The fourth and last part of the series: The way to Indian IT Industry 4.0 passes through redesigned genomes of people practices, the present post emphasizes needs for a holistic reappraisal of communication efficacy and its effective alignment with the evolving hybrid and ‘work from anywhere’ models. Shifting away from outdated communication paradigm, it sets the idea contours for redesigned communication construct, pivoted with untainted transparency and empathy to lift up sagging employee engagement and trust levels in prevailing business environment.
With almost two third of employees falling in the middle spectrum of ‘not engaged’ (but ‘not actively disengaged’) segments[i], they are prone to feel increasingly distanced in present times under ‘workplace of one’. Realigned communication design should aim to sensitively address the critical questions, like: does my manager genuinely care for me, or do I get due recognition for my contributions, or does my team /leadership behavior inspires me to perform the best? With communication structure and substance discernibly attuned to boost core nuances of employee engagement, there is immense scope to contain the festering disconnect behind the digital curtains and improve employee satisfaction levels.
Redesigned paradigm in contemporary context
In hyper-digitized workplace with blurring lines of formal and informal communication, companies cannot remain fixated to traditional construct of ‘top-down’ flow with closely regulated ‘need-to-know’ information paradigm. Imbibing equitable character and flexible assimilation of emerging channels, it entails complete shift away from restricted and layered top-down communication architecture prevailing in organizations. With increasing intersections between professional, quasi professional and personal affairs under WFH/A models, communication intent and tools would require significant realignment to fulfill new patterns of continuous communication maxim.
Candid and credible communication tone
Peculiarity of leadership response to an issue and its impact on the reputation of an organization and its leadership might be varied – whether exit of a leader under hazy situation, abrupt pull down from a publicized position, unfavorable media report, harsh regulatory action, or damaging whistle blower disclosure. Notwithstanding context of communication – overtly positive or negative, momentous or mundane, it is the integrity and forthrightness of communication that has the lasting impact and not the lofty tone. Communication nuance needs steady anchoring to the core organizational values without being evasive or self-aggrandizing. A golden rule for trustful employee communication could be that leadership stance to err on the side of candid information than smartly dressed-up prevaricating bits.
Open and respectful communication frame
Conventional leadership thinking mold attempts to overtly simplify the organizational situations and employee responses – boxed to be only in black and white narratives. Distanced with team dynamics and ground context, it unintentionally takes a judgmental position on other viewpoints (shades of grey). More than often, sheer sense of bravado and single-minded result focus provide little space to differing ideas. With new-found empathy in work setting, leadership communication substance needs equitable assimilation of diverging viewpoints. An open communication frame with unqualified respect for differing opinions promotes a nurturing space – enabling development of optimal business solutions and an increased sense of satisfaction amongst employees.
Communication practice discipline and guidelines
Even if an unconventional idea, setting a basic norm of time-bound acknowledgement and response to workplace communication will promote respectful team ethos. Establishing guidelines about expected response time for emails, input requests, messages and meeting requests would significantly clear the workplace burden of cloudy emotions and expensive follow-up trails. A related part is correction of group thinking about unrealistic responsiveness under WFH/A models and resulting burnout syndrome. It presumes one is expected to be always available across time zones or working windows. Such practice can be minimized by nurturing of self-discipline and improved empathy amongst managers – keeping sensitivity for individual’s space or personal situation. Setting self-example of disciplined practices, leaders can meaningfully encourage courteous and efficient working styles.
Demystified and transparent policy narratives
With critical aspects of employees’ work life in control of ambivalent HR policies, employees remain grappling to find right guidance. Cryptic policies and guidelines covering career growth, promotion, performance evaluation, sabbatical leave, training program or individual performance incentives etc. fail to provide meaningful help. Specific and transparent narratives of policies framework supported with an increased openness in people processes can substantially enhance employees’ faith in organizational practices. It will clearly help them to realize what is specifically needed in terms of competency profile for moving up on career ladder, or how one’s contributions influence the team outcome and individual’s performance incentives.
Constructive handling of employee concerns
Finding perfection in imperfections could be an improved way of functioning for mature organizations. Employee differences, personality clash, dissent and grievances are very much part of a thriving organization. Sweeping such issues under carpet (procedural black holes) with a denial bias for positioning a squeaky clean organizational aura aggravate disengagement and distrust amongst employees. Considering its long term unhealthy effect on team morale, employee concerns should be provided an institutionalized handling for fair and constructive resolution. Transparent public disclosure of employee concerns raised and its resolution status (with sensitivity to privacy aspects) would significantly promote trust and harmonious spirit amongst employees. With an authentically available information from organizational channels, harmful effects of unfounded rumor, gossip and distrust is largely eliminated.
[i] Gallup State of the Global Workplace report (2017) indicates that just 15% of employees worldwide are engaged in their job, two-thirds are not engaged, and 18% are actively disengaged.
Disclaimer: The author is an employee of Tata Consultancy Services Limited (TCS). The opinions expressed herein are of author’s own and do not reflect those of the company.
Image source: professionalgrowthsystems.com with due acknowledgement to copyrights.