What Does Pride Mean to You at the Workplace?

The recent news that Park Chu-Young who plays for Arsenal is dropped from the South Korean team for the upcoming World Cup qualification matches sparked debate about personal commitment and pride in the country and team. With the player delaying compulsory national military training the team’s manager took a firm stand on axing Park. What struck me were the phrases of ‘pride in the team’ and ‘atmosphere of the whole team’ that the manager spoke of while reiterating his decision.

Here is a player of repute that the country was willing to lose even if meant that they reduce their chances of qualification. I was impressed by the strong message this decision made – that the belief of putting the team before the individual is what really matters.

So what does pride at the workplace mean to employees and how does an organization put it to practice?

Pride in work gives employees a sense of purpose and meaning. It is also expected to motivate and energize. According to a study by the Hay Group, one of the best ways to instill pride in a workforce is to set high standards and challenge people to meet them.

Also the ability to create a positive organizational climate has been found to be the single greatest internal factor that drives employee performance. And leaders have a strong role to play in the process.

While the pride of associating with a well-known organization is motivating enough what improves connection and identity even more is the feeling of being recognized for work well done – whatever the work.

Other ways to instill pride are to create a sense of ownership and as Dan Ariely refers to it in his book Predictably Irrational – the Ikea Effect takes over. Once we engage intently with an object or concept or what-have-you, we become attached – like we ‘own’ it. What if organization’s allowed employees to bid for work that they wanted them to own and contribute it ways that made their effort ‘sticky’?

The results of building pride in the workplace are evident. Even during a recession staffers who believed were contributing to an organization’s success, were valued and recognized for their work demonstrated higher levels of engagement. Results from a recent UK based study reflect how austerity measures weren’t dampening pride among staff.

Closer home, the Indian workforce is as passionate about national pride as they are about working for organizations which are technology savvy. I am aware of firms that often conduct events which allow staff to decorate their workplace based on festivals, religious themes or even their client’s brand. Opportunities to recognize peers and offering avenues to share success stories are other ways to encourage ownership.

I came across some other cool ideas which allowed teams to ‘expo’ their work as well as swap assignments so as to appreciate and feel proud of what others in the organization do. Lastly, by hiring people who are passionate about work and demonstrate attributes that build pride you can begin on the right note.

What other suggestions do you have in building pride at the workplace? Share them here.

Much ado about salary hikes? Help staff find meaning at work

There has been a lot of media attention to recent salary hikes and freezes at a few IT organizations in India and I wanted to reflect on the issue, the role of leaders and internal communicators in clarifying line of sight.

It began with Infosys freezing salaries and cutting back on variable pay for staff resulting from a missed revenue guidance. This triggered disenchantment among employees and reports claim that job portals in India have begun seeing a spike in CVs from the staff. Wipro, one among the other established India IT players went ahead and gave their staff hikes which fuelled comparisons and debate.  Looking at the comments and feedback on the topic, it is evident that the jury is out on how much compensation plays a role in retention and engagement in India.

Or is that right?

According to the recent 2012 Kelly Global Workforce Index, company culture and strong market presence were the top two factors that influenced prospective employees while choosing an organization. Employees prefer fulfillment and advancement prospects over compensation and benefits.

Also, how people derive meaning from their work and the opportunities for interesting and challenging work is what keeps them going. Going deeper into how staff in APAC  view ‘meaning’ at work – the report calls out ‘ability to excel/develop in field’, ‘aligned with personal values’ and ‘connection with co-workers’  as the top three factors among people surveyed.

So what makes people stay back and committed?

The primary reason remains – ‘enjoying the work’ for the former and ‘interesting work’ for the latter. If great work is what staff looks for then why is there so much brouhaha on salary hikes and pay cuts?

While some organizations have realized the importance of gauging the pulse of employees before ‘disengagement’ turns to attrition I believe the issue is larger.

If one looks at the spate of ‘why I left my organization’ notes that are doing the rounds – Google, Goldman Sachs, Techcrunch or Infosys the underlying themes are culture, mismatched expectations, fairness and focus.

Phrases like ‘too much about shortcuts’, ‘didn’t find work to be that challenging’, ‘it just doesn’t feel right to me anymore’, ‘hiring smart people and empowering them to invent the future was gone’, ‘see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years’ and ‘lacking the headroom to think, innovate and create’ point to a deep seated unrest ranging from an eroding culture, misguided direction, failed passion and non-committed leaders.

Internal communicators have a role to play in elevating awareness about fairness, culture and line of sight. Leaders and managers need to be made accountable to continually have conversations on where the organization is heading and how the work they do every day impacts performance. By sharing stories of great work the teams do, talking of the changes the organization is making to be successful and highlighting the ‘why’ of their existence.

Leaders need to clarify how the organization makes decisions and why they believe it is right. Employees respect leaders who own decisions and not pass on the buck to ‘the organization’.

How often have organizations invested time to address topics such as ‘interesting work’ and the role of having conversations between managers and staff? What can organizations do to improve awareness on building careers or broadening employees’ horizons?

Internal communicators need to coach managers address fairness; for example – why differentiated compensation is done, what is the process for measuring performance against objectives and why some people get more or less salaries.   They also need to support staff’s understanding of great work, culture, recognition and community that brings meaning to their work and lives. Staff who find meaning in work tend to be more productive and committed and therefore helping their organizations outperform.  Look up the article for some great pointers from Dave Ulrich.

Lastly, they must engage with staff to share how the organization continues to stay honest about its ambitions and build its presence in the market.

How to Run a Successful Internal Corporate Social Responsibility Program

I recently wrote an article (published on Simply Communicate) on tips to run a successful internal corporate social responsibility program.  Look up the highlights below.

Set context early: Establish the purpose, goals and outcomes expected before the campaign kicks off. Allow participants to clarify expectations.

Involve staff in the planning phase: Converge a core team, brainstorm on suitable approaches. Integrate local office needs and factor challenges on the ground.

Provide autonomy: Allow local teams to establish their own rhythm of running the campaign within the ambit of the overall theme. Empower managers to rope in enthusiastic people from their teams to champion the cause.

Appeal to emotion: Instead of ‘support the campaign by contributing funds’ share, ‘how Lakshmi got through school due to the funds we contributed’. Provide opportunities for staff to engage with NGOs they support.

Get leadership to participate actively: Have leaders spearhead elements of the campaign and lead by example.

Make life simpler for campaigners: Provide easy-to-use templates, reduce time to market for campaigners and create simple tools to gauge impact and progress of the campaign.

Highlight success stories: Recognize creative ideas and people who make a difference to the campaign. Share best practices and refer them to the core team.

Report out periodically: Consistent and periodic communication to stakeholders on the progress and milestones covered helps keep everyone on the same page and looking forward to the campaign’s outcomes.

Engage in healthy competition: Allow for teams to compete in garnering funds. It helps to give the campaign the attention it deserves.