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BW Businessworld

HR Doth Not Happy Employees Make

The problem is that we leave it to the HR function to be the harbinger of news on the engagement levels of our employees.

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I recently had a friend who was laid-off from his job, reach out to me for support in finding another. Upset as he was by the action taken by his organization, he seemed to be in a much more relaxed or shall we say, happier place than I had last found him to be. It was ironical, with no clarity of his next job and several responsibilities as the only earning member of the family, he clearly seemed to not be as anxious as I had assumed, he would be, when I heard of what had transpired.

It turned out, he was not happy where he was, and so, while the separation came as an unpleasant experience, it seemed to bring more relief than anxiety, at least to begin with. The more I delved into the reasons for his unexpected state of mind, the more his unhappiness in the organization was apparent to me. It got me wondering on whether what was so obvious to me as an outsider would not have been understood by those he was working with, daily. Perhaps it did not matter.

I have not heard of too many organizations who spend time, energy or resources in figuring out whether their employees are happy. A lot of times, organizations run what is called employee engagement surveys. The assumption being that engaged employees are happy employees. Perhaps they are. The problem is not that we know the engagement level of our employees relative to what it was the year prior and that we have a positive trend or that we as leaders agree on what areas we need to improve upon. The problem is that we leave it to the HR function to be the harbinger of news on the engagement levels of our employees.

Ideally, employee engagement is every leader’s job, every manager’s job and it is a continuous one.

HR can ensure that we have the basic hygiene factors met. Salaries, policies, processes, and what have you- yes HR can ensure all of that, but it cannot ensure that an employee feels valued as well as value-added. That in my mind is the manager’s job and a critical one at that too. In fact, the need for it has never been higher than in current times. In a different generation, the idea of a good job was different from what it is today. It was good enough that we had a stable career and a reasonable pay to take home. Its no longer the same, and today’s managers more than ever need to realize that any one with a dire financial need would take up a job, but then would that individual stay unless there is value that is being added to him or her and vice versa- definitely not.

Secondly, it is important that employees know what it is organizations are moving towards- vision, mission, objectives and strategy. Words often inspiring a roll of eyes are assumed to be good to deal with by those whose place is assumed to be in the ivory tower. In fact, communication is often assumed to be that which is superficial and more of a formality. Most managers would be proven wrong on that especially with employees who act like owners in driving the success of their businesses. They need to know what it is they are working towards, while also being able to connect on how it is their work is enabling the achievement of it. There is nothing like over-communication when it comes to sharing with team members. And why just business-related, even individuals and their work. The more a leader shares his thoughts and plans with his teams, the higher the chances, the team connects and enables them with their individual and collective efforts.

Thirdly, it is important that an employee feels he has a stake in the ground with the organization’s success. In other words, as the organization moves from strength to strength so does the employee. Being given higher responsibilities and opportunities to partake in the success of the organization and thus get the opportunity to further his potential and abilities in the process are critical to any individual worth his or her mettle.

Ensuring value-addition, communication and an opportunity to grow- these to me are three pillars for an organization that aspires to have employees who happily dedicate the majority of their waking hours to an organization that enables these. But yet, how often do we spend the time and energy giving each of these the due importance. Leaving these to functions for whom they are processes to be dealt with rather than a necessity of engaging with resources-- humans as they may be.

The larger the organizations, the higher the chances of dealing with these issues with a cookie-cutter approach rather than personalized areas of intervention that are the job of all who manage teams. Maybe it’s the reason so many folks today prefer working with start-ups or may be its why several are disillusioned with organizations that may have been classified as great places to work.

Human Resources as a function exists to support our endeavours as leaders and mangers to have the best of our resources, but that does not absolve us of the responsibility of ensuring that these resources are more than mere “resources”. Hierarchies are created to support leaders in their efforts to personalize the involvement and growth of people. Maligned as they are, it is to be understood, that when it is not humanly possible to be responsible for hundreds of people and their aspirations, is when we delegate the task to others in our teams who further do the same.

Yes, processes and systems are important, but not a substitute for human intervention to drive them and use them.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Bhavana Bindra

A graduate of Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bangalore, Bhavana joined the corporate world starting with Consulting at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), followed by almost 13 years in the Manufacturing & Engineering sector with the US MNC Cummins India Limited. Setting up and running businesses with expertise in the areas of leadership, strategic thinking, sales and marketing, Bhavana believes learning is continuous and experiments worth the time spent. This explains explaining her stint at a start-up in the Data analytics space, as well as her last role in the Chemicals industry as the Managing Director of a Dutch company in India.

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