In this decade, workplaces are evolving to be more than just places to work. Workplaces now center on fostering a welcoming and inclusive culture for a multidimensional workforce. Companies in India are actively participating in doing away with antiquated policies and adopting practices that enable their workforce to feel more at home while at work. The multidimensional workforce shares an eagerness for uncharted frontiers and a space to cater to the unique requirements of GenZs and millennials. Empathy and multidimensional thinking are the values they seek in the workplace. In the SHRM India annual conference 2022, industry experts and thought leaders discussed the strategy to unlock an ownership culture in a multidimensional workforce environment. Let us explore some of the best practices suggested by the leaders.
How Do Ownership And Accountability Differ?
Ownership is intrinsic, while accountability can be transferred. Although ownership cannot be transferred, it can undoubtedly be developed. When employees feel personally invested in the enterprise, they will not only happily accept accountability but will also own every decision they make along with the outcomes of their choices. Niharika Mohan, CHRO of Luminous Power Technologies, advised "cocreating the culture using the 3 Cs- Courage, Conviction, and Confidence" to shift employee accountability to employee ownership.
Best Practices To Cultivate An Ownership Culture
1. Leaders Must Walk The Talk
Leaders unintentionally influence people through their attitudes, actions, and appeal. How well leaders practice what they preach serves as a litmus test for their effectiveness. A flustered manager will lead to a confused team, a buck-passing manager will push people to work in silos, and a biased manager will create a divided workforce detrimental to the whole system of growth and harmony. Alexander Rinku, Director of HR at Oracle, emphasized, "leaders must set the example and cascade down the company's mission, vision, and values." As a start, a company's vision and values must include fostering a culture of ownership, empathy, and inclusion, and this must be mirrored in leadership conduct.
Rinku shared a common but interesting fact about managerial styles. He stated, "Managers often start with an approach of command and control. With some training and effort, their approach transforms into carrots and the cafeteria. As they progress further, the approach becomes coach and counsel." How willingly workers accept their responsibilities and targets is determined by how they are inspired and not managed. People can be motivated to take ownership of their work when they realize how significant their contribution is to the whole scheme. A competent boss pushes the envelope and leads people by character, not coercion.
2. Take Ownership of The Employees
The multidimensional workforce of the twenty-first century is not only diverse in terms of gender and generation but also in terms of sexual expression and preferences. This highlights the need for policies and procedures to be more inclusive than before. Nishad Mehta, Head of leadership development and organization development at Larsen & Toubro, said, "First, own the employees before expecting ownership from them." Owning employees is accepting responsibility for each person's particular need for professional development, learning, and the intrinsic desire to be recognized and accepted for who they are.
Taking ownership of the employees also involves being in charge of how they act and react to one another's contrasting opinions and preferences. As complex as it may seem, human behavior can improve to be more sensitive and receptive with strategically planned coaching and learning initiatives. Rinku deftly conveyed a lesson wrapped in humor, "A person asked a CHRO- why are you spending so much on learning and development of the people? What if they leave? The CHRO replied I am more worried about – what if I don't spend on developing them and they stay?" It's interesting how being open to one another fosters a sense of belongingness and ownership.
3. Build A Circle Of Trust
Trust does not entail abandoning people entirely to swim, sail, or struggle their way ashore. Instead, it involves getting down with people in the water while watching their backs, providing support when they stumble and cheering them on whenever they exhibit the courage to take a risk and progress. Mohan suggested some good practices to create an ownership culture, "Empower your employees. Let them take charge even if they fail. Don't micromanage." However, there is a fine line between keeping an eye on employees to keep a tap on where they need support and micromanaging them. Particularly now that Gen Z and millennials constitute a good part of the workforce, hyper-monitoring can be destructive to a culture of trust and ownership.
4. Communicate Responsibly
Surprisingly, despite being critical, communication is one aspect most of us tend to take lightly. Mohan suggested that to gain the employees' trust, "be transparent and communicate both the good as well as the bad news." Responsible communication does not mean being diplomatic to appease the recipient but being truthful. Sadly, most managers fall into the trap of using diplomacy to their advantage, concealing half-truths, or downplaying even the worst news.
Akshay Mathur, Global Head of Talent Acquisition Technology at S&P Global, said, "Something you do wrong today might not bite you today, but ten years later. So, act responsibly and be sensible about what you say or post." Employees of this generation are exposed to the greater part of the world and have a broader grasp of human behavior and their surroundings. They detect dishonest or uncaring attitudes through shoddy communication. Ownership sprouts from taking responsibility. An ecosystem of responsible communication will inspire employees to take ownership of their words and deeds.
A diverse workforce is the life and blood of any organization. Their multifaceted perspective brings a flavor of the challenge to the existing systems. It is onto us to perceive this challenge as a threat or an opportunity to push our boundaries to grow. Nevertheless, to discipline diverse workforces' approach, imbibing a sense of ownership in them is crucial.