Employees desire a workplace that focuses on building healthy and sustainable relationships as a foundation to achieve organisation outcomes.
Business leaders spanning the public and private sectors, large and small organisations, profit and non-profit organisations typically have five common challenges with three focusing on talent and manpower issues:
Talent attraction and retention
Managing a multigenerational workforce
Maintaining consistent high performance across the organisation
In order to address the root of these challenges, business leaders need a radical mindset shift. Drawing from insights of aAdvantage Consulting’s 2015 Singapore National Values Assessment on workplace culture, I will explain why this is needed.
Challenge #1: Manpower and Talent attraction and retention
Organisations are struggling to attract new blood and keep the right people in the organisation.
Even as organisations look for talent and manpower who have the right character and skillsets to lead and deliver, retaining them is a whole different ballgame altogether. Employees have diverse motivations to stay in an organisation and push factors to leave the organisation are too complex to be micro-managed.
Overcoming Challenge #1: Knowing the heart of the people
Who are the people in your organisation? What are their priorities, what are their needs?
While employees may look disengaged or disinterested at work, they are in reality, very relational who want to be happy and cared for! This is what we found in our 2015 Singapore National Values Assessment (NVA) on workplace culture (slide 13).
Here are some values and behaviours Singapore employees describe themselves to possess: “family”, “friendship”, “happiness”, “balance (home/work)”, “caring”, “positive attitude” all of which show that the Singapore employee are a relational lot of people.
Something to ponder about: How often do we stop to find out about who our people are instead of focusing on what they can do? Is it time we get to know our people and know their hearts rather than see them as resources who need to be instructed and driven by rules and goals?
Challenge #2: Managing a multigenerational workforce
How many times have you encountered a Gen Y who asked “Why do we have to do it this way?” which can be considered as insubordination. In an effort to engage and meet the Gen Y career needs, some organisations have set in place career structures such as a graduate trainee programme for a faster career progression.
While it does address some of the Gen Y career needs, how do the other demographic groups feel about it? Do their thoughts sound something like this: “I have been working here for 20 years, and now they are promoting a young guy so rapidly.”? There is no silver bullet to managing a multigenerational workforce with such different mindsets and needs.
One of my clients from an MNC remarked “During the interviews, we not only interview them, we find the graduates interviewing us. They commonly ask ‘What is your culture like?’” What this shows is that HR professionals need to have a different mindset when recruiting the younger workforce.
Overcoming Challenge #2: Connecting to the hearts of people
Based on the 2015 Singapore NVA (slide 29), three values Singapore employees desire to see in their workplace were consistent across the different generations:
“Employee Recognition” and
Basically, it comes back to the need for meaningful connections in life.
Something to ponder about: Think about it – “Balance (home/work)” may express the desire for the employee to connect with his family and friends.
“Employee recognition” may express the desire for the employee to connect with the leaders.
“Teamwork” may express the desire for the employee to connect with his colleagues.
Yes, there may be differences of needs between generations, but can business leaders choose on meeting the needs of these common needs first? Can business leaders choose to connect and engage employees across generations heart to heart rather than seeing them as generations of resources to be managed?
Challenge #3: Consistent high performance across the organisation
The keywords here are “consistent” and “across”.
In my course of client work, we have come across organisations who have some departments or teams who are high performing – but that represents only 15% of the organisation. We have also come across organisations who have sporadic high performance, but sink back into fire-fighting, a lack of vision or employee burn out.
How can an organisation rally an entire organisation to give its 100% all the time? Some leaders think they should focus on the personal productivity and efficiency of employees. Some leaders put in place rigid time schedules in the hope of getting as much work possible done within a workday. Some leaders rally the organisation around a compelling corporate initiative such as Business Excellence, Service Transformation or a rebranding initiative.
Overcoming Challenge #3: Joining the hearts of people
The thing is, employees seem to understand the need to satisfy customers, work in a team, represent the brand well, achieve results, be professional and so on.
This is evident in our 2015 Singapore NVA (slide 28) on the workplace culture where seven of the top 10 words chosen by employees to describe their current workplace include these elements:
“Results Orientation” and
Something to ponder about: Employees do not dispute the importance of these. The question is “how do we achieve high performance together?”
The 2015 Singapore NVA reveals the voice of the employees of organisations. The top 10 words they use to describe the workplace they desire are in order of priority:
Nine out of the top ten words screams the theme of “meaningful relationships”! How can business leaders lead the way and provide platforms for employees to build meaningful relationships within the organisation?
If I could summarise the current and desired workplace culture based on the 2015 Singapore NVA findings, this is perhaps what an employee is saying:
“I know our organisation wants to achieve high performance. And I am willing to help the organisation achieve that. But let’s start to build meaningful relationships as a foundation to achieve our goals together. Showing that you care does not cost any money but it goes a long way in bringing out the best in me.”
Leaders – are we listening?
Author: Soh Chin San, Senior Consultant, aAdvantage Consulting
Chin San is a Senior Consultant at aAdvantage specialising in Culture Transformation, Organisation Development and Change Management.