwork.

Shukla says: “At Facebook we let our culture lead the way for open dialogue and feedback. We create an environment where great ideas are respected and employees have freedom to innovate. The opportunity to learn and grow while having fun is intrinsic to how we work.”

The organisation has a wide variety of activities planned such as an Annual Game day, problem-solving ‘Hackathons’ that to generate ideas in a fun environment (rumour has it that Facebook’s ‘Like’ tool was conceived during one of these), industry leader discussions, and several other interest activities.

Shukla however explains that introducing activities alone is not enough, as engagement needs to be built into the organisation. “A plain programmatic approach towards creating a buzz is not sustainable; it has to be built into how we function as an organisation and has to mirror our company values of being bold, being open and building trust. We like to call these our ‘culture building tools’,” she says.

Facebook India’s diversity team also ran a “Women in Timeline” event. Employees were requested to invite a woman who had had a significant impact on their lives to this event and do a mini-story session. “This event was aimed at celebrating the women in our lives and how they have impacted our personal and professional journey. Some truly inspirational stories and great learnings were shared,” says Shukla.

Engagement levels for some organisations start from the basics and even seating arrangement play a part in this. AKA Asia definitely takes this into account. “Our office is deliberately open-plan to promote a lively and bustling atmosphere. We want the team to feel confident and comfortable with each other whether they’re selling-in to media on the phones, negotiating with suppliers or taking part in office banter,” says Wright.

The organisation also has a “Milkshake Monday” tradition; milkshakes for every staff on the last Monday of every month. According to Wright, “it helps prevent the Monday blues while waiting for your pay cheque.” The company also has a social committee that arranges for a monthly social event in addition to ad-hoc celebrations. Employees in the team go for dinners, cocktail nights, musicals and even played laser tag at East Coast Park (“nothing like a good game of capture the flag to blow off steam” says Wright).

However, engagement and motivation does not end with the team activities that the company organises. Wright says that “we make a point of securing work that our team is interested in and will be passionate about.” She explains that it is not just about the brands but about the clients and if the opportunity is not suited for the team, they are not afraid to turn it down. “It’s about retention and long-term growth of our business with happiness at the core.”

 

Give a say

Engaging employees is not just about throwing the occasional team activity and hoping that employees become motivated after a single session of beach volleyball – companies need to know if the various avenues of motivation are working. Experts say that an increasing number of employers are giving their workers a platform to say what can be improved about the business.

Shukla, of Facebook India, says that employees in the company drive most of the engagement activities. “Many of our events are conceptualised by our employees and we make sure that whatever we do is inclusive and in line with the company values.” She adds that the organisation is a proponent of “crowd-sourcing” and actively uses the Facebook platform to solicit thoughts, ideas and suggestions. “The power of sharing and staying connected through Facebook is a big leverage for us.”

Similarly in AKA Asia, events are planned, managed and executed by the team and all employees actively take part in the discussions. The firm also has an annual planning day, says Wright, during which the team shares the business successes and challenges that it had over the previous year as well as discusses targets that involve the entire team for the business to move forward.

“This is not simply lip-service – we take on board feedback and requests and do our best to realise them, so long as they’re within reason. We also carve up responsibilities after to ensure the various action streams are implemented,” says Wright.

 

Engage your employees

 

One size does not fit all and businesses know that different types of workers need different ways of handling and motivating. Here are some tips to find out which category your employees fall under

•        The Engaged – a group of employees who are fully engaged and have their personal and organisational interests aligned. They contribute to the success of the organisation and derive great satisfaction from work.

•        Almost Engaged – a critical group that are among high performing employees in the organisation and are reasonably satisfied with their work. Organisations need to invest in them as they are highly employable and more likely to be lured away, and they have the shortest distance to travel to reach full engagement

•        Honeymooners and Hamsters – Honeymooners are new to the organisation and have yet to find their stride and understand how they can best contribute. It should be a priority to move them out of this area so that they can reach their full potential and productivity. Hamsters may be working hard but are just spinning the wheels, working on non-essential tasks and contributing little to the organisation. If organisations do not deal with them, other employees will have to work harder and may grow resentful

•        Crash and Burners – Disillusioned and potentially exhausted, these employees aren’t achieving their personal definition of success and satisfaction. They can be vocal about executives making bad decisions or colleagues not pulling their weight. They may leave or take a breather and work less hard

•        The Disengaged – This group of employees are the most disconnected from organisational priorities, feel underutilised and clearly not getting what they want from work. They are likely to be sceptical and can indulge in contagious negativity. If they can’t be coached or aligned to higher levels of engagement, their exit benefits everyone, including them

 

Source: Employee Engagement Report 2011, BlessingWhite Inc.

 

The book The Enemy of Engagement – Put an End to Workplace Frustration – and Get the Most from Your Employees, says that “engagement involves performing above and beyond what’s expected. In that sense, engagement holds out to organisational leaders the prospect of increasing productivity.”

As the management bible highlights, businesses understand the need to engage their employees, and are looking to introduce effective workplace processes that actively allows their inputs. Mercer’s What’s Working Survey, revealed that non-financial factors play a prominent role in influencing employee motivation and engagement. Workers worldwide say that being treated with respect is the most important factor, followed by work-life balance, type of work, quality of co-workers, and the quality of leadership.

 “Employee engagement reflects the total work experience, and a big part of it is how you are treated, what kind of work you do and how you feel about your co-workers, bosses and the general work environment,” said Colleen O’Neill, a Senior Partner at Mercer and the firm’s Talent Leader in the US and Canada.

She added that financial factors such as pay and benefits are a vital part of the employment deal but other factors also need to be considered. “When financial resources are limited, organisations can leverage these non-financial factors to effectively boost employee commitment and productivity.”

 

Engagement

Companies understand this need to keep their employees motivated and engaged in order to be productive. Engagement for organisations is far from throwing a team building activity once a month and hoping that employees will become motivated – it is about a holistic approach from workplace processes to engaging activities that motivate employees.

Shweta Shukla, HR lead for India, Facebook, says that her organisation considers this holistic approach towards employee engagement a vital part of business. “It’s a combination of great work, freedom to take risks, ability to focus on strengths, career and coaching support, a creative workspace, and engagement activities where people can bond with each other and engage their personal interests,” she says.

Many organisations have put in specific workplace processes to promote workplace engagement that will motivate employees at work and annual engagement surveys are conducted to keep track of these levels in the company as well as find out if there is more room for improvement in certain areas of the business.

“As a fast growing business, employee retention is crucial, and employee engagement is the best way to reduce staff turnover – even more so when the majority of the team is made up of restless Generation Ys,” says Amy Wright, partner at PR firm AKA Asia.

Wright says that the firm engages its team in various ways through on-the-job coaching and more formal training, team building activities, by creating an inspiring working environment, and perks such as an extra day off for a team member’s birthday.

The organisation also provides staff with objectives so staff’s personal goals and ambitions can be tracked and that the company can help them succeed. Also, “we carry out ‘disc’ analysis for each employee to assess their working style – this tool helps the team to understand their personality traits and those of the team around them in relation to specific tasks.”

Wright adds that besides reviewing these goals every six months, the partners have “a general chat to check that (each staff member) is happy, engaged and motivated – any problems are addressed and we work together to look for solutions.”

 

Involve employees

Besides improving workplace practices, businesses are hosting corporate activities, from black-tie events to teambuilding programmes, as ways to motivate their employees and promote teamwork.

Shukla says: “At Facebook we let our culture lead the way for open dialogue and feedback. We create an environment where great ideas are respected and employees have freedom to innovate. The opportunity to learn and grow while having fun is intrinsic to how we work.”

The organisation has a wide variety of activities planned such as an Annual Game day, problem-solving ‘Hackathons’ that to generate ideas in a fun environment (rumour has it that Facebook’s ‘Like’ tool was conceived during one of these), industry leader discussions, and several other interest activities.

Shukla however explains that introducing activities alone is not enough, as engagement needs to be built into the organisation. “A plain programmatic approach towards creating a buzz is not sustainable; it has to be built into how we function as an organisation and has to mirror our company values of being bold, being open and building trust. We like to call these our ‘culture building tools’,” she says.

Facebook India’s diversity team also ran a “Women in Timeline” event. Employees were requested to invite a woman who had had a significant impact on their lives to this event and do a mini-story session. “This event was aimed at celebrating the women in our lives and how they have impacted our personal and professional journey. Some truly inspirational stories and great learnings were shared,” says Shukla.

Engagement levels for some organisations start from the basics and even seating arrangement play a part in this. AKA Asia definitely takes this into account. “Our office is deliberately open-plan to promote a lively and bustling atmosphere. We want the team to feel confident and comfortable with each other whether they’re selling-in to media on the phones, negotiating with suppliers or taking part in office banter,” says Wright.

The organisation also has a “Milkshake Monday” tradition; milkshakes for every staff on the last Monday of every month. According to Wright, “it helps prevent the Monday blues while waiting for your pay cheque.” The company also has a social committee that arranges for a monthly social event in addition to ad-hoc celebrations. Employees in the team go for dinners, cocktail nights, musicals and even played laser tag at East Coast Park (“nothing like a good game of capture the flag to blow off steam” says Wright).

However, engagement and motivation does not end with the team activities that the company organises. Wright says that “we make a point of securing work that our team is interested in and will be passionate about.” She explains that it is not just about the brands but about the clients and if the opportunity is not suited for the team, they are not afraid to turn it down. “It’s about retention and long-term growth of our business with happiness at the core.”

 

Give a say

Engaging employees is not just about throwing the occasional team activity and hoping that employees become motivated after a single session of beach volleyball – companies need to know if the various avenues of motivation are working. Experts say that an increasing number of employers are giving their workers a platform to say what can be improved about the business.

Shukla, of Facebook India, says that employees in the company drive most of the engagement activities. “Many of our events are conceptualised by our employees and we make sure that whatever we do is inclusive and in line with the company values.” She adds that the organisation is a proponent of “crowd-sourcing” and actively uses the Facebook platform to solicit thoughts, ideas and suggestions. “The power of sharing and staying connected through Facebook is a big leverage for us.”

Similarly in AKA Asia, events are planned, managed and executed by the team and all employees actively take part in the discussions. The firm also has an annual planning day, says Wright, during which the team shares the business successes and challenges that it had over the previous year as well as discusses targets that involve the entire team for the business to move forward.

“This is not simply lip-service – we take on board feedback and requests and do our best to realise them, so long as they’re within reason. We also carve up responsibilities after to ensure the various action streams are implemented,” says Wright.

 

Engage your employees

 

One size does not fit all and businesses know that different types of workers need different ways of handling and motivating. Here are some tips to find out which category your employees fall under

•        The Engaged – a group of employees who are fully engaged and have their personal and organisational interests aligned. They contribute to the success of the organisation and derive great satisfaction from work.

•        Almost Engaged – a critical group that are among high performing employees in the organisation and are reasonably satisfied with their work. Organisations need to invest in them as they are highly employable and more likely to be lured away, and they have the shortest distance to travel to reach full engagement

•        Honeymooners and Hamsters – Honeymooners are new to the organisation and have yet to find their stride and understand how they can best contribute. It should be a priority to move them out of this area so that they can reach their full potential and productivity. Hamsters may be working hard but are just spinning the wheels, working on non-essential tasks and contributing little to the organisation. If organisations do not deal with them, other employees will have to work harder and may grow resentful

•        Crash and Burners – Disillusioned and potentially exhausted, these employees aren’t achieving their personal definition of success and satisfaction. They can be vocal about executives making bad decisions or colleagues not pulling their weight. They may leave or take a breather and work less hard

•        The Disengaged – This group of employees are the most disconnected from organisational priorities, feel underutilised and clearly not getting what they want from work. They are likely to be sceptical and can indulge in contagious negativity. If they can’t be coached or aligned to higher levels of engagement, their exit benefits everyone, including them

 

Source: Employee Engagement Report 2011, BlessingWhite Inc.

 



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