Empower employees to derive better performance from them

The SGL Retail Jeweller India Forum, had interesting insights to share. The session ‘Developing and sustaining a high-performance strategy for your staff’ talked about the challenges which organisations face on their path to growth. The panellists shared simple and effective strategies to keep employees motivated. The session was hosted by P Vishwanath, Executive Director, KPMG India.

At the outset, Vishwanath highlighted a few basic rules that need to be kept in mind, irrespective of the size of the company. “As organisations grow, everyone faces challenges and each problem is different from the other. Every promoter has a dream, but the secret of a high-performing organisation is to transfer that dream to the employees,” he stated.

Vishwanath outlined the four basic pillars of a better-performing promoter-driven business — drive higher employee engagement, build a strong leadership and a people strategy, create a high-performance workforce, and lastly, develop an effective human resource function. “Jewellery retailing is a very serious industry, and there are security issues involved. For example, if I end up misplacing a shirt, it won’t matter, but if I misplace a diamond ring, it will be a huge issue. Therefore, it is very important to keep your employees motivated always. Jewellery retail stores are like temples and the counter guy is God because s/he is servicing your customers and convincing them to pay for your product,” he added.

Vishwanath next touched on the importance of defining the role of employees, and setting targets for them at a group level. Once the goal is set, and certain metrics are achieved, the employees need to be rewarded. Highlighting the relevance of reward in a high-performance strategy, he said, “The reason why rewards work is because they kick in a certain chemical in your brain. It is an innate, human behaviour and you cannot avoid it. The feeling that if I do something, I will be rewarded works really well. But keep the reward process simple, and don’t complicate it.”

Vishwanath gave an example to explain why it is important to empower employees. “Just before a customer pays for a transaction, there is, often, a lot of haggling. Customers derive a lot of satisfaction by negotiating for a better price just before closing a transaction. Those ten minutes are very valuable to them. So, if you have a reward scheme, then invest the front-end person with enough authority to give a certain level of discount. Ensure that the power you give to this person is commensurate with your expectation of him/her in terms of performance.”

Moving on, Vishwanath stated that it is not software that ensures better performance, but transparency and communication. Citing an interesting example, he said one of his big clients was considered the best in class for strategy execution in Harvard Business School. All that the client used in terms of software was Excel sheets, and that worked well enough for him. “People get worried, thinking should I spend more on software. I say don’t waste resources on high-end software till such time as you can afford it. Till then, your basic Excel sheets are good enough.”

He added that a high-performance organisation is about delegation; it is about trust, and not micromanagement. You need to focus on executing strong governance systems and relying on data and machine algorithms, wherever possible.

Vishwanath concluded his session by answering a question about keeping employees motivated after a festival is over, as post-festival periods entail longer work hours and more time away from families. He said “After the peak season is over, there is typically a lull period. It is during this time you can have a reward scheme. So the employees will be like, okay, we slogged for 14 hours, but we have got a reward. Also, personally visiting your stores and meeting employees and thanking them for their hard work works wonders. A personal thank you touches the hearts of employees. Monetary compensation is also a great thing, because, at the end of the day, money motivates more than anything else.”