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Engaging Staff

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Everyone knows there is a problem when the employee churn is at an all-time high. Few companies are doing something about it. Many end up escalating their staff costs as they shower more perks on their employees. Mumbai-based engage4more, India's first integrated employee engagement venture, saw a business opportunity in this problem.

The Big Idea
You don't need to do a lot to upset Nishant Parashar. Just tell the co-founder of Mumbai-based engage4more that the best way to engage employees is by "hosting annual staff parties".

It was this simplistic assessment by companies — or ignorance, if you insist — that led Parashar, who earlier worked at Standard Chartered and Bennett, Coleman & Co, and his sister Arati to start engage4more to help employees make a better connection with the company they work for. After all, engagement of employees, particularly the young and restless brigade that is acquiring a majority in most organisations, is a challenge that many companies are facing. But not many companies are doing something serious about it. Or there are some who would like to tackle the issue head-on, but don't know where to start.

That was the perfect entry point for engage4more when it set up operations less than a year ago. The firm, which claims to be India's only integrated staff engagement and employer branding solutions firm, offers a menu card that promises to create a feeling of belonging and a spirit of collaboration among employees. Net result: a thoroughly engaged workforce. "Engaged employees translate into engaged stakeholders, which means higher business profits for your organisation," says Parashar. 

Rank: 3 (Category B)
Name: engage4more
Human resources services
Nishant and Arati Parashar
Year of inception:
Capital invested:
Rs 40 lakh
Key customers:
Standard Chartered, Nielsen, Disney
Key competitors:

The company hopes to put that spiel into practice with a mix of staff engagement events, internal communications, employer branding initiatives and an engagement advisory service. It also claims to have a trademarked ‘MORE' principle that makes up the four key pillars of staff engagement — money, ownership, recognition and enjoyment. "The right balance of these elements ensures a highly engaged workforce," says Parashar.

The Journey
Parashar first started thinking about engage4more when he was still a part of the Bennett, Coleman & Co's (The Times of India group's) event management arm, 360 Degrees. There was a huge gap between services provided by event management companies and the expectations from the HR or corporate communications teams at the client's side, he elaborates. When Parashar had dabbled in staff engagement while he was working for Standard Chartered, he found that the task involved interacting with multiple agencies to fulfil different requirements of any staff engagement initiative. Both of these observations only validated his thought that the need of the hour was a one-stop-shop that would provide holistic staff engagement services.

"While there are agencies that provide individual staff engagement services, none provides the integrated services that engage4more does," says Parashar. Some of his insights also came from Arati, who had done stints at Reliance BIG Broadcasting and Tata Retail Enterprise.

A typical service engagement with the firm works like this. If a particular company feels that its employees are a disengaged lot (most companies feel so these days), then engage4more begins its assignment with problem identification of the reason for disengagement, followed by providing solutions ranging from internal communication or staff engagement events to finally helping the client develop a unique employer proposition (employer branding). Employer branding is done through initiatives such as recruitment advertising and even wall graphics inside the workspace. Says Parashar: "The main agenda is to keep a constant dialogue going with the employees and the brand they work for." 


The Business Model
When it applied for the Businessworld Young Entrepreneur Awards, engage4more was one of the youngest companies to apply. It was just six months old and its turnover projection for FY 2010-11 was Rs 2.5-3.5 crore. Of that, its profit projection was Rs 80 lakh.

With the size of the market for employee engagement services estimated at Rs 100 crore, engage4more's plan is to focus on MNCs and large corporates. "They have greater appreciation and understanding of staff engagement initiatives," justifies Parashar. Among the large customers that engage4more has been working with are Standard Chartered, Nielsen, Disney, Hindustan Unilever and HSBC.

The Outlook
Parashar takes a realistic outlook of the challenges ahead. The first challenge is the more predictable one. Event management agencies, he says, may adopt a me-too approach in managing employee engagement programmes, if the market gets really big. Then design houses, particularly the ones that are part of large ad agency networks, can integrate forward to either partner with event companies within their networks or even set up their own divisions.

However, the biggest challenge before the company will be to convince corporates about the importance of staff engagement — and make them see beyond the annual staff parties. "Initiatives like employer branding, which is currently undervalued in India, also are not seen as requisite," says Parashar. "Our efforts in such scenarios tend to be more educational and missionary, and developing converts to our way of thinking."


(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 06-06-2011)