Sundar Rajan

mployee contribution is the sole factor that determines a company’s success. Creating a conducive environment for everyone to perform, excel and achieve objectives is therefore important. However, who will create this environment - is it the employee, manager, or the CEO? I believe it has to come from the top.

A CEO, MD or company president sets long- and short-term plans in line with the company’s vision and mission. It is the CEO’s responsibility to ensure everyone in the company contributes, and therefore has to create an atmosphere where all employees, irrespective of their job titles, are given importance without any bias of colour, nationality, gender, language, religion or caste. Only performance and results should matter. And this commitment to a result-oriented culture needs to be sustained.

Such a culture can be effectively enforced across a firm, irrespective of its size only when all management heads implement the same in spirit in their respective areas of work.

Motivating employees

Clearly defining roles and KRAs with target dates upholds transparency in the system, with proper guidance, training, support and motivation for all employees helping accomplish their goals. Though the supervisor must ensure each team member achieves the assigned tasks on time, every employee must take necessary initiative and interest to exceed expectations by presenting total involvement and dedication, and implementing innovative approaches with the objective to excel. Such an atmosphere ensures the company stays ahead in the business in this competitive world.

This could be an inherent culture in the organisation, or a well-designed strategic initiative for an employee engagement programme to achieve employee satisfaction, retention and productivity.

The below example illustrates the creation of an employee engagement culture and its impact.

A factory manager, hoping to recruit a janitor to clean the factory premises assembled 250 highly efficient workers of different nationalities to ascertain their interest for the job. The company CEO, coincidentally on the shop floor observed the recruitment exercise as well. The work involved cleaning the office and open area within the factory, apart from a dozen toilets, twice a day. However, only one worker named Haridas stepped up to take on the task. Haridas reasoned that he was a cleaner in Nepal prior to taking up the job as a worker in Dubai and was therefore willing to take on the challenge. Being one among many workers in his previous job, Haridas also preferred taking on the work singlehandedly in hopes to create an impact. And he did.

Within a short span of time, managers started praising Haridas’ work ethic, commenting on how the toilets were sparkling and the office area so clean it enhanced the company’s image in front of visitors. The factory manager made a note of Haridas’ commitment and enthusiasm for the job.

From the heart

The group, a consortium of 25 companies decided to select the best employee of the year from among the blue collar workers using a judging panel formed of members who were not connected with the group. Every company nominated their best – from tailors, carpenters and electricians to machine operators, painters and drivers. This company nominated Haridas.

Every nominated employee read out his contribution from the script. As luck would have it, Haridas’ name card was the last to be drawn from the bowl and he started reading from the script as well. However, just a minute into his speech, Haridas folded his script and started to speak extempore. The CEO, factory manager and others present were surprised but Haridas continued. He said, “Everyone’s performance is so impressive, I don’t think I stand a chance to get any award. I am from Nepal and live near the foothills of Himalayas but never attempted to climb the mountain.

“I have two sons who are studying in school in Nepal and it is my ambition that they study well and become like my CEO, whom we all respect a lot, since he takes personal interest in every employee. My job is to clean the office, the open areas of the factory and the toilets. Some of my colleagues do not keep the toilet clean after using but I do my job. They even call me a toilet cleaner and look down on me but I don’t care since this job was chosen by me. I project the image of the company by maintaining cleanliness and hygiene.

"One day when we had overseas visitors during lunchtime, I closed my lunch box and rushed to clean the toilets in the office so that they carry a good impression about our company. Some of my colleagues think I am mad as I work extra hours of my own choosing, as my CEO and factory manager have confidence in me.”

Looking in the direction of the CEO, he said with humility, “Sir, you had a lot of hope in me but there are better workers than me from other companies. You should have nominated any of our machine operators or workers from our factory who have saved a lot on cost to the company and would have certainly won the award. I thank you and the factory manager for giving me this opportunity, which itself is a big win for me.”

With tears rolling down his eyes, Haridas said, “Sir, today I have let you down but I give you the assurance that I shall always exceed your expectations in my work. Thank you.” Haridas came off the stage to a standing ovation.

Recognition and adulation

The judging panel then came on stage to announce the winners. A painter and tailor claimed the 3rd and 2nd prizes. The panel then declared the winner of the Best Employee of the Year Award – a carpenter who skillfully created new designs that became successful brand products. The winners were hailed for their awards, but just as everyone thought the function to be at an end, a panel member called for their attention and remarked, “All participants spoke well about their achievements from the script, but one employee spoke about his contribution from his heart, which was very impressive. We could feel the involvement and passion of this worker.” The panel member then announced, “The Special Award for the Passionate Worker goes to Haridas, the cleaner, who won our hearts and brought us to tears through his dedication.”

There was jubilation all around as Haridas stepped forward to receive a large cash award. Looking overwhelmed with the surprise recognition, Haridas later remarked to friends, “I feel as if I have conquered Mount Everest.”

A week later, as Haridas was readying for vacation, he required someone to take on the shift, and this time all the factory workers raised their hands. This is implementing change by example.

— The writer is Managing Director, DFMC - King Koil & Serta