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Harnessing The Human Asset

Getting the most out of people at work is the single X factor for most organisations. Here’s a quick road map to making these vital relationships work to your advantage

Speaker, Strategist, Goal-Catalyst

Building effective relationships is a major two-way social competency at the workplace. After all, we spend more waking hours at work with our colleagues than we do with our families. A study done by the management consulting firm Gallup indicates good relationships at the workplace are essential to higher job satisfaction and a driving force to unleash your full potential. It also helps to foster creativity, innovation, and team spirit.

Relationships at the workplace can be split into two broad categories – the inter-employee relationship between colleagues and an employee’s relationship with the organization, which entails their dealings with the power holders and superiors in the firm. While inter-employee relationships are forged in the crucible of the 9-to-5 and have a day-to-day impact, the latter are often responsible for key changes in the employee’s situation in the company.

To keep it simple, every relationship has needs, and the four key components that drive effective workplace relationships are the following needs:

Material Need

This can be considered the basic reason why people come to work. It is not just about money but also all that it represents – sustenance, survival, hope, and a purpose to live. If the four needs are to be viewed as a pyramid, the material need is the foundational requirement to be met before moving to higher needs. When connected to employee engagement, this is the basic level of satisfaction that employees need to operate effectively. This focuses on meeting the bare minimum, the tangible factors such as hygiene, infrastructure, and physical amenities. Employees are likely to quit most often if this need is not adequately met, as opposed to a lack of other needs.

Emotional Need

Emotional need is also a significant basic human need, sometimes commanding a higher level than the material need for many employees. It is the need to be cared for, to feel safe and secure, and have their overall wellbeing catered to. A lot of organizations operate in this space by implementing various employee wellness programs and initiatives. When related to employee engagement, this is the next level where staff needs to feel appreciated, seen, have friends at work, or be able to voice an opinion freely.

Regular check-ins with your employees (separate from performance reviews) or even having a designated therapist are good practices, gaining increasing traction in several top-tier organizations. This can help them voice their emotional needs in a safe and non-judgmental space, although it is critical that this does not impact their perception at work. It also features as a defining reason for why people switch firms.

Intellectual Need

Employees need to feel intellectually stimulated, get to participate in stimulating conversations, have their opinion considered, their ideas acknowledged, and overall feel challenged to grow and exceed their abilities. This can take several forms, such as ideas generation workshops, opinion polls, collaborative decision-making, creating a learning culture, stimulus of growth, teams solving a problem together, rewarding innovation, new ideas, and creativity. The opposite of this can have people feeling that they’re ‘in a rut’, a potent reason for employees to jump ship.

Actualization Need

Helping or enabling people to discover their sense of purpose is the highest form of need, bolstered by other needs being met. Helping people to align their purpose to the organization’s purpose, discover meaning in their work and their regular milieu, how they are integral to the bigger vision and mission of the company. This is a huge area of opportunity, and more and more organizations are focusing on developing the coaching and mentoring competencies of their leaders. Every organization must leave room for actualization by providing mentors who are groomed to show people the vision, drive the alignment between personal and organizational goals, realize people’s true potential, and enable them to deliver their sense of purpose.

Regular check-ins with your employees or even having a designated therapist are good practices, gaining increasing traction in several top-tier organizations

When related to engagement, this is what drives the emotional connection with the organization, the drive to go above and beyond, connect with a sense of purpose, and be effective in everyday tasks.

As the definition of profession evolves, the four needs are in a state of constant flux. Amongst these four needs, most organizations often hyper-focus on material need, causing them to attract but not retain talent. Effective organizations have a keen focus on higher-level needs such as intellectual and actualization, built on realized material and emotional needs. The dynamics between these needs is a delicate balance that still remains a herculean task for many organizations. For instance, doubling up on efforts to satisfy emotional needs when material needs aren’t being met is foolhardy. On the same coin, ratcheting up material needs when an employee suffers from a self-actualization crisis is a sure shot route to attrition and losing talent.

People also lack self-awareness of their own needs, which leads to much internal conflict. Mere increase in material satisfaction does not work for everyone, for all people are not the same. Due to its tangible nature, there is a measurement of material gains, but other needs are often sidelined in professional circles. It is important for organizations to work closely with every employee to ascertain their needs chart and what they lack, as well as for individuals to take the onus of their needs and if they are being met. Employee satisfaction is the key to a harmonious and progressive workplace.

Sabeeh can be reached at [email protected]

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