When we talk about employee happiness and employee engagement, it’s the corporate employees that come to our mind. It’s rarely that organisations delve on employee engagement and happiness at the grassroots level. The repercussion is disengagement and often cause of mishaps and accidents.
The eminent panel at The Happiness Conclave, organised by HRKatha on April 29, 2016 at Taj Vivanta Bengaluru, discussed how unhappy employees at the shop floor can turn out to be life threatening and the ways to create a safer workplace through happiness.
The eminent panel for this session consisted of Ravi Mishra, regional HR head - South Asia & Middle East, Birla Carbon; Alok Mehta, founder & chief consultant, Alouquik Consulting; Atul Sharma, senior general manager – HR Bosch; Manoj Agrawal, co-founder, Gift XOXO. The session was moderated by Smita Saha, VP-HR, AstraZeneca.
Mehta began the session with the statement that an employee is happy if she/he is respected, given a patient hearing, is able to express thoughts in the workplace without fear and allowed to act on it. This package obviously comes with other tangibles such as the compensation and benefits. The happiness that ensues, leads to more productivity. The employees then also tend to be more concerned about the environment they work in, which leads to more safety.
On the other hand, when employees are unhappy, they are disengaged with their surroundings. This results in lack of alertness and agility at the workplace. Such inattentiveness could cause unwanted situations on the floor like mishaps and accidents. Therefore, the companies should focus on creating experiences that could spread joy amongst the employees.
Taking the session forward, Saha said that the senior-most people in any organisation are the happiest, while the employees at the lowest rung of the organisation hierarchy, such as those on the shop floor, are the unhappiest. Ravi Mishra refuted by saying that unhappiness or happiness is not restricted to any level of an organisation. Sharing his experience from the manufacturing sector,
Mishra outlined the importance of safety in a factory setup. He said that people at the grassroots are unhappy majorly because they are not taken care of properly. Especially in the manufacturing sector where the plants are located in remote locations, employees find it difficult to maintain work–life balance. They face familial pressure due to lack of facilities, such as schools, markets and healthcare centres, thus leading to unhappiness. If the companies themselves provide these facilities to ensure that not just the workplace needs of the employees, but also their family needs are taken care of, the workforce will be happy resulting in more happiness at the workplace.
He added that while it is impossible for companies to provide for all the needs, they should at least show their intent and work on building confidence amongst the employees. They should assure them that they are available for help and support always.
Taking the discussion further, Saha questioned Sharma about the role a manager plays to ensure that the workforce is engaged and mishaps are avoided. Sharma responded that happiness comes from within, but a few injectors are required to sustain it. Speaking from the industry perspective, he said that the value the person thinks she/he is adding to the organisation, is the key creator of happiness. He also stated work–life balance and the organisation’s efforts towards personal development of the employees as other important factors.
Mishra concluded by emphasising that happiness comes from within and that the terms ‘employee happiness’ and ‘employee engagement’ are not interchangeable; the two have different meanings. The presence of one need not necessarily mean the presence of the other as well.
Dwelling on how to actually bring in happiness, Agrawal said that happiness is a function of different dimensions, and that both internal factors (such as the health of the person) and external factors (such as the socio-economic situation of the country) impact happiness.
According to him, happiness cannot be generalised and different people gain happiness from different things. Talking about employer–employee relations, Agrawal said that employers can enable the happiness of employees by taking care of them and establishing an emotional connect. To achieve this, employers need to bring transparency at work, motivate their employees and work with the families of the employees in small areas to ensure holistic happiness.
Attempting to showcase the direct correlation between employee happiness and their performance, Mehta shared an example where an employee had planned to quit a company, and measures to stop him went unheeded. Finally, it was the family that intervened and asked him to stay on, as they believed that the individual was happy working in the company. Not surprisingly, the interesting insights from the panel led to the audience posing several questions.
(The Happiness Conclave organised by HR Katha was held at Taj Vivanta, Bengaluru, on April 29, 2016. The sponsors and partners for this event were The Fuller Life, NHRDN-Bengaluru Chapter, PeopleWorks, Giftxoxo and Kommune Brand Communications.)