‘Emotional Investment’ - How Employees can Love Their Work!
PUBLISHED IN THE TIMES OF INDIA.
Only 13% of the world’s ‘employees’ actually like going to work! (Gallup)
Going behind the fad-words that entail ‘Employee Engagement’, we are all head-deep in professions that push us into confined technological spaces and hierarchical cells.
Every person has hidden avatars. We each have a tycoon within us who wants to make an impact on the world, be seen and heard, earn and achieve! There’s also the romantic who desires simply to lounge on a roof-top, savouring the steam coming out of a cup of tea when it’s raining, remembering the way a loved one smiles. There’s the artist who wants to paint the world with more colour or change the world with words. There’s the hero who wants to destroy evil- or be an activist, to say it ‘pragmatically’. There’s a scientist who wants to explore and invent, a family-person who wants to nurture, a teacher who wants to share knowledge, an unrestrained free spirit who wants to laugh and twirl and ‘express’! For all you know, there could even be a colleague facing serious emotional upheavals and trauma in life.
With three quarters of our day spent at the workplace, how many of us have the opportunity to simply ‘be ourselves’? How many companies give us the space to be fully ‘human’, integrate our many aspects, do meaningful work while harmonizing a meaningful life?
Oh, yes! There are INNUMERABLE measurements and reports that every corporate firm releases about it’s work culture and employee engagement rates. But to what extent have lives and lifestyles really changed? Have we hit the sweet-spot where work, life and happiness meet?
Before heading back home each day after work, employees of Ubiquity Retirement press a button in the lobby to register their emotions. A ‘smiley’ face if they had a good day at work, a ‘frown’ if they were upset, and so on. The data is collected to understand what makes employees tick. They understand that the true pulse of ‘work culture’ is EMOTION. Companies like PepsiCo and Zappos have also started experimenting with emotions in their management principles.
‘Emotional Culture’ is rarely addressed effectively. Callousness and indifference predominate instead of compassion. The members of a Company rarely ‘care’ - for their team, for their work and for their own holistic self-improvement at the workplace. As a result, the Company suffers, and so do its employees.
In countless researches over the past decade, we’ve discovered that ‘emotions’ influence employee performance, absenteeism, burnout, creativity and commitment- across roles and industries. Negative emotions such as anger, helplessness, fear, suppression and the like usually lead to poor customer service, poor performance, high attrition etc.
So how can you make your people love their work?
Look at Starbucks. Whenever you walk in, the air is sizzling with caffeine and relaxed conversations, patrons are working, and staff are allowed their individualism – right from their tattoos to their Gen-Z hair-do's! The workplace needs to support INDIVIDUALITY, without hiding one’s personality, as long as it’s not harmful. Worried about ‘corporate’ settings? Think Google or Hubspot, with their intentionally vibrant cultures. They are ‘corporate’ enough, while still letting people be people, to a large extent! It’s time we relaxed old norms, and enter the millennial way of thinking!
Understand Your People
Every person has a story to share. They have rich, multi-faceted lives. Spend time getting to know each other. Fathom their strengths, weaknesses, needs and fears. Work-life is more than about meeting deadlines. It is about a person spending a major and precious portion of his LIFE with YOU!
Whether you are higher up or lower down on the chain of authority, when you come in contact with a colleague, it is important to see through the ‘employee’ and look at the ‘person’ – the single mother who needs to care for three kids, the boy who just lost his dad, the lady who was abused and holds a scar, the fresher with big dreams and a thirst to learn, the middle-aged man recovering from an unexpected health-issue. You’ll also find that the bespectacled, nose-to-the-grind accountant is the anonymous writer whom you’ve been ardently following in the local newspaper daily! Or maybe she can whip up the best pie you will ever taste in your life!
In my first stint at work, I caught my CEO (a software magnate) at a local cafe, in a flowery t-shirt, singing cheerily and playing a guitar to tunes requested by patrons!
Getting to know co-workers, ‘caring’ about them, setting up facilities to ease their lives such as providing child-care, health and wellness programs etc. as per their needs, giving them the space to share their unique talents and tales – will go a long way in building better bonds at work.
Also create space for their down-days. There’s no one who escapes emotional upheavals. When someone is going through a tough spot, as fellow human beings, we MUST allow them time and space to recuperate. Simple gestures like flexible work-hours or work-from-home schedules can help a lot.
Set up a fun workspace. String up hammocks or bean-bags for group discussions, do yoga together, conduct weekly workshops with counsellors, health experts or even comedians! There’s no limit to how you can energize the workplace! You can move beyond the office and have game nights, book clubs, LGBT clubs etc. Involve families or friends, if that’s something the employees would like!
Pay Well and Give People Room to Grow
60% attrition occurs due to office politics and poor managers. People also quit when they realize they’ve hit a ceiling and can’t grow further in that organization. Perks and opportunities is what will keep your people ‘emotionally invested’. Employees should also be exposed to clients, shareholders and investors. They need to see where their labour is going, how it is impacting customers and markets. This gives a sense of ‘ownership’ - which triggers passionate work. Identify leadership traits in employees, and give them resources to expand their skills, with personal development workshops and leadership training.
Recognition for good work – in a timely and frequent manner – makes employees feel valued. Feedback from them needs to be taken seriously and implemented well.
As professionals, we do our work through other people. Yet, how easy it is to lose sight of that, to focus on the minutiae of work — the cold tasks to be completed. The irony is, the more you focus on the quality of people connections, the greater your profit is likely to be.
Changing minds is not possible without changing hearts! Happiness is a complex recipe for sure. But unless ‘Emotional Investment’ is prioritized, the bottom line will only remain below it’s true potential.