When it comes to employee engagement a question I have heard asked more than once is: "what do we want our engagement to achieve?". Because engagement seems to mean a variety of different things to different people, I came around to accepting the question has some merit - even though I believed the people asking it were approaching the rationale and need for communication from the wrong angle.
Generally speaking, when you break it down, organisations in the US and Europe want to improve employee engagement in order to increase employee performance, as there is evidence that shows an engaged workforce ultimately delivers better results which in turn enhances a company's bottom line. Before today I had not really considered that the desired outcomes from employee engagement in organisations elsewhere in the world might be somewhat different.
But now, having read this op-ed in the Economic Times of India, penned by Tata Executive Director, R Gopalakrishnan, I can see a rather different motivation for a focus on engagement based on the Indian philiosophical concepts of Niti (bringing about better justice) and Nyaya (preventing injustice). Gopalakrishnan's focus here is squarely on the need to pursue corporate policies humanely. When you think about it, this is deep stuff. I cannot remember ever hearing language like this used by executives:
Prevention of injustice is very different from pursuit of perfect justice. They are two sides of the same coin, but their value perception is different. So far as the Indian legislative framework is concerned, laws pertaining to worker relations have for long needed to be updated. Labour reforms have been widely discussed, but the subject remains on the pending agenda.I wonder if the concept of justice ever overtly crosses the minds of communicators and executives in the west when focusing on employee engagement. It may be that in many organisations the concept of justice is an ever present if unspoken factor in employee engagement.
However, at the firm level, managers can act on remedying the nyaya perceived by the employees in the employee-employer relation; its practice can be modernised by forward-looking managements. This requires special effort by company leaders.
In seeking ever more innovative ways of engaging with employees, could there be an opportunity here for organisations and communicators to take justice and make it a prominent and visible plank in their engagement strategies? Or would such language and philiosophical depth feel out of place and make people somewhat uncomfortable in our boardrooms and communications departments? Maybe that would be a good thing...