Changing Paradigm of Employee Engagement: Interview with Sudhir Koka, GVK Bio

Employee Engagement has gained more importance than ever in the last one year alone as the world of work as we knew it underwent massive digital transformation at scale. So as the workforce transitioned to a virtual modus operandi, businesses, HR in particular, had to re-strategize everything from policies to processes and programs. Being tasked with adequate enablement and engagement of teams that were no longer in a physical office space meant changing employee engagement from the bottom up and the top down.

In the latest episode of ‘Leadership Spotlight’ podcast with Sudhir Koka, Senior Director - Learning & OD at GVK Biosciences, we uncover the role of front line managers in employee engagement in ‘Changing Paradigm of Employee Engagement’. An L&D veteran with over 20 years of experience in Training & Development and a certified coach, Sudhir distils his expertise in managing HR, OD and talent management interventions to share practical tips, tricks and best practices on making employee engagement an everyday activity for line managers.

Paradigm shift in Employee Engagement

According to a 2017 report from Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace, only 15 percent of employees are engaged in the workplace. COVID-19 has further impacted Employee Engagement. If it’s for better or for worse depends upon the way employees feel their companies have handled the situation. Consider some latest stats:

  • When employees are extremely satisfied with communications about the company’s response to coronavirus, 96% of them believe that their employer really puts their safety first. When communication is poor, only 30% of them believe so (Perceptyx)
  • 86% of employees say they feel the need to prove to bosses they are working hard and deserve to keep their jobs (Cityam)
  • 20% of remote employees say that they lack a sense of belonging and sometimes feel lonely (Forbes)

Clearly, employee engagement – as a strategy and an approach - needs to undergo a sea change to make it befitting for the virtual world of work. And because it’s such a broad, all-encompassing element of a business, it’s that much more critical to get it right.


Role of Line Managers in bringing about Employee Engagement

Line Managers are the cornerstone of any successful organization. Always in action and always in direct contact with their immediate reporting teams, they are the link between upper management and the employees. Employees turn to them for constant feedback, guidance, demonstration of corporate culture, and alignment towards organizational goals.

As per Harvard Business Review, employees who say their manager is not good at communicating are 23% more likely to experience mental health declines.

Unfortunately, bringing about employee engagement is not explicitly mentioned in the job KRAs/ OKRs or even notionally known to most line managers.

So to ensure employee engagement is percolated to all levels of the business, it’s important to not just sensitize managers about their role in engaging employees, but they need to be well equipped with the knowledge and tools to do so as a part of their everyday activities. One way of doing this is by supporting leaders and managers with business skills and leadership skills training. There is a Plethora of off the shelf eLearning content that can be used to hit the ground running.

The skill or competencies you need to include as a part of your employee capability program must be mapped to each of the below dimensions of employee engagement:

  1. Trust and Credibility building
  2. Credit & Recognition
  3. Care & Connect
  4. Co-operation & Support
  5. Communication & Messaging

It’s for a reason it’s said that people don’t quit companies but their bosses. Line managers need to wear multiple hats to carry out their jobs, but the most important one is to be the bridge between employees’ emotional and rational commitment that makes them Say, Stay and Strive.