Stagnating Minds Kill Employee Engagement

Chandni Kazi

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Hierarchy has always been observed in Filipino companies most especially in small and medium sized ones. Employees’ responsibilities and duties are supervised and limited in such environments, thus the opportunity for promotions is also minimal. Most employees perceive career progression if they stay longer in an organization and get promoted on the next job level; they will not mind doing the same work for years – at the risk of innovation and succession (whether upward or lateral movement) among employees. A report in October 2018* which surveyed more than 18,000 professionals in 27 countries said that for every 10% improvement in the culture of equality innovation mindset increases by 10.6%. If an employee’s sense of equality in their role and their contributions are valued in a company, their willingness to innovate gets stronger. 

This and other factors such as equal leadership, equal policies, equal pay, will help the employee and company grow together. More on this topic is discussed in this article by Chandni Kazi published on the US website of Great Place to Work last July 8, 2019.

– Gladys Santiago-Zafra, CHRP® – Consultant, Philippines

 

“Cross training here is not clarified. We are not set up for success. It’s a very wishy-washy subject and no one has straight answers. I don’t trust management on this issue and I know employees are given differing information. I don’t feel like this company cares about furthering our education or our careers and that makes me sad.”

If this was feedback from one of your employees, I think it’s fair to say the organization would be under-performing on innovation. We know that for companies to be innovative all employees must feel like they can contribute. Unfortunately, employees at many organizations believe the only way to contribute important ideas is to move up the ranks. It’s a perception that is often grounded in reality, as leaders look to outside hires for fresh ideas.

This chicken-and-egg situation amounts to a hidden barrier for innovation. When employees’ ability to innovate seems dependent on getting a promotion, individual contributors hold onto their ideas. Leaders hungry for innovation often respond by hiring new people to gain an influx of ideas. But this cycle ultimately restricts a company’s growth. Simply put, it is unrealistic to promote everyone and hiring new people is a limited alternative. Although external hiring is an understandable strategy, managers that rely too heavily on newcomers for fresh ideas effectively disregard existing employees looking to engage in more meaningful ways. When those employees are passed over for promotions or are not invited to move the organization in new directions, they feel invisible and build up a reservoir of frustration.

Our data shows that individual contributors are 94 times more likely to experience meaningful innovation when they are offered professional growth opportunities, compared to those without such career development options. The ones without career development options get frustrated.

That frustration often takes the form of complaints about the fairness of promotions. Consider this employee comment from a company that performed below our expectations on the innovation scale: “People are hired based on who they know and who they are related to instead of merit. Its extremely frustrating to work somewhere for nearly 20 years and see people walk in off the street into management positions or positions higher than you. Its been happening for 5-7 years now. It makes you feel like you are working towards nothing. Like you are spinning your wheels.”

In addition to unfair promotions, another hallmark of this barrier is when people do not feel they have the authority to engage in professional growth. Organizations often say they want employees to generate ideas, which theoretically can spark professional excitement and a sense of progress. But in practice, many of those same organizations put up bureaucratic obstacles like extensive application and approval procedures. In effect, people must ask for permission to innovate. Employees—and their minds—feel fastened to the status quo rather than free to explore new possibilities.

Take this employee’s concern, for example: “If there was one thing I would change to make this company a better place to work, I would look for ways to increase advancement opportunities between departments and divisions. Working in a small department of a small division of this company, I sometimes feel stuck. I love the work environment and appreciate the many benefits and perks provided to us. I would appreciate more growth opportunities. After being with the company for 7 years I do not want to leave. However, at this moment, I feel there is little chance of upward (or even lateral) mobility.”

Movement of any kind, whether vertical or lateral, is appreciated by employees, even if it’s growing in place. Everyone needs the power to take ownership of projects or tasks that encourage self-directed learning and that have a meaningful impact on their organization. Growth doesn’t always mean attending expensive conferences or training camps. It could be as simple as the space and time to learn something new and apply it to the work at hand. But without readily available opportunities for growth in their current positions, employee creativity will wither—and they may seek greener growth pastures elsewhere.

The mindset is very different in Innovation By All cultures. For employees at organizations with the most inclusive innovation practices, the ability to contribute a new idea does not depend on climbing the corporate ladder. And while the companies typically have systems for vetting suggestions, people in these organizations feel encouraged to speak up. They freely approach their managers for guidance and tactical mentoring – not for permission to try something new.

Flourishing Minds at Wegmans

Jody Wood, for example, didn’t have to get a promotion or follow a bureaucratic process to bring cauliflower rice to Wegmans. Her SVP, Joe Sofia, knew all about Jody’s search for low-glycemic meals for her husband from the company’s Open Door Days and Town Hall meetings and asked Wood if she had any ideas.

This experience isn’t unique to Jody. At Wegmans, roughly 9 in 10 employees say they are offered growth opportunities and 88% say leaders “listen to my ideas and suggestions to improve our work and the company.”

Not only do Wood and her colleagues feel comfortable sharing ideas at Wegmans, but their active minds extend to customer conversations. A striking feature of the cauliflower rice story is that Wood got inspired to learn about a low-glycemic diet from a Wegmans shopper. Talking with customers, it turns out, is typical for Wood in her work. She constantly asks shoppers for suggestions that she can take to her managers.

“I’m right there on the floor with the customer and I hear so much from the customer–what they’re looking for, what things they value,” Wood says. “And so I tell them, ‘tell me something that management might be interested in.’ I say to the customer, ‘I will bring that to the attention of the store manager.’”

This sort of ongoing market research is invaluable. Many companies pay millions for surveys to glean emerging customer trends. Wegmans, meanwhile, has created a culture of curiosity where its frontline employees are gathering market intelligence day in and day out—giving it an innovation advantage.

Wegmans’ edge is not just from its listening culture. It also comes from forsaking bureaucracy in favor of rapid-fire, informal experiments. One of the recipes for cauliflower rice that Wood shared with her managers was a pizza crust. If she had been required to write up a business proposal for that one specific use case, it could have dampened her enthusiasm and slowed Wegman’s progress with starch substitutes. Instead, Sofia was a partner to Wood, giving her the space, guidance, resources, and support to try this out at her store to see what would happen. Cauliflower pizza crust didn’t taste good. So Wood and team quickly pivoted to other cauliflower rice recipes that had more success. When the Bridgewater store couldn’t keep up with the demand, they knew they were ready to scale this product to other Wegmans stores.

When people can flourish, rather than stagnate, in their jobs, everyone wins, including the employee, the company and the business. Follow Wegmans’ lead and make sure your people—and their minds—have ample opportunity to grow.

Chandni Kazi

Author

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces™ in Asia by surveying over 1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting over 4.7 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2021 or early 2022.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying 2.1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting 5.9 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Bahrain, Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2022 or early 2023.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000+) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

For All™ Methodology

Great Place To Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2023 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 450,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

For All™ Methodology

Great Place to Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2022 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 130,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Categories:
These organizations’ assessment is based 100% on employee responses to the Trust Index survey.

  • Small 10-99 Employees

For larger organizations with more than 100 employees, we also use our Culture Audit™ tool, asking organizations to share with us their practices, policies, and programs to create a great workplace For All™ and evaluate the approach they take.

  • Medium 100-999 Employees
  • Large 1000+ Employees

Why do you say in one place your national list scoring is based on 85%/15% and in another place that it is 75%/25%?

We are explaining two different things:
1.  The criteria we evaluate

  •  85% concerned with Trust and Maximizing Human Potential and
  • 15% concerned with everything else

2.  Where the data comes from

  • 100% Trust Index for organizations with less than 100 employees
  • 75% based on the Trust Index survey analytics and 25% based on responses to the Culture Audit for organizations with more than 100 employees.
For All™ Methodology

Great Place To Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2023 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 450,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Categories:
These organizations’ assessment is based 100% on employee responses to the Trust Index survey.

  • Small 10-99 Employees

For larger organizations with more than 100 employees, we also use our Culture Audit™ tool, asking organizations to share with us their practices, policies, and programs to create a great workplace For All™ and evaluate the approach they take.

  • Medium 100-999 Employees
  • Large 1000+ Employees