When most companies want their employees to take initiative and drive, it brings up a pertinent question. Does the onus completely lie with the employee? Isn't it obvious that the leadership should create a facilitative environment for employees? Here are some insights from expert industry practitioners on the employee–organisation equation when it comes to initiative.
Irrefutably, it is the organisation that benefits immensely if an employee takes initiative and works towards reaching organisational goals. According to S. Varadarajan, Executive President, Human Resources, Tata Tele Services Ltd., “In addition to helping the organisation save money, improve processes, and delight customers, taking initiative makes the employee's job more exciting as they make things happen and get a reputation for doing so. If employees are encouraged to take initiative and contribute ideas their productivity increases.”
Most companies rate employees who continuously walk the extra mile as outstanding employees with highly satisfied rating and recognise their efforts regularly. According to Santosh Bijur, Assistant Managing Director, Verizon Data Services India, “At Verizon, performance excellence is one of our core values and we achieve it through performance agreements. Every employee signs his/her performance agreement (list of objectives of the year) with the immediate supervisor. This is a component of the well planned performance objectives of the head of business.”
Encouraging employee initiatives
Along with sharing organisational goals and breaking them down for individuals, leaders need to invest in additional policies to encourage employees on a regular basis. Most goals and objectives are best remembered before and after an appraisal discussion. To ensure that the goals are remembered throughout the year, they should focus on a wide array of activities performed by an employee.
Says Santosh Bijur, “We, at Verizon, have built a performance culture, which makes every employee proud to take the initiative to own their goals. This happens in two streams. Firstly, for core business deliverables, everyone has their components of the broader business goals for which they take personal accountability. In the other stream, employees are encouraged to take initiative to drive a wide range of voluntary employee activities like social responsibility initiatives, personality development clubs, cultural programs, and so forth.”
Management needs to streamline their strategic planning with adequate focus on encouraging employees to take initiative. They must also reward them appropriately based on the quality of the initiative taken.
Varadarajan asserts that companies must “link “taking initiatives” to the culture building exercise like imbibing “kaizen” (continuous improvement) as a part of quality/business excellence culture.”
Employees gain pride when their efforts are recognised and they tend to invest more time and effort in taking initiative. Varadarajan adds, “After all, there is nothing that pumps up an employee's energy more quickly or completely than when he or she is supported for showing personal initiative or for going out on a limb to provide better service or products to a customer.”
Policies and motivation
While most policies can be applied equally across the board, encouraging employee initiative gets trickier as the complexity of the job increases. Any minor positive deviation in the existing process can lead to significant results and add great amounts in revenue. Does that make it mandatory for companies to have separate policies for employees at different levels with regards to the initiative taken?
Santosh adds, “Smart leadership is about leaving no piece of work at any level inconsequential for the organisation. In such a work scenario, every individual is a motivated soul, passionate about their goals and those of their teams, irrespective of level, role or complexity of the job.”
If leaders can be really inspirational and drive initiative at levels without the necessity of policies, it might be advantageous for all stakeholders.
Varadarajan asserts, “Motivation, if driven as a part of the culture of the organisation and not through specific policies, tends to be most effective. While certain polices could be made to motivate employees, it should not entirely be driven by policies. Also, any policy that aims to motivate employees should not be different for employees at different levels.”
Employees need to move from executing assigned tasks to taking initiative and driving growth and development of the company. Only then, leaders will recognise their efforts and adequately reward them. It is a chain of appreciation that works wonders, if employees are keen on beginning it at some point in their career.