Economies are growing and human needs are evolving; technological developments have been continuous; social changes have been influencing human behaviours at work. Accordingly, businesses have been trying to adapt to the emerging situations and similarly, the expectations of employees from their employers have been changing over time.
For example, in the current times, most employees need transparency and flexibility while the business leaders expect their workforce to understand the challenges posed by the environment and expect unclarity and ambiguity. Sometimes, the pulls are in multiple directions and the leaders are unable to address all of them with the desired level of agility. However, the need of the hour is to be agile and meet the expectations of all stakeholders.
As companies have been in a transformational mode almost always, they need many things to fall in place. Among several factors, getting the employees to stay engaged and contribute at their best is one of the most crucial asks now. Employees expect attractive rewards and benefits; they need at the same time a whole lot of other things which make their job worth their while. Since there are many opportunities in the market competing against one another to attract talent, business leaders have to review their employee value proposition and improve its impact.
What do leaders want of their employees?
Leaders want their employees to understand why the organisation exists and perform in the best interest of the organisation always.
For example, the employees at the project site of a construction company need to understand that they are building a shopping mall that is going to house three hundred businesses fulfil their dreams and plans; help ten to fifty thousand visitors enjoy their time there through shopping, dining, gaming and watching movies daily.
Businesses rise to great heights of success when this kind of alignment happens. Their employees will make the right decisions, take ownership of the goals and walk the extra mile to see the business achieve its long-term vision as well as short-term objectives.
What can be done to make the work engaging for the employees?
Everyone wants their work to count; all of us have similar levels of psychological needs to be respected, challenged, recognised and valued. These are basic human traits we have observed, experienced and studied. Yet, business leaders forget about these basics often and end up not giving away enough independence and freedom; they do not offer feedback at the right time; sometimes they get impatient, lose their temper with people and express their frustration. As a result, people feel disrespected and undervalued. We have to reflect these basics in our day-to-day behaviours and practices.
We have to offer the right amount of money, fair levels of benefits, equitable promotion and development opportunities to our people; our work has to be safe, empowering, dignified and flexible. These are the bare minimum anyone expects these days from his or her employer. However, providing these aren’t going to make us a winning team.
How do we make work meaningful?
Some jobs can be repetitive like operating a machine or performing a series of steps multiple times a day; some jobs can be very stressful because one is dealing with uncertainties and cannot plan for the tasks that can land on one’s desk. Paying right, offering salary hikes, sending one for training, recognising one by incentives, making the workplace filled with fun and several perks and similar such steps are desirable. However, they do not make the job interesting and exciting. An employee cannot feel enthused for long with these interventions. We have to make the job seem valuable and meaningful; we have to make the employee feel that the efforts put in each day by him or her to do the job well are worthwhile.
Going back to the shopping mall example, we should possibly get the visitors to talk about the mall, the employees working there and the businesses operating there talk about the mall to the people who built the mall. Similarly, our milkman, delivery person, driver, grocer, domestic help, call centre executives, the admin person at the office, the assistant at the pantry, member of the housekeeping staff and many such people will find the meaning of their jobs when the stakeholders benefit by them can describe their experiences and offer gratitude to them.
And the millions who are in white-collar jobs will similarly find their jobs meaningful when we can get the ultimate beneficiaries of their work to express their gratitude. Businesses have to organise stakeholder meetings that can help their people understand customer needs and stakeholder expectations directly from the horse’s mouth. Further, these sessions develop an appreciation of the purpose and impact of one’s work in others’ lives. We build a better future together!