How disengagement at each employee level impacts organisations differently

Employees at various levels have different needs — from brand name to growth opportunities, stability, security and professional challenges

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It is the HR’s job to ensure a high level of employee engagement in the organisation. That is why, companies invest heavily on various dipstick polls and employee- engagement surveys. Some have even resorted to using pulse surveys to track the engagement level of their employees. Many HR leaders believe that employee engagement is the key to high-level growth in the company.

It would be interesting to know, which level of employees is the most disengaged in the organisation. There are different challenges and problems to engaging employees at different levels, depending on their varying demographics, expectations and overall needs in life.

Employees working entry-level jobs seek career growth, learning opportunities and attractive remuneration. For those in the middle management, stability and security for their family, and even higher responsibilities that will lead to growth may be more important.

At the senior-most level, however, leaders do not really care about money, security, stability or career growth. They go after newer and bigger challenges in the business scenario. The ambitious ones may even wish to explore new careers or eye the topmost position in the company.

“In many organisations, it is the top-level leaders who are highly disengaged with the company. Sometimes, leaders lack the farsightedness that allows companies to progress.”

Jacob Jacob, group CHRO, Malabar Group

Clearly, the expectations and needs from life differ from person to person at various stages of their life. While some may be keen to work in a large company in a small role, others may prefer bigger responsibilities in mall startups.

“In many organisations, it is the top-level leaders who are highly disengaged with the company,” observes Jacob Jacob, group CHRO, Malabar Group.

Not only does such disengagement at the top level lead to organisation-level failure, the feeling cascades down the ranks. When leaders at the top themselves are disengaged, the results from below are not that good either.

As per Jacob, the issue of disengagement at the top of the hierarchy, that is, amongst the functional leaders is due to the lack of enthusiasm in these leaders to take the company forward. “Sometimes, leaders lack the farsightedness that allows companies to progress,” states Jacob.

“The expectations of the millennials or GenZs differ from what companies believe or think. Engagement is always an issue with the entry level or younger lot, because nowadays they are always in the look-out mode.”

Ajay Tiwari, VP-HR, Lupin

Many believe that disengagement exists amongst entry-level employees too, and even amongst those with three to five years of experience in the organisation.

Biswarup Goswami, CHRO, Gujarat Heavy Chemicals, has observed that within five years of joining a company, people often tend to start looking out for an opportunity to quit and move on. Therefore, he is of the opinion that the most disengaged lot exists at the lower levels of the organisation.

“Such disengagement generally happens when employees fail to align with the company culture or the company tries to impose its culture on them,” points out Goswami.

According to Goswami, when employees enter an organisation, it is a very new world for them. “The situation is very similar to a book titled ‘A Peacock in the Land of Penguins,’” alludes Goswami.

The needs of the new generation, many believe, are way different than that of the earlier generations. That is why, Mangesh Bhide, head-HR, technology & FTTx business, Reliance Jio Infocomm, feels that the millennnials are the most difficult to keep engaged.

“Companies are resorting to giving a better employee experience through technology. Usage of chatbots, gamification solutions for learning, and instant gratification rewards solutions are some ways that many companies are adopting to keep the younger lot engaged.”

Mangesh Bhide, head-HR, technology & FTTx business, Reliance Jio Infocomm

“The expectations of the millennials or GenZs differ from what companies believe or think,” says Ajay Tiwari, VP-HR, Lupin. According to him, engagement is always an issue with the entry level or younger lot, because nowadays they are always in the look-out mode. “Senior employees in the company are relatively far more engaged and stable than the younger lot,” observes Tiwari.

HR leaders believe that disengagement amongst the younger lot has many reasons — lack of empowered, unsatisfactory compensation, slow career growth and lack of alignment with the culture.

So what can organisations do about it?

As per Bhide, companies are resorting to giving a better employee experience through technology.” Usage of chatbots, gamification solutions for learning, and instant gratification rewards solutions are some ways that many companies are adopting to keep the younger lot engaged,” mentions Bhide.

“Companies will have to allow GenZ certain freedom and not try to change them. We will have to adjust as per their needs.”

Biswarup Goswami, CHRO, Gujarat Heavy Chemicals

On the other hand, Tiwari believes that as an organisation, “we will first need to understand the real causes of disengagement, as these may differ from company to company, and then draw an action plan”.

As per Goswami, companies will have to allow GenZ certain freedom and not try to change them. Rather, he suggests, “We will have to adjust as per their needs.”

He cites the example of the hybrid model that allows flexibility. Companies had to adopt such policies even after the pandemic subsided, to suit the new generation of employees.

However, Jacob warns that merely having coaching and mentoring sessions here and there will not work. With the leaders, only continuous dialogue on a daily basis will work. The problem is that “Companies react only when the problem occurs or issues begin,” feels Jacob, instead of working towards it right from the beginning.

Clearly, the reason for disengagement differs from person to person. Therefore, companies will have to address these issues taking into account the level of the employee.

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