3 Es for a digitally enabled and engaged workforce in 2017: Vaijayanti Naik


At the heart of people engagement is a feeling of accomplishment that employees carry; an enhanced sense of self and of being a productive contributor to the organisation.

One more year passes into the annals of history and with renewed optimism and hope, we try to be prescient and make some predictions for the coming year. We attempt to make sense of the formidable future and to discern trends, as we humans are wont to do.

Do all events that take place at a time, have their seeds sown in the past that most of us miss seeing or do not see in the right way?

Perhaps so! Life, societies and economies morph on a continuum and this is an endeavour to see it from that angle. I do this to reduce uncertainties and hazard predictions (a very common and safety inducing human trait) but I am mindful of what Einstein said “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” So as uncertain and exciting the future of work and people practices will be in 2017, here is my take on what will gather momentum in the coming year.

I am wary of calling it trends, since evolution happens on a continuum, whether gradual or exponential.

3 Es of employee engagement

The sharpening waves that we see have their roots in the three Es of employee engagement; these are time agnostic ideas as that is what Homo sapiens value. The wave is the context in which all of this unfolds. The three Es of employee engagement are:

1) Enable success
2) Ensure fairness
3) Enable purpose

At the heart of people engagement is a feeling of accomplishment that employees carry; an enhanced sense of self and of being a productive contributor to the organisation and the larger society.

Riding the waves

1) Embrace digitalisation, not just in terms of using technology to drive processes, efficiency et al but a whole new way motivating employees. Learn from why the ‘likes’ on their FB or LinkedIn posts energise young employees. Use the digital mindset to drive their performance.

2) Drive learning agility through micro learning and collaborative learning forums.

To learn it, we need to:
a. set it;
b. pace it;
c. practise it

As the environment remains uncertain, learning agility will be a lead indicator to predict ongoing job success. Performance is a lag indicator, wherein the absence of more information on what led to performance, could result in bad conclusions.

3) Drive employee engagement with obliquity. This means, stress on the ‘hows’ and not just the ‘outcomes’. In other words, we rally people around the impact we want to make on our client’s well-being, growth of society/nation, and so on. This necessitates that we go beyond the contractual with our employees. Involve them into understanding and accepting our “sense of purpose” instead of driving them using the carrot and stick alone. Carrot and stick are consequences of what we do or don’t do, but they cannot singularly drive high engagement. Companies will need to work beyond the simplistic as well as take care of the procedural and distributive fairness in consequence management.

Vaijayanti Naik

4) Feedback is essential. Beyond all the noise on performance management systems and rating curves lies the simple truth that feedback helps employees to learn, and therefore, succeed. As the world goes digital, it helps us give quick, real time and meaningful feedback. Technology enables creation of the right set of habits and through such habits we see breakthrough results. Timely feedback takes the subjectivity and intent off the table. Writing feedback ensures that there is meaningful, actionable input given to employees and they are not saddled with adjectives masquerading as feedback. I dare say that technology will help drive culture.

5) See talent as a portfolio of skills and competencies a la an investment manager. Just as portfolio managers manage different asset classes with their unique characteristics, we learn to manage the uniqueness of our team members. This underlines the fact that talent exists in an eco system and is not necessarily portable. Could this create a moat for our businesses?

In summary, digital looks to have the single biggest impact on culture, performance management and learning, both in terms of the technology being deployed and in terms of facilitating the right mindset. To take the ‘embrace digital’ idea even further, can we foster the creation of a strong company identity and culture using the learning generated on social media to create strong tribal identities?

(The author is head HR, ICICI Securities.)

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