By | Hema Ravichandar | Strategic HR Advisory, former CHRO Infosys Ltd
“We had such a great employee covenant. It was a strong selling point in our talent acquisition and retention paradigm. Something has gone so dramatically wrong.”
Why do companies which had a great HR credo suddenly find themselves desperately seeking a reboot of their people philosophies? Of course, there are ups and downs in every company’s life. But how does yesteryear’s killer strategy suddenly become so weak?
The biggest elephant in the room, in my view, is the issue of employee heavyweights not punching their weight, but simply warming their seats. If the problem employee is a newbie, the solution is usually straightforward: a seamless parting of ways. The matter becomes complicated, however, when the culprits are those who have been with you forever; those who joined when the organization was a nobody, who partnered in the growth journey; were feted and celebrated and reaped bountiful rewards. Slowly, as the years went by, the ennui, the complacency, the over-confidence, the desire for status quo, or sheer laziness, took over.
Another reason for a sagging employee covenant is when the organizational purpose is no longer strong enough or does not resonate with employees. It is now all the fashion to talk of motivating workforce millennials, and organizational purpose being held up as a strong talent magnet for this population group. But my submission is that it has always been organizations with a purpose stronger than just the commercial aspects of profitability and margins that have been able to create a strong employee value proposition. In the 1990s and 2000s, many organizations in then sunrise industries like information technology and ITES (information technology enabled services) leveraged this very well. While organizational health was paramount, these organizations successfully ingrained in employees a sense of the larger cause: India Inc. The rare market opportunities that presented themselves were to be utilized, not squandered, for the larger good of the nation itself. This larger cause helped smart leaders at all levels to motivate employees well beyond just the worship of Mammon and marshal their troops to battle-entrenched industry players. And the ranks responded to the clarion call.
Organizations may have great purpose and great people but they also need great enablers. The sales and manufacturing may excel, so also quality and R&D, but have you as an organization worked to create world-class enabler teams, those departments which administer the organization—the finance, HR, IT, training teams—and keep its internal wheels turning? Has the company acquired world-class talent into these functions, talent with truly a customer mindset? Are they held to the same levels of excellence and benchmarks that the company expects of its front-line players? Or are they treated just as an overhead? I have always believed that the motivation and mindset of these departments have a great role to play in creating a strong employer brand.
“When leaders throughout an organization take an active, genuine interest in the people they manage, when they invest real time to understand employees at a fundamental level, they create a climate for greater morale, loyalty, and, yes, growth,” said Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.