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Sunday, Feb 10, 2002

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Do you know what boss expects of you at work?

Vinay Kamath


SO, you thought that those who worked in the IT sector were an emancipated lot. That IT companies allowed their employees to voice their opinion, talk level with the CEO, be told in which direction the company is heading and about plum contracts bagged. And, apart from six monthly increments - at least till the last year - and flying out on H1B visas for cushy assignments in the US, would make them a satisfied and much envied lot.

Whereas, employees in a typical manufacturing company, which have traditional command control structures with a well-defined hierarchical system are thought to be low on productivity and innovation where opinions and ideas don't seem to count.

However, a study of thousands of employees in both manufacturing and the IT sector in India by The Gallup Organisation dispels such myths. Despite the perception that IT companies enable employees to voice their opinion and flower, the reality is that attitudinal behaviour of employees in both manufacturing and IT companies is very much the same. Although the company is best known for The Gallup Poll, most of its work is in providing measurement, consulting and training for corporates. Gallup has been operating in the country for a decade now.

In this analysis, which Gallup calls the Q12 scenario, it has looked at data on employee behaviour collated over the past five years in a variety of manufacturing industries as well as a cross-section of IT companies. As the chart alongside indicates, Gallup believes that measuring the strength of a workplace can be simplified to 12 questions that can measure the core elements needed to attract, focus and keep the most talented employees in an organisation.

In the book, First, break all the rules written by two senior Gallup executives, where the Q12 is outlined, they say these 12 questions are the simplest and most accurate way to measure the strength of a workplace. After running through several thousand questions, Gallup zeroed in on these questions as the most powerful and if an organisation could create an environment where employees answered positively to all 12 questions, "then you will have built a great place to work".

Take the "George Orwell scenario", which refers to typical manufacturing companies in India where Big Brother, in shape of managements, supposedly broods over employees. Captured here is employee behaviour across a sample of 22,000. Ranked on a five point scale, where five indicates that the respondent strongly agrees, the percentages reflected are an aggregate of those who strongly agree with the questions asked. Gallup's Country Manager, Mr S.R. Kannan, says that a score of above 80 per cent would indicate that organisations have "engaged employees" who are highly productive and create customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The study, which collated employee responses across a swathe of manufacturing companies from automobiles, chemicals, steel, bicycles, consumer durables and boilers, reveals that with scores of less than 80 per cent to each of the 12 questions, employees in these industries are low on productivity, low on leveraging individual potential, moderate on team work and low on innovation. The scenario is no different in the "Voltaire scenario" involving employees in a host of IT companies ranging from software, services, dotcoms, hardware and peripherals. Mr Kannan quotes Voltaire to justify this appellation: "I might disagree with what you say, but will defend to death your right to say it", referring to the apparent openness in the IT sector to dialogue. As the chart shows, it's no different when it comes to responses from employees in the IT and related sectors - they still rank low on innovation and productivity. As Mr Kannan says, the Q12 proves that it is not happening and this gives managements much to think about.

This study of the Indian scenario in relation to employee satisfaction stems from Gallup's belief in its Q12 management system which manages human capital to drive a company's bottomline. This system says that great managers and engaged employees in an organisation is what will lead to loyal customers, sustainable growth and consequently a real profit increase and stock increase.

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Do you know what boss expects of you at work?

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