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Boosting Employee Engagement in the Workplace – Sri Chellappa of Engagedly

Expert Interview Series

Sri Chellappa

President, Engagedly

Sri Chellappa is the co-founder and president of Engagedly, an employee engagement and performance management software suite, where he uses his passion to build a better workplace for visionary organizations. We recently chatted with Sri about the importance of companies improving their engagement with their newly-hired employees.

Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to co-found Engagedly?

My background is in managing large project teams and working with enterprises to roll out new processes and projects. As a leader, I realize that our biggest asset is our people. Good leaders together with engaged teams can work miracles. However, as companies and teams get bigger and more distributed, communication and intimacy between team members decrease, leading to higher levels of disengagement. I witnessed disengagement first hand in companies I consulted and worked for. Engagedly came out of a discussion with my partner about building online tools for organizations to better align, motivate, and engage employees. It is a continuous journey.

As a leader, I realize that our biggest asset is our people. Good leaders together with engaged teams can work miracles.

For employees who are entering the full-time workforce for the first time, how can a company help them transition to a workplace environment?

The best thing for organizations to do when bringing on a new employee is to build a strong and effective onboarding process to acclimatize them to the work culture and protocols. Then, the next step is to actively involve the new hire in meetings and discussions online instead of letting the new hire try to figure things out himself or herself. A platform like Engagedly can help immensely in the onboarding process by actively engaging the employee and aligning his or her goals to team and organizational goals.

For young adults in their first full-time job, how important is it for them to receive regular feedback?

Regardless of age, new employees need regular feedback to align better to expectations, understand the company structure, and navigate the workplace. For young employees, regular feedback eliminates some guesswork on what is expected and how to improve. For experienced hires, feedback allows them to adjust to the new work culture and organization. However, managers and peers tend to get busy working and may not prioritize feedback, which can be reflected in the new hire's engagement.

How should a company (or manager) approach a performance review of a young adult who may not be accustomed to dealing with criticism?

Managers should first and foremost set clear expectations and goals with the employee. Managers should ensure that the employee buys in to these goals, both from a capacity and capability perspective. They should also be giving regular feedback on the employee's progress. Criticism is not successful if it is not paired with ongoing feedback and clear direction on what the employee should do differently going forward.  

Are young adults more likely to embrace "gamification" initiatives than their older colleagues?

Yes, they typically embrace "gamification" because most of them grew up around gaming and computers.

What is the best way to recognize excellent work by a young adult employee?

Monetary rewards only go so far in motivating an employee, and the effect tapers off. Company-wide announcements and shout outs go much further. Also, recognition within a team or department can be done more regularly. The most important thing a manager can do with recognition is give meaning to the employee's work and how it connects to the organization's purpose and objectives.

What is the purpose of conducting "pulse" surveys? Under what circumstances should the results not be taken at face value?

Pulse surveys are a snapshot in time with a small set of questions. This type of survey is valuable because their quick response time allows them to be run more frequently. The value of pulse surveys is not from the single snapshot they provide, but rather the trends and patterns that emerge over time.

Now that Generation Z (those born in or after 1995) is starting to enter the workforce, what ramifications does this have for employee engagement in the future?

From our observations and outside research, Generation Z wants to do meaningful work. They want to know their work matters and makes an observable impact. Generation Z is less motivated by money or prestige of working for a name brand company as compared to older generations. Instead, they are more motivated by work culture, independence in their work, and regular feedback. They also feel the need to be recognized more often as this reinforces the meaningfulness of their work. Organizations that fail to take these differences into consideration will likely have lower levels of engagement and retention. 

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Zack Andresen

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