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How Great Managers L.E.A.D. To Great Workplaces

Managers who know how to L.E.A.D. will not only deliver sustained performance but also help organisations create High Trust High Performance™ cultures that can stand the test of time.

Photo Credit : Shutterstock


To win in the market for customers, we must win in the market for talent first. Of course, this becomes even more important when we realise that more than 50 per cent of the country’s workforce today is, in fact, unemployable and on top of that the jobs of the future are already here but we are not yet skill-ready. It comes as no surprise then that being an ‘Employer of Choice’ is not just a CHRO agenda anymore. It is a business strategy and one that always works.

Perhaps this is the reason why close to 62,000 employees from mid-size organisations across India with employee strength less than 500 decided to share their opinion for India’s most coveted and largest workplace study in the mid-size category. These organisations present a fine example of the complexity of Indian employment scenario and play an important role in the India growth story. In fact, the MSME sector continues to be the highest job creator in India. With employees rating their organisations on foundational elements like Credibility, Respect, Fairness, Pride, and Camaraderie, among more than 56 survey statements, we got an insight into the building blocks of a great workplace. When coupled with an in-depth assessment of the people practices adopted by the organisation to drive employee experience, we arrive at the Top 50 Great Mid-Size Workplaces in the country for the year 2019.

This year, the best workplaces recorded an annual revenue growth rate of about 25 per cent higher than other participating organisations. While it might seem phenomenal on the surface, this is just a regular year in the lifespans of great workplaces.
This, though, is not the only desirable outcome of being a great workplace. Absenteeism, for instance, is more than double for the rest when compared to the best organisations, with the best organisations losing only 1.4 per cent of their annual working days on an average as against a 3.3 per cent for the rest. The best organisations also have an easier time in the market for talent with employee referrals being close to 50 per cent higher than that of the rest.  

Not only that, the best workplaces also experience much higher levels of retention, advocacy, motivation, and discretionary effort.

So, what is it about these organisations that makes them stand out from the competition? What is it that puts them ahead of the curve when compared with the rest? For fast-growing mid-size organisations ready to take on the industry bellwethers it is the organisation’s middle layer that plays the most crucial role to hold the culture fabric and keep the growth momentum going.  
Managers as Differentiators
There are plenty of studies out there that point out how managers are at the heart of retention challenges in most organisations. Quite a few studies also point out that employees don’t leave their organisations; they leave their reporting managers. What these researches don’t point out, however, is how managers can be the single most effective tool when creating a strong employer brand and delivering consistently great employee experience. And mind you, being a great manager is not everyone’s cup of tea simply because in a VUCA world, they are not just supposed to manage the troops but also L.E.A.D.

Managers at great workplaces earn the trust of their teams by walking the talk. When asked if the management’s actions matches its words, 84 per cent employees at best organisations gave a positive rating as against a 68 per cent positive rating at the remaining organisations. These managers successfully create and sustain ecosystems that enable performance through growth and learning for their teams. They do this by ensuring that performance of their teams is fairly evaluated. The difference between the sentiments of the best and the rest on fair performance evaluation is a staggering 22 per cent. The same managers also work actively towards making themselves redundant by developing their team members for leadership roles, an aspect where the best organisations lead the rest by more than 20 per cent.

SAS Research and Development has been ahead of the curve with their Performance Management System which is a coaching-oriented feedback process for all employees. The regular annual review has been replaced with one-on-one period conversations with the manager and skip levels for every employee to understand how they are doing round the year. This setup ensures that managers are taking more accountability through continuous feedback and not simply checking a few boxes just because they have to.

The best workplaces identify ways to make training more effective. Aristocrat Technologies, in addition to technical and behavioural trainings, also imparts training through 60 minutes nano sessions  called BrainworX. These are experiential simulations and game-based sessions conducted on the floor to connect the workforce back to the aristocrat behaviours. This one hour is focused on organic and realised learning instead of a classroom model. Tools like case studies, other organisations learning strategy / examples are shared to bring external perspective in picture.

The impact of choosing quality over quantity is clearly visible with 81 per cent of the employees giving a positive rating when asked if they are offered training or development to further them professionally in the best organisations. The same statement yields a 67 per cent positive rating when posed to employees from the remaining organisations. Managers are turning to more personalised and convenient forms of training with the help of digitisation which facilitates on-the-go learning. They understand that not all team members can fit into the same mould and hence are taking accountability of their development by creating specific development plans for each member. This, in turn, is facilitated by dedicated development budgets for all employees.

Dream11, for instance, has ‘Skill Up’ development budgets with a designated amount available to all employees for them to take up anything that might help them grow personally and professionally after a discussion with their manager.

The Growth Project at Make a Difference focuses on all regional and city managers by helping them create their own growth plans after a discussion with their mentors. The plans are reviewed monthly to identify and address the gaps between where they are and where they would like to be with the mentor serving as a sounding board.

Another thing that sets apart managers at great workplaces from those at the rest is demonstrated caring. When asked if the management shows sincere interest in each employee as a person and not just as a resource, the best workplaces got a positive rating of 84 per cent as against that 69 per cent for the remaining organisations.

They say when people are financially invested, they want a return. But when they are emotionally invested, they want to contribute. An employee, on an average, spends close to one-third of his entire life at work. Hence, it’s natural for employees today to expect for their workplaces to be more than just a workplace. In fact, the feeling of being a “Family” or a “Team” at the workplace is one of the top three factors for employees when asked if taking everything into account, their workplace is a great place to work. What’s the top factor you ask? It’s team spirit at the workplace. The best workplaces outperform the rest by more than 14 per cent and 17 per cent on Family/Team Feeling and Team Spirit, respectively.

ESDS achieves this by ensuring that there are more than enough avenues for employees to connect beyond the realm of work. One such avenue is Father-in-law day where Father-in-laws are welcomed to the office with bouquets and smiles only for the day to end with them sharing their fondest memories of their son or daughter-in-law.

In conclusion, when most corporates are trying to figure out ways to adjust to the VUCA world, managers today have their work cut out with the onus of delivering consistent business results falling on their shoulders. They are not just additional layers in the pyramid of your organisation, they are the pillars that carry an organisation’s culture. Managers who know how to L.E.A.D. will not only deliver sustained performance but also help organisations create High Trust High Performance™ cultures that can stand the test of time.

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.

Balbir Singh

The author is Vice President at Great Place to Work® Institute, India

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Jasbir Singh Nagi

The author is a Project Manager at Great Place to Work® Institute, India.

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