Hold on to your thought horses. The buck doesn’t stop with “Google”. Felt obliged to state this right at the onset as it is a common misconception among entrepreneurs that “employee friendly policies” comes with a neck-high price tag, are not “pocket friendly”, and only companies of notable stature can actually afford it. Also, Google has become quite synonymous with “Great place to work” tag since 2007. The more Google is loved by its employees, the more they are looked at with contentious eyes by other corporate behemoths that are still holding on to the “age-old schools of thought”. Being averse to change, can never be an “in-vogue” thing and corporate houses are increasingly coming to terms with the fact in the face of burgeoning attrition rates and fire-fights within the organizations. The day isn’t distant when we would start seeing CVs in the form of booklets with an ‘index’ and a ‘prelude’ preceding it, denoting job hops. Hence, there is more to learn from “Google”, than learning other things with its search engine app.
Until some years ago, HR policies and initiatives was more a matter of a choice rather than indispensability. Then one fine morning, a company located atop Mountain View, CA released some report, won awards and the world woke up from decades of slumber to strike the dart on “the art of employee retention”. Some followed suit, replicated, innovated, ideated and is fairly doing well. No boon arrives without an equal share of bane. Globalization, information revolution, knowledge economy and liberalization has uncorked a whole wide world, unveiled opportunities and challenges; gigantic stress levels, sowed competition, but at the same time massaged the most destructive and insatiable human trait – “WANT”, making people spoilt for choices. Until our beloved planet faces an Armageddon like situation or the present recessionary conditions keep on dipping down the meter, the situation is only bound to compound itself with time. There is no shying away from change- sooner or later.
I am not an entrepreneur and neither have I worked with any of these huge corporate houses directly. I have never been an HR exec and neither have I studied in a management institute. However, before stumbling upon a conclusion and brushing aside these ramblings of a ‘common man in the service industry’, I would request you to stop and reflect for a second. I have worked with a few companies, all PR firms, through my 5-year old career and each one has an intrinsic identity, defined by its people, its culture and processes. Work and its manifestations do not differ much, but there are things that defines ‘this’ firm’ from ‘that’ firm. These differentiations would have been redundant, negligible and invalid had it not been for increasing attrition rates and internal brand reputation management, expressed in employee loyalty and productivity.
Well, something just struck me while penning this blog. Being an employee, most of this is bound to reflect an employee perspective, but why leave out the employers as they are the ones who should usher in the change in the first place.
So, Mr. Employer, what are some of your top priorities:
· Optimal utilization of available resources
· Ensure optimal productivity
· Curb Attrition – It takes time and investment to induct a new resource and bring them up to speed
· Achieve set goals and tick milestones on the profit chart during yearly review period.
· Retain talent
· Expand client base
· Cut costs
However, in the process of chasing these regular aspects, what they often overlook is the fact that they are dealing with humans here, not robots and humans come with something unfortunate, called ‘HEART’ - God’s myopic corporate foresightJ. What they fail to provide their employees is ‘motivation’- the only fuel for success when you are working for someone else’ and money truly is not a motivation, often misinterpreted. It’s just compensation against the services rendered. Quite plain and simplistic as that.
So here, without naming any organization in particular, I am penning down some of the HR practices I personally have witnessed and experienced. Best Companies develop their own unique cultures in which employees are able to say "I trust the people I work for, have pride in what I do, and enjoy the people I work with”. Great workplace- It’s a difficult thing to do – it takes effort and humility. Yet some do it, they want to create a great workplace and they achieve what is important to them, beyond simply making a lot of money - how they treat people is important.
There are no statistics that can ever prove that a free lunch, a non-hierarchical, non-discriminatory organizational structure and a multicultural campus-like environment contribute to the organization's success and profit. What can be proven is the fact that, this firm in question is growing at an immense pace -retention of employees is high, attrition is low and revenues are strong, People are eager to work for the company and applications to job openings are exceedingly high as compared to their counterparts in the same industry segment. Their management teams have figured out the formula that works for them by treating people with respect, supporting their creative endeavors, and working hard to adhere to their motto of “we are employee first, customers later”. It's not magic, or rocket science or paternalism or entitlement. In some ways it is plain common sense. Motivation can weave wonders. Employees go out of their way to perform, and they don’t even expect an incentive in the form of cash rewards. They just enjoy the drill and the challenges.
So here goes some of the unique initiatives:
1) Occasional parties, surprise elements, annual off-sites and fun activities around festive occasions
2) Non-hierarchical organizational structure. Every employee irrespective of his seniority/position shares the same sitting area. No designated cabins
3) Visiting Cards do not carry designations of employees
4) TGIF a weekly, company-wide get-together, also referred to as “Friday Forum” wherein new employees are welcomed into the organization. A representative from each team share client updates and upcoming events/launches/projects. A platform where each week a team or a person is recognized for work and rewarded accordingly. Followed by games and fun activities for all
5) TGIF is also a platform where the management makes important corporate announcements/way forward.
6) Flexible work timings and 1 duvet day each month (when employees can work from home)
7) Every new joinee is assigned a ‘buddy’ who helps him in finding his way around the organization. Someone who helps that person settle into the culture
8) The office sponsors lunch and snacks for the person on the 1st day of joining
9) During birthdays and anniversaries, the person get gift vouchers from the company, accompanied with cards with wishes from all employees within the organization
10) Separate mailing lists within the organizations for fun activities during festivals and special occasions. (a case in point is ‘Ghostbusters’ – Includes everyone from entry level executives to senior level executives across office branches. They can collaborate and assist the HR in bringing fresh thoughts for initializing any out-of-box fun activities)
11) Late comers are fined Rs100 and once the Rs500 limit is reached, he/she has to treat his team members out
12) Regular team lunch sessions from team managers and timely reimbursements of expenses incurred. This activity is to facilitate better team bonding
13) Whenever somebody does some commendable work, an email from the manager recognizing his/her subordinate’s effort and resultant outcome achieved, is communicated across all centres
14) Surprise activities/fun at work, initiated by HR once every month
15) Training sessions related to the job, organized every quarter, involving external experts
16) Performance linked pay
17) Every person who quits after a year in the organization, irrespective of level: is given a proper farewell)
These are just some of the initiatives I have a top of mind recall of, there are many more. (Some of these firms are global, but these are practices which are followed in India). However, the common tenet that underlines each of these activities is ‘respect’. Respect is demonstrated through practices that provide professional support to employees, encourage collaboration and allow for expressions of care both in the workplace and outside. Professional support is shown to employees through the provision of training opportunities and the resources and equipment necessary to get work done, as well as through the expressions of appreciation for accomplishments and extra effort.
Seamless and transparent collaboration between employees and management requires that leaders and managers genuinely seek and respond to employees’ suggestions and ideas, and involve people in the decisions that affect how they get their work done. Employees experience camaraderie in the workplace through the level of intimacy they find, or the ability they have to be themselves. Hospitable workplaces are friendly and welcoming to all employees, and encourage people to have fun during the work day. A strong sense of community develops in organizations where people feel that they are part of a team or a family, that they cooperate within and across departments, and that people are connected by common values and purpose.
At the end of the day, everyone come to office to work. There is no fun spending 9-10 hrs a day inside four walls, staring at the computer screen and day dreaming all the while. If that was the case, there are much better ways to spend those numbers of hours outside the office premises, doing what all would like to do. Nobody gets paid to be yelled at or gets paid for feeling like a prison inmate. Everybody has ‘horse’ instincts and sooner or later, everyone wanders for ‘greener pastures’, albeit, grass looks greener on the other side. Suppressing this sole ‘instinct’ is today a grand debate in Global Corporate HR Colosseum and efforts are being directed to negate that.