At any on-boarding and induction session of a batch of college grads, the most visible aspect is the charged-up atmosphere with a batch of happy excited young faces all ready to take on the corporate world. A few years down the line and these same faces no longer show the glowing happiness as they step into their workplace each day. Work stress related fatigue and burnout from long hours have taken their toll and the daily grind in the corporate fast lane in the long term have played havoc with their energy and productivity. But there is more to it than just that…many ‘unhappy’ or ‘difficult’ experiences in workplace often leaves a bad and bitter after taste and kills the natural spontaneous joy.
Scientific research and study states that continued stress leads to shrinkage of brain and loss of memory apart from lifestyle diseases. An employee is more motivated and productive if he is happy and appreciated. Recognizing the need to cut down stress, many organizations are investing in numerous ambience enhancing and morale boosting programs. Innovative office designs and decor are being used to create the happy soothing energizing ambience. Most notably companies like Google have created extraordinary layouts and incorporated different concepts in its numerous offices around the world – the ambience is joyful and vibrant with greenery, options for sports, library, easy to reach food counters and snack bars, fun accessories and more to make life at workplace comfortable, fun, easy and inviting and cheerful.
These design factors or morale boosting programs certainly does help partly to make the atmosphere welcoming, but they are like the top icing on the cake; what makes it appealing is the texture of the cake i.e. first the cake has to be of good quality and then the icing helps to augment the taste. Any additional frills really need to rest on a set of solid core principles and policies and values which provide the real basis of the workplace environment. The truth is that for most employees the basics need to be in place – the quality of work they are given and the value they derive, the respect and appreciation they get, the work life balance they get and of course whether they are getting adequately remunerated. While remuneration is a critical factor, employees do not only work for the pay-cheque. A good work environment always ensures better employee retention. Results from many HR surveys across organizations and the winning parameters give clear indications of what contributes towards a good work environment.
- The Philosophy that a good work environment is everybody’s responsibility. The leaders can formulate policies and define and monitor implementation but the practice, behaviour and attitude of all employees contributes to the environment and culture.
- The Belief in the value of human resource, power of human potential and the deep understanding that any mishandling can really lead to huge wastage of human capability and organizational time and money. This understanding will exist only if there are true value adding visionary leadership skills in the organization, who can see beyond the immediate numbers and targets. Culture is always implemented top down.
- The Focus on Safety and Security of a workplace and its resources. It is the organization’s responsibility to ensure a sense of safety and security for all employees at the workplace. While management can create policies,monitor and implement them, it is the responsibility of each employee not only to abide by them too. Each employee needs to refrain from causing any threat, harassment, discomfort, insecurity, abuse and disrespect towards other employees. It is important to not ever make any statement which could be discriminatory from the perspective of gender, community, religion, language, food habits, personal choices which has no bearing on the workplace domain. Workplace security involves all behavioural and infrastructural measures to guarantee the feeling of safety for employees as well as business equipment and interest of the organization.
- The use of good processes and validation and compliance in right talent acquisition, the intent and the patience to engage in continuous nurturing of the talent is important. If the process is able to ensure that people with right behaviour and attitude and conduct along with right skill are taken in, the atmosphere will be conducive. If the process exists to take all around feedback and do real development and nurturing it will be a positive influence. Employees may feel empowerment and involvement.
- The system of clear and timely communication organizational policies, changes, initiatives and performance is critical.
- The Importance of Appreciation – Use of positive messaging, expression of gratitude for a job well done by team or an individual or support and guidance received from the team or from leaders help to create a sense of satisfaction. The system of timely awards and incentives will be a great help.
- The understanding of Work Life balance as a critical item for good productivity, the importance of mandatory time away, schemes for supporting good mental health and wellness through vacations, sabbatical, sports and activities are great contributors. Hardly any organization today measures the happiness quotient, emotional and social intelligence of employees but it is being gradually recognised and hopefully the organizations will come up with better ways of tracking it. The recent Governmental proposal to incorporate employee voluntary services to social causes is a great way to benefit both society as well as enrich the perspective of employees. This also ties in well with the theme of Corporate Social Responsibility and Importance of Social Give Back.
- The smile factor – Leaders who are approachable and meet and greet employees with a smile in general can set of a ripple effect of smiles in the workplace. Leaders who can use refined and gentle language and controlled voice even under extreme stress or even when they are rebuking employees are always more inspiring and effective and impactful.
In conclusion, leaders today need to have their task cut out on the above factors, to make their workplace among the best and aspirational company to work for.
About the author:
Sonali Sengupta is a regular contributor on SOAIS blogs and brings to the table 25 years of HR domain & technology experience. She has led several large HR transformation programs and has seen HR evolve from a back-office, operations function to a strategic enabler of customer businesses. Sonali can be contacted at sonali.sengupta2001@gmail.