How grass roots India is engaging India Inc

How grass roots India is engaging India Inc

Richard Bandell, CEO of Grass Roots Group, wants Indian companies to move from the hierarchical structure, and encourage employees at all levels to identify innovative ways to achieve business results. While its current revenue share from India is 5 per cent, by 2020, the company aims to clock-in one third of its revenues from India and China

MANISHA BAPNA

RICHARD BANDELL, CEO, GRASSROOTS GROUP INC.

Today, corporates across the world understand the importance of employee engagement. And, India is not far behind in this endeavor. An increasing number of Indian companies are now focusing on values and changed behaviour, to develop effective employee engagement tools, and in turn, achieve great business results.

One company that sees a huge opportunity in enabling Indian corporates to achieve this goal is Grass Roots Group. Grass Roots is a global performance improvement company specialising in communications, rewards and recognitions, incentives and loyalty, measurement, meetings and events management. The company, which is also partly owned by WPP plc (a 45 per cent stake), a British multinational advertising and public relations company, is present in almost 15 countries and has undertaken projects at nearly 100 locations. Being a global performance improvement agency, the company specialises in positively influencing people’s behavior to achieve better business results.

“In today’s fiercely competitive world, retaining a talented team of professionals and encouraging them to achieve their full potential, to commensurate with the organisational goals, is an art as much as it is a science,” says Richard Bandell, chief executive officer of the company. And, the company has been working towards helping businesses get this art and science right since its inception in 1980, in United Kingdom.

Moving India Inc away from hierarchy

The Grass Roots Group forayed into India in 2008, and since then, the Indian subsidiary, Grass Roots India, has worked with various companies such as Titan, Fastrack, SBI, Arvind Limited, Dalmia Group, Schneider Electric and Prestige, to drive engagement, and to encourage and inspire people to deliver desired business results.

While it is evident that there is a strong market opportunity in India, there is a need to break into the certain traditional management practices that are prevalent in the country. A study, called State of the Global Workplace, 2013 for the Indian market, by Gallup, an American research-based, global performance-management consulting company, shows that less than 10 per cent of employees are genuinely engaged with their employers. Another 60 per cent are not engaged and about another 30 per cent are actively disengaged. “In India, the management structure is more hierarchical in nature and individuals are more likely to do what their managers tell them to, rather than finding their own way to achieve great results,” states Bandell, and adds, “In the past, while there have been companies which have engaged employees by rewarding and recognising them, the initiatives have not led to a long-term (desired) change in behavior, productivity or engagement levels.”

Take the example of a cricket team. If in the entire team, only the top two players were aware of the score they have to chase, the other players would seem disinterested in the game, and the odds of winning would be close to nil. Similarly, a fully engaged employee, who is connected to the brand, would be more willing to help his/her organisation achieve better success and business results than one who is not engaged. This is the fundamental principle on which Grass Roots operates. As a first step, the company also ensures that, to drive better engagement, it communicates core values and business objectives of an organisation from the top leadership level to the lowest ranks. “Engagement derives its essence from behaviour and values. To sustainably change people’s behaviour, employers have to ensure they inculcate the right values in the organisation,” opines Bandell.  (See BOX: Deriving Sustainable Change)

Additionally, employee engagement has proven to have a direct impact on a company’s earnings per share (EPS). Bandell says, “Once companies establish a relationship between engagement and business result, the employers, CEOs and the Board will not be able to ignore it. This is an argument that has won largely in the developed markets and it is currently a popular concept in the Asian markets.”

Over the last seven years, Grass Roots India has been actively trying to increase the percentage of engaged employees. And, this gives enormous headroom for growth, especially as companies understand the need to engage with people. While currently, the Indian subsidiary contributes to around 5 per cent to the global revenues, in the coming years, it is likely to see a bigger share in the revenues’ basket. “We are optimistic that by 2020, one third of our revenues will be coming from the faster growing markets, especially India and China,” states Bandell

Capitalising on the market opportunity in India

“In India, we are looking for companies which are ready to listen to us, are willing to keep their employees happy and are prepared to provide an appropriate environment for the same,” says Bandell. He believes that while the Indian market place is definitely competitive, there is a need to localise the company’s solutions. Hence, the Grass Roots’ communication has been customised culturally, along with the localised forms of interventions, rewards and recognition strategies. For example, it has helped India’s largest wristwatch manufacturer align its employees and trade partners in every division, with profit targets for the year. In another case, the company has devised solutions to support a programme for State Bank of India, which rewards employees’ efforts for promoting the issuance of credit cards to customers.

“We have also achieved success in identifying companies which are grappling with various pain points such as high attrition rate, attracting the right workforce and wage inflation associated with the lack of engagement,” says Bandell. The company has offered employee engagement and channel engagement techniques aimed at engaging employees across all levels, staff of dealers and distributors, suggesting appropriate educative and reward programs thereafter.

Technology has started to transform HR practices in India. Companies are increasingly using social media to recognise, appreciate and interact with people around the world, directly on hand held devices. “But, technology cannot change the fundamental behavior of human beings; it is a channel which is bringing about transformation. One has to be careful in picking technology solutions as it’s about behavioral economics,” warns Bandell.

Going forward, for an organisation to be successful, there has to be challenge and support. “To achieve high productivity, stretching people to deliver a greater level of activity and support is vital. People need to understand what good performance looks like and what behavior is expected of them. At the same time, employees have to take more responsibility for their own learning and development, in order to achieve rewards,” says Bandell, on a concluding note.


Deriving Sustainable Change 

Organisations should follow the five key principles: 

Consistent Communication – While companies may be good at their core businesses, instilling and inspiring structured and consistent communication across the organisation is often a challenge. 

Education – It is not just about training, but about educating the employees to understand the consequences of one’s behavior. They also need to know that appropriate and inappropriate behavior can engage or disengage both the employees and customers. 

Provide Insight – Companies inform internally about product launches, new initiatives and policies. But, they often do not measure the impact of this communication.  It is essential to understand who is doing the right thing, where things have gone wrong, who has to intervene and take appropriate action to correct things before they become embedded. 

Reward – Employee reward is not just a nice thing to do for people. It’s vastly more important in helping you achieve your business goals. 

Recognise – “Indian organisations need to keep an ear to the ground when it comes to recognising their people,” says Bandell. Knowing how to recognise correctly and at the right time is often the deal breaker. Ensure that people are recognised for the behavior, as it is the first step towards changing performance.

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