Ritu Shrivastav is a human resources executive and practitioner consultant with extensive experience in various industries, including biopharma, insurance, manufacturing, software, hi-tech, sales, and client services. She brings energy and passion for developing and implementing innovative business-centric people solutions and programs with business-focused metrics to measure effectiveness and productivity.  

What, according to you, are the factors that drive employee engagement?

Employee engagement and organizational commitment are two interconnected ideas. Career-focused employees can develop a strong connection with an organization when they feel that the company is furthering their needs and their aspirations, both personally and professionally. Career development is the crucial aspect that drives this attachment.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there are physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. But the most important amongst these needs is self-actualization or job actualization. That is the sense of advancing in their career trajectory. For example, if an individual progresses from point A to point B, and the organization values his/her work as well as the employee him/herself, it increases employee satisfaction. Organizations can quickly build a lasting relationship by showcasing this to individuals and providing a sense of pride.

What is it that keeps employees committed to an organization?

There are three commitments that contribute to talent retention. Employees tend to stay with an organization when there is an emotional attachment. This is a powerful commitment easily identifiable and measurable. The second commitment is one that keeps employees with the organization because individuals feel they might lose something valuable when leaving the company. Then comes the normative commitment, where employees take much of the responsibility to remain with the organization. It is an individual’s psychological attachment and feeling of responsibility. For example, at Gilead, there is a strong calling to end HIV. I attended a meeting with senior leaders of the organization who consistently discussed ways to end HIV quickly. That commitment connects the ideas of employee engagement and organizational commitment.

How did the pandemic affect employee engagement? How has it changed the way leaders engage the workforce?

The pandemic has functioned as a magnifying glass. Much we did not see or chose to ignore has been brought into much clearer focus, for good o r f or i ll. E mployee engagement has become a state of mind where individual satisfaction revolves around pride and commitment to the job and the organization. It is a positive commitment, which one grows with work. It encourages employees to stay true to the mission and vision of their organization. It is transformative when companies support a symbiotic relationship in which workers have satisfaction and emotional alliance with organizational and personal growth. This ultimately translates to massive upticks in productivity and efficiency. In essence, there is higher engaged organizational citizenship behavior. Also, many employees today write about their work and experiences on social platforms. This is another significant shift in the space of employee engagement.

What is your opinion regarding the future of employee engagement?

In the current environment of civil health, racial and economic tension, most forward-thinking companies and executive leaders are reacting with introspection. In addition to the trends of work from home and digitization, the smartest and the most potent leaders realize that organizational success is increasingly linked to management and leadership’s capacity to gain and retain top talent effectively. The cornerstone of employee engagement is trust in leadership.

"Now employee engagement has become a state of mind where individual satisfaction revolves around pride and commitment to the job and the organization"

Before investing millions of dollars in a particular metric, a business leader should (if not must) examine whether they have led in such a way that employees or the workforce are committed to the organization and its goals. It is a false assumption that if someone is busy, he/she is productive, excited, and engaged. Like the saying goes, “Engagement is what someone does, while commitment is what someone aims.” When this commitment is achieved, the organizational success of any corporation becomes intertwined with employees’ individual success. However, too many employees don’t see how their roles drive success or relate to the ultimate mission and vision of the company. Leadership should play a crucial role by valuing every individual and instilling a sense of belonging and responsibility.

What critical advice can you share with colleagues and peers?

The HR landscape is undergoing seismic change due to the virtually overnight appearance of work from home culture. Traditional systems have been replaced by surrogate systems for HR and other leaders. I say: be adaptive, be agile, and put employees’ wellbeing and work-life balance on top of your priority list. If you genuinely want to drive employee engagement, always remember that employee experience is the key. It is essential for businesses to keep their workforce intimately connected to organizational goals by making those goals compatible and symmetrical with employees personal and career goals.