Here’s how you can create better workplaces, as per Infosys HR head

Here’s how you can create better workplaces, as per Infosys HR headEven as we acknowledge that workplaces of the future will be quite different from what we are used to, we have not yet got our hands around the problem of how the inhabitants of these future workplaces will view their engagement with work and organization. The change to me is about design and setting aside old ways of viewing work. It’s firstly about bringing the employee or user at the center of imagining the workplace and secondly about how technology is redefining the way we work. The challenge is to create an engaging workplace that amplifies human potential through collaboration, innovation and building on company culture.

In late 18th century England, people migrated from the countryside and started living the life of early industrial workers. Work was hard those days and involved long hours in difficult conditions. As machinery started replacing manual labor, the ability to find meaningful work itself was a challenge. Long term focus on workers was clearly a non-priority till enlightened mill owners started realizing that workers also play a role apart from machinery and their commitment to their work has a marked impact on productivity.

The Hawthorne studies in the 1920s focused on social and psychological aspects of the workplace. Choices on coworkers, group activity, supervisor relations and the physical workplace were shown as having a huge impact on productivity. The studies also found that monetary incentives and good working conditions are generally less important in improving employee productivity than meeting employees' need and desire to belong to a group and be included in decision making and work.

The period since then seen an expansion in terms of focus on engaging workers and in a way has made it almost a given like the cubicle and the screen. Who’s the newest DJ on the block? Ask any employee engagement team at a company, and chances are they would know the answer, along with how much it costs to bring him or her down, approximate numbers of which employee section would respond to that genre of music, the best vendor to handle sound, etc. In short, we are running out of new ideas.

How do we make employee engagement move from the periphery to the core?


To make this simple, we have to focus on just three areas. If we were to view this in the analogy of a living tree, the work and its results will be the tree trunk; collaboration and interaction with friends the branches that sustain the tree and the culture of the organization as the roots from where the tree derives its nutrients and anchor.

Work, above all else, is a primary driver of engagement. A feeling of purpose, a desire to consistently set and meet high expectations and to simulate the intellect all make work meaningful. Employees need to know what they are working towards, and it needs to be a goal that’s higher than regular client requirements. They need to feel responsible for bringing about change, in the way they work. This is what keeps work exciting and engaging.

The second important area is collaboration. Each one of us needs trusted connections and access to a pool of interesting and fun co-workers. The future workplace will have much more emphasis on the networks an individual has and how they leverage them. Technology can make a big difference in this area. Companies must experiment with various enterprise solutions with social capabilities that foster collaboration with interesting results. These will only get better as more organizations start using them.

The third area is the culture of sustained learning and leadership that differentiate organizations and impact their longevity. We have seen that learning and individual development consistently top the job engagement asks from employees over the years. And trust and connect with leadership has a great influence on engagement. For this leaders have to demonstrate by example, communicate every day and align rewards with behavior.

In the end, employee engagement is making the workplace work for its people. Significant changes, including a younger workforce and changes to the way business is run will need us to rethink employee engagement in innovative ways. To us, the job at hand is engaging employees – meeting their human workplace needs that keeps both business and people needs in mind. That will help individuals to be creative, collaborate better and create a thriving, living workplace that more people will be eager to join.

(The article is authored by Richard Lobo, EVP & Head-HR, Infosys)