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Employee Engagement Interview Chitbhanu Nagri

This is the fifth interview in the series of interviews with expert HR professionals across the country. We hope you, the reader, can gain from the insights, knowledge and experience of veterans in the industry through this series.

YourStory is famous for its interviews with entrepreneurs and business leaders. This time, the tables have turned! We interviewed Mr. Chitbhanu Nagri — CHRO of YourStory to get his views on Employee Engagement and what are the main aspects of it in today’s time.

About the interviewee:
Mr. Chitbhanu Nagri
Chief Human Resources Officer — YourStory Media
ex — VP, Human Resources — Flipkart
ex — Senior Director and Global HR Head — Tavant Technologies
14+ years of experience across various facets of leadership roles in HR– Business Partner, Performance & Career Management, Process Integration, Audits & Certifications, Frontline Generalist roles, Corporate HR, Recruitment, Leadership Development
Connect with Mr. Chitbhanu on LinkedIn here.

Q1. What do you think are the most important factors affecting Employee Engagement?

Employee Engagement is the reflection of what energizes an employee to come to work day in and day out. Thus, a single element cannot be considered in isolation as the only factor that impacts engagement. A holistic view is required and often different elements cater to the engagement needs of different groups of people.

That being said, three factors are extremely important in recent times:

1) What does an organization do to ensure the well being of its employees?

Employees slog for hours at their offices. And then they go on to spend the remaining time in travelling to and from work. In fact, for almost 80% of their waking time, they are physically or mentally at work.When employees commit such dedication, it is the responsibility of the company to ensure that they come off better than before after a day’s work. It is the duty of an organisation to ensure the well being of an employee.

The term well being itself has many aspects. The goal here is to ensure the balance between work and life of the employee. Employees should holistically feel good and healthy. To ensure this at a company wide level, organisations must create the right frameworks, provisions and policies.

Well being starts with physical health. It is common for organisations to invest time and money on initiatives that promote healthy lifestyle among employees. Yoga classes, gym memberships or simply providing the right infrastructure at the workplace is a good step in the right direction.

The next aspect is the workplace itself. The workplace should be conducive towards the productive engagement of the employee. This depends on subtle nuances such as the ergonomics of office design, how the office is structured and air circulation. Such small changes go a long way in promoting well being and health of employees.

Progressive organisations have moved beyond just the salary, perks and benefits to employees. They talk about total rewards — and think about the different ways, beyond cash and stock, through which a company can ensure the overall well being of an employee.

2) How does an organisation ensure safety and security of its employees?

In this age of information, there has been a sharp rise in concerns around privacy, safety and security. Organisations must question themselves about how they are able to provide the employee a secured place to work at.

As an employer it is the duty of companies to give confidence to the employee on their safety and security. This confidence reflects in job satisfaction levels as well. Awareness about data privacy, harassment must be created. HRs must create and ensure compliance to policies that address these issues in letter and in spirit. The final goal is to create a sense of mutual respect for one another in the organization.

3) How does an organisation tackle stress at the workplace?

Aside from physical health, mental health is also equally important. 46% of employees in India experience stress at their workplace. This is the reason that heart attacks and suicides of top level employees are getting more and more frequent in the news.

The first step towards tackling this issue is to create awareness about this subject and ensure that a non-judgemental communication channel is available for employees to vent out their issues. India especially lags far behind on this front in comparison to its western counterparts. Unlike US and UK, speaking about mental health issues like depression is a taboo in India.

Progressive organisations provide coaching and counseling helplines to their employees. This is apart from the events, programs and seminars on mental well being and mindfulness.

A major source of stress of performance, and unfortunately the stress on an employee is their manager. Managers are the driving force of employees and developing their leadership abilities is the best investment companies can make towards managing their employee’s performance and stress levels.

Q2. What do you think are the right methods, processes and systems that companies must establish to ensure that they are managing these pivotal points well?

Every company has its own set of HR architecture consisting of policies, processes and other paraphernalia to act on the issue of engagement. HR managers at any company are always skilled enough to come up with such strategies if required .Surveys and NPS are quite common. Some companies perform these as a to-do checklist item while others involve in it actively.

Thus, what really matters is the intent of the organization. If an organization has realized that there is a relation between employee engagement and performance levels of employees, then the company has the drive and the intent to build the right structure. Passive approach towards engagement is never due to the lack of resources or time. Intent comes first and if the right intent is there, execution follows. Belief in the importance of engagement of an employee is needed in the senior leadership of a company. Once that’s established, it automatically trickles down to the bottom. Policies and structures are only a facilitator of the execution of this process.

To give an example, here’s my firsthand experience of a successful employee outreach program at a global consulting firm from 2008 — after the financial meltdown. Post the crash, our biggest worry was lower levels of employee morale and attrition hitting the roof. Our business leader, a person who till date has the highest level of commitment towards employee engagement, took an initiative. He believed that whatever the story of the company be, it is important to communicate it to employees and get feedback from them on it.

Had this been a to-do checklist point for him, a townhall meeting would be arranged and the video of the meeting would be circulated across all the branches in the country. However, his commitment to the issue was much higher.

An aggressive plan was made spanning the entire calendar year to go out and reach the employees and talk to them. Not just the HR, but the senior leadership team as well took part in the designing of the communication process. Teams were divided and each team reached out to a different branch of the company. Open houses, feedback sessions, one on ones and focus group meetings were conducted. HR managers spoke to employees about careers, about jobs getting better about future investment in new technologies and how this would shape the life of the employee.

Video conferences were conducted with remote employees and even the employees in night shift were taken into the program. By the end, nobody was left out untouched and unspoken to. The feedback received was recorded and action points were created on it. A proper structure was put in place to ensure the tracking and closing of every single action point within a scheduled time frame. Issues that weren’t closed were escalated to senior managers and bubbled up to reduce delays. Business heads were involved directly to bring them to closure.

This was by far the most satisfying outreach program and even today it is a benchmark for other employee programs. The engagement levels of that year were the highest they had been in the history of the company!
All of this was only possible because of the intent of the senior leadership and their firm belief in the value of employee engagement. This intent manifested itself in the efforts put into planning and executing the program.

Q3. Going forward, how do you see the role of an HR evolve and what are your two cents of wisdom for the upcoming HR generation?

The role of an HR was, is and will continue to be an enabler of productivity at the company.

One attributed needed to do this is to be an unbiased person. HR managers do not side with the employer or the employee. They give an unbiased and objective opinion on the matter at hand and provide the best insights for the company’s progress. Every aspiring HR manager must cultivate this non-aligned perspective because this develops respect for the HR manager in the eyes of both, the employer and the employees.

Second comes the element of expertise. HR managers need to be an expert in their field, be it traditional areas such as labor laws or new spheres such as engagement, communication or recruitment. One major missing point in the new generation of HR managers is the lack of subject matter expertise in any specific field of choice. Such expertise is needed at the company level and also needed for the growth and innovation of the HR space in general. Plus, it is the only attribute that remains relevant in a HR manager with changing times.

Third is the aspect of performance. Performance of an employee depends on their managers and leaders. HR alone cannot drive this. However, HR managers can facilitate the managers in ensuring the highest level of accountability of the employee. HRs can bring in best tools, technology and policies to help in improving the performance of a company.

While these points remain constant, change occurs in the context of where they are important. The workplace mix, its governing forces and important nodes that define the context of the working of an HR manager change from time to time.

This is the reason data privacy, harassment and security are highlighted more now than before at workplaces. The constitution of the workforce has changed. The GenX and the millennial employees form the majority of the workforce. These people are getting smarter and smarter and a lot more confident and clear about their work.

Thus, the fundamentals of being an HR remain the same and every HR must focus on them. How you articulate and leverage these fundamentals in times of changing context is the true skill an HR needs to develop with experience.

END.

The new breed of HR is coming and we at TeamGraph want to give people the knowledge and experience from people like Lekha and other leaders to keep their edges sharp. At TeamGraph, we enable managers and senior leaders take better decisions which impacts their companies’ performance.

TeamGraph is an employee engagement analysis tool that tracks 30 KPIs, some of which were mentioned in this interview, that impact business performance.

Every quarter, employees are sent a 30 question set. The questions are adaptive, multiple option choice and crafted by experts. Our AI in the backend makes it seem as if it’s a HR manager talking to the employee.

Responses from the questions are analysed by our machine learning algorithms in the back-end to churn out 30 KPIs such as Conducive Culture, Relationship with Manager, etc.

These metrics are lead indicators of performance and managers can track these metrics quarter on quarter and optimize them. This ensures that managers are never surprised about the performance of the company in the next fiscal. And if ever a problem or issue pops up, business leaders can look back into TeamGraph and pin-point the exact department>team>cause of the performance. Plus you also get recommendations on what actions to take to solve the problems.

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Aakrit Patel

Writer, digital marketer, entrepreneurship enthusiast and a mechanical engineer with a minor in finance.
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