India's Best Companies To Work For: Trust Boosters at Work

INDIA’S BEST COMPANIES TO WORK FOR 2017 – TRUST BOOSTERS AT WORK

A one-point increase in employee commitment can lead to a monthly increase of up to £200,000 in sales per store – From People to Profits: published by The Institute for Employment Studies, UK  ‘The returns for shareholders [for companies identified as great workplaces] outperform market indices by a factor of 4’- Study on Shareholder returns of Great Workplaces identified by Great Place to Work® Institute: published by RSM India (see graph below)

What I find interesting about both the above studies (apart from their stated hypothesis) is that there is a period of almost 2 decades separating them from each other! While the first one was published in 1999, the other one is a 2017 report.  2 decades, 2 studies, 1 finding – an increase in employee commitment/employee trust leads to a healthy increase in financial metrics. In a world where disruptive innovation is a constant reality, this is a comforting constant.  Naturally, the curious mind asks a question – if we have known this since about 20 years, why are we still struggling to get it right even today?  A very probable reason is that organizations might not be focusing on the most critical factors when it comes to building trust with their people.  By the time this article goes to press, India would have taken one step closer to simplifying the muddled-up tax system. When it comes to people challenges, many in the boardroom would welcome a GST-like solution of their own – a single, straight solution to the multi-pronged puzzle called “engagement”. There is no dearth of surveys which measure the impact of various factors on employee engagement and if one starts looking for published articles around the same, the list is even longer. A compilation of the recommendations from these is likely to confuse even the most scholarly ones among us. Some conclusions are common, some are unique, and all seem important.  Being the largest study of this kind in India, India’s Best Companies to Work For presents the most credible results when it comes to boosting employee trust. The study, running in its 10th year with The Economic Times, has revealed that Career Growth, Caring like a team/family, Fairness and Benefits are the 4 Trust Boosters, which highly impact employees’ perceptions about their workplace and differentiate the best workplaces from the rest. The fact that these factors have hardly changed in the last 5 years also proves the longevity of these key drivers. In a rapidly changing environment, they can be counted upon to retain prime importance for a significant time.  So how are some of the best workplaces leveraging the 4 Trust Boosters?

1.       CAREER GROWTH:
Mahindra Auto uses MPower – an algorithm-based career simulation tool to explore and create a dream career path. The tool helps in identifying the skill and knowledge gap between the current and the desired role and presents the user with multiple paths to bridge the same.
The user can not only choose a dream path but can also create Individual Development Plans based on this dream path. The ‘My Job My Choice’ platform of Bajaj Allianz General Insurance lets employees share their desired job profile (of the next 3 years) and mobility preference on an online link. Subject to availability, the organization would consider the employees for job profiles matching their preferences.  Adopting a unique approach, FedEx provides non-managerial employees with an opportunity to undertake managerial responsibilities for a limited period by appointing them as ‘Acting Managers.’ Besides meeting short-term business needs, this practical opportunity enables aspiring managers to understand their development needs.
2.       CARING LIKE A TEAM/FAMILY:
Study shows that organizations which have employed structured methods to thank employees’ families and involve peers in welcoming new employees to the organization not only enjoy a high positive perception as a Caring employer, but have 2 and 4 times respectively, higher chance of breaking into the league of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in India! At Lifestyle International, managers re-create the treasured moments from their team members’ past and help them in re-living the small joys of life, like meeting an old friend, visiting one’s school, relishing homemade food, spending a day with parents etc. Going a step further, the Learning & Development team of Forbes Marshall prepares a separate training calendar for employees’ families! The calendar consists of programs related to education, parenting, cookery, yoga, cancer awareness etc. In true family spirit, Gozoop (a digital marketing company) shelters its terminated employee until he/she is able to find a new job – yes, that means no finite notice period.

3.       FAIRNESS:

The tough nut of fairness is here again, but this time with some ways to crack it!
The promotion process at INautix Technologies presents an example. Promotions are reviewed and recommended by an independent committee having representation from various organization teams. These recommendations are accepted by the senior management. To ensure absolute fairness, nominations for managerial promotions require at least three additional sponsors who would have been direct stakeholders of the nominee’s performance.

Coming a long way from the earlier culture of concealed performance reports, Indian Oil has institutionalized a practice of releasing the Performance Appraisal Ratings to the individual officer. Along with the final ratings, all pages of the report are openly available. This has led to a more responsible environment where appraisers are expected to provide objective and justifiable ratings.  A deeper look at the aspects of fair pay, profit sharing, perceived favoritism by managers and workplace politics reveals that these are influenced by faith in management’s reliability – specifically, the faith that management’s actions match their words and management delivers on its promises. “Few years back during the economic recession, top management accepted a pay cut of 5-10% to reduce expenses, to curtail the impact that may have resulted in job cuts.”, shares an employee from a best workplace in the Transportation & Logistics industry. Every incidence can be an opportunity to build trust, as shown by the management here.  

4.       BENEFITS:  While many benefits are common across Organizations, it is the implementation of these that make them “special and unique”.  For those employees who have an entrepreneurial dream, SAP Labs provides a sabbatical leave for up to 2 years to pursue it – with the safety of a job waiting for them if things don’t go as dreamed. All employees in Intuit get a free pulse device and earn points based on activities they perform, like doing yoga, taking a water aerobics class, riding a bike, getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water and engaging in stress-reduction activities. Once they have reached a certain level, they are eligible to earn credits and redeem the same against merchandise/vouchers. Best workplaces continually revisit their benefits to keep them relevant with changing needs and varying demographic profiles.  Great workplaces show great business results, as evident from the study on shareholder returns. How do they bring about this differentiation? A comparison between the benefits offered by the Top 100 workplaces and the rest gives us a glimpse of the differentiated way in which the best workplaces value their people:

In addition to the above, pride in the organization they work for continues to be a major driver of overall positive perception and retention for people. India Inc. scores well here, with pride being one of its key strengths as an employer. While being an actionable factor itself, Pride is also an outcome of an organization’s efforts to care for it people like its own family. “The stand out example for me as an employee would be the care and responsibility they trust you with.”, quotes a proud member of InMobi. “The benefits are crafted taking into account what WE need. I feel proud of this place, I feel wanted here (sic)”. Employees who feel proud to be a part of the organization they are associated with are likely to invest more heart and hard work into its progress. Speaking about Salesforce, an employee says – “We all feel connected with the company’s progress. We feel that the company is here for us and we are here for the company, it’s a two-way process. We spend half of our lives in the company. It’s our second home.(sic)”  The above four factors (apart from Pride) are neither a new revelation nor relatively unheard of. They have, however, been brought forth as a recommended priority from among tens of others that demand focus. It helps, hence, to know what the average working professional desires today and what the best workplaces are focusing on.  Trust inspires innovation, fuels performance and boosts retention. Trust promotes organizational agility, aids leaders to be successful and enhances customer satisfaction.  These are established facts. The conclusions of India’s Best Companies to Work For study couldn’t have come at a better time. Offering a promising career to quality talent, building a caring and inclusive culture, providing supportive benefits that help talent thrive and rewarding fairly are all in-sync with the critical enablers of success, along with knowledge drawn from the best workplaces that are winning this league.  Some organizations are rising to the challenge without waiting for another 2 decades to go by. Fortunately, this time we know fairly well what they are doing and how they are doing it. The knowledge is ours, our discipline to implement will determine the benefits we reap out of it.

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