The story of India’s future as a growing economy relies heavily on its human resources and how well that is managed across all sectors and in all aspects. On that premise, Mr. Vijayaraghavan Pisharody - General Manager - Manipal Education and Medical Group and Ms. Smita Ranjan - HR Lead at Value Labs shared their perspectives with on what is the real motivation for human resources.

Employee Engagement - The True North

I was recently speaking to a mother of a new-born child and there it reminded me that like parenthood, talent management and leadership will never be a complete science or art. It will always fall somewhere in the middle. Several researches have helped parents understand genetic, psychological and behavioral aspects that affect their performance as a parent; and similarly, there have been several studies that have helped organizations to understand as to what makes people engaged at workplace or off work.

In the light of these researchers, it will be true to say that the existing so-called engagement practices, which are available in plenty in the form of flexi benefits, employee training, or many other well-meaning and overwhelming engagement products, are more like a variety of dog biscuits that organisations use to move an employee to do something and most of us believe that these are the best initiatives to keep people motivated/engaged. What we don't see or realize is that these are a spectacular variety of dog products available that can make people jump.

The cost of such offerings is astoundingly up to 30% of the payroll cost and some cases even more. Employees are increasingly seeing these offerings as "given" and "new normal". They expect variety and demand more. However are they truly the real engagement initiatives? The answer is in to see what you are trying to address. A truly engaged employee won't look at too many extrinsic motivators' (and many of the biscuits' mentioned above are extrinsic in nature). They dwell on intrinsic motivations. Organisations should start looking at how to brighten those intrinsic motivators to engage individuals, rather than completely focusing on the external factors. External factors are important, but there is no limit to that. However, when people find that alignment and motivation internally, that's when true engagement happens. That's when we see a spark of brilliance and the true north. 

Keeping employee morale high

Like Steve Jobs once said, "It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do, we hire them so that they can tell us what to do." There are life lessons that one can learn from a football game. Getting the team to see the overall organizational purpose and the individual role in the game is very critical. Every individual contributes to achieving the organizational goals and hence it is important to showcase and project their individual achievements.

Everyone in is not a striker of the ball, everyone can't be Leonel Messi, but everyone in the team has a unique position. Increase team/individual accountability by trusting them for what they can bring to the table and facilitate removing the policy paralysis issues. The biggest morale dampener among smart team/individuals' is by not trusting their capability, looking from behind, double guessing, over supervision etc. Though every leader will have their favorites and a "core inner circle", advertising that through the leaders conscious and unconscious behavior can also be a morale dampener. A leader to be conscious of these softer yet important aspects and removing those before it germinates at every leadership level and coaching other people managers on the same lines can help in keeping the morale of the team high and optimum.

On health and well-being of the employees

An estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. The scary part is that in most cases it is not diagnosed due to several socioeconomic reasons. That's one major area to address when we talk about the well-being of people. Having gone through a professional coaching workshop at CFI (Ganesh Chella's), I recognize the importance and relevance of offering trained help for people (employees, family, society) who needs help. This help could be in the form of work or personal. As mentioned in Chella's pioneering book, 'A little help in living'. That's what employees today need in the ever-changing, complex and networked world. A socially transforming helping lesson to learn is from the "Barefoot doctors experience of China" (a program recognized by WHO for the pioneering effort of barefoot doctors in developing rural primary health in 1968), is that timely help is more valued than specialist help when the need is urgent.

The other lesson is that people requirement are not always complex and all we need to have is sufficiently trained people to handle these requirements. The Mitr program pioneered by Wipro & " Sahayak" at Stempeutics is stellar example where the organization has trained volunteers' in basic counseling techniques so that the employees can benefit when they need them most. Creating an internal pool of trained helpers (internal coach, mentors) will help organizations address this unsurmountable issue and bring psychological well-being of the team. Further - a) Removing obstacles and controls, b). Increasing accountability of their own work, c). giving more difficult yet specialized task.d).Leader's confident persona   during adversities, can all help in keeping employees motivated most of the time if not all the time

Performance - A long-term social transformation vis-a-vis a one-time event

There are two complementary paths that leads to diverse performance frontiers, one that focuses on meeting organizational expectations and other that exceeds expectations. The current performance management practices are more inclined towards the former than the latter; one that is more of compulsory (I will do what I am told) rather than voluntary; (I will do beyond the expectations) one that focuses largely on resource allocation, monitory incentives, structure and process, extrinsic motivators rather than engagement, deliberation, individuality, and intrinsic motivators. Current PMS is light years away from addressing the global challenges, dynamics, and realities of individual life. Though it talks about team performance, it's aligned towards individual productivity.

While we must appreciate the very nature of doing business and therefore performance measures are a positive reinforcement; what it must shape into is something that will encompass the final outcome over a long term. It must not circumscribe to mere short-term economic value. It should include long-term social impact, human happiness, health, environmental impact and spiritual/mental wellbeing. Imagine a case where a sole earning member of a family gets pink-slipped, the employee gets into depression, takes the extreme step and eventually, the family gets ruined and later on his/her children become anti-social. All these in a timeframe in which you and I are not there to experience/see the cause and effect. Though it may sound "Shangri-La" but if you imagine and keep human wellbeing, and future generations at the heart of all decisions, the effort or the thought is worth the walk in the thorny garden.

Technology - Millennials dilemma  

There was a time when organizations restricted usage of the phone only for professional use while at work. Today such archaic thinking will drive away the most talented. Being connected is the new normal, and that's the reality, and gadgets are mere tools to express themselves faster. Millennials or any other demographic cohort that we may nomenclature will keep those tools to stay connected, and perhaps won't give more importance to these gadgets than what they deserve.

While we all brim with deliberations on what it may tick them, it will be the simpler approach described earlier that will make them stay, say and serve. Challenging conventions, questioning experience, providing advice only when needed are some of the attributes of this outfit. They cherish BEING THEIR OWN BOSS. Overuse of these gadgets may also have an addictive impact on Millennials which can adversely affect their own wellbeing.

No doubt that the latest gadgets keep employees engaged but on the contrary takes a toll on the creativity and genuinity of individuals thought process. As we know shortcuts are often wrong cuts. Likewise technology does provide us quicker results but fails to provide the human touch, after all, it's a machine, Moreover, all these are a creation of Individuals. It's the effort of individuals that turn coal into diamonds. Here individual's efforts, mind, and creativity is coal and its outcome technology is diamond. As rightly said by Carl Gustav Jung - The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting of inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves. Hence it is very important to keep employees engaged in different ways rather than making them act like machines.

Traditional practices and wisdom never die; like the mother of the 3-month-old baby mentioned; "modern day diapers are convenient for the parent but the child will have to deal with diaper rashes."


Mr. Vijayaraghavan Pisharody 

Mr. Vijayaraghavan Pisharody
General Manager - Manipal Education and Medical Group