Being a Friend in Need to Your Employees

Being a Friend in Need to Your Employees

When you’re friends with an employee, you must navigate some difficult terrain. One of the most difficult aspects is walking the line between confidentiality and transparency. Working as a senior executive can be a lonely job.

You have to deliver tough messages. You can’t always be transparent about your own challenges. And you must keep key decisions confidential until the timing is right.The practice in leading people-centric organizations of the world is to cultivate engagement with an employee the moment he joins. This initiative helps ease a candidate into the organisation.

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Rekha Narendra, vice president and HR head-India of RealPage (a technology platform that enables real estate owners and managers to change how people experience and use rental space), says: “During the selection process, a candidate’s focus is on putting their best foot forward and they miss out on asking key questions about the organisation. Once the offer is in hand, we give them ample opportunities to clarify any queries about the company’s programmes and policies. It’s a great way to start bonding with the new hire.”

Corporate experts believe that there are several reasons on what makes a best employer such as:

  • High engagement between leadership and employees.
  • Constant communication between stakeholders and approachable leadership.
  • Focus on care and trust beyond work, treating employees as family.

Tata companies have been following a practice of individually commending performers for quite some time. In 2020, they started writing individual letters to high performers and employees who deserved recognition. A year later, they took this practice a notch higher. They delivered commendation letters to the employees personally, along with awards at their homes.“Employee engagement is crucial and unless it trickles down from top-down, it doesn’t work because the trust will break at some point,” Narendra says. Besides offering Covid-19 insurances, food vouchers from cloud kitchens for those ailing, and work-from-home kits that included desks and chairs, RealPage was invested in helping those in need.

During the second wave of the pandemic, the company’s leadership answered WhatsApp messages for requirement pertaining to oxygen cylinders, hospital beds and medicines for employees or their families.Besides trust and care, mature and responsible employers lay as much importance on communication and use multiple ways to get through to their employees. It could be community halls, manager meetings, emails, WhatsApp messages or an activity called Jump-the-Queue to get feedback from staff without their managers present in those meetings.

Shapoorji Pallonji, an Indian conglomerate, that extended massive support to their employees during the pandemic by ensuring good lodging, transport, food, medical and hygiene facilities for a workforce of 1.1 lakh people. A senior executive said: “It’s important that we listen, because it builds trust. I’ve had people contact me personally to ask questions if they can’t speak in a meeting. This way they know the leadership is listening.”

RealPage believes that an organisation’s growth is as important as an employee’s growth. Through an initiative called LEAP – learn, enable, adapt and perform – an entire week is dedicated to focus on employees’ careers to tackle questions related to their growth and any support they need from the organisation.

India’s IT giant Wipro Ltd along with the Azim Premji Foundation committed Rs 1,125 crore to tackle the global humanitarian crisis in the early days of the pandemic, followed by an additional contribution of Rs 1,000 crore. Wipro has had a long-standing tradition of being a ‘friendly organization to its employees’.A carefree campus and a friendly environment along with professional and personal grooming is what defines the life of a Wipro employee. With paid holidays, maternity benefits with extended leave of absence and vacation, and counselling sessions, incentives at Wipro are abundant.

In order to maintain diversity and safeguard women’s careers, RealPage focuses on their professional development, networking, health and wellness through their WOW or Women of Wisdom initiative. In 2021, they launched the Mommy Returns initiative through which every employee returning from maternity leave gets assigned a ‘buddy’ to walk them through the changes that took place in the time they were away.

Firmly believing that an employer should be a friend to its employees, the Tata Sons management inculcates in its leadership to focus on:

Notice Everyone:

The brass hats can begin the day by walking around and saying ‘hi’ to everyone every day. It’s not that easy with people working from home or in different offices. Saying thank you for things, complimenting people when appropriate and keeping up on employees’ major life events will go a long way in boosting the employer-employee dynamics.

Be Friendly To Everyone:

If someone is irredeemable and not worthy of friendly interactions, fire that person. If you don’t want to fire someone, be friendly. There’s a difference between friendly and friends. A friendly boss goes to lunch with all their employees from time to time. (One-on-one or in a group, and the boss pays.) A friendly boss wishes employees happy birthday, asks how employees’ kids or pets are doing, and doesn’t yell. You can give negative feedback while being friendly – no insults or attacks. Just be nice.

Make Room For Everyone:

These can be easier to spot when everyone works in the office. If six people are in a group and five go to lunch together every day, you know the sixth is excluded. But it can be more challenging to see exclusion in a virtual world. Make efforts not to exclude people. Ask people by name to share their opinions in group calls. Follow up with people if you haven’t heard from someone for a few days (it can happen when people are remote). Check in. Give everyone who worked on the project credit.

Root For Everyone:

When someone is struggling, give encouragement and praise when they succeed. Genuinely wish for your employees to succeed. Don’t use performance improvement plans just as documentation for a termination. Approach them as a way to help your employee succeed.

Empathize With Everyone:

Despite your difficult job condition, be kind and empathetic to your employees. Try to look at things from other people’s viewpoints. You don’t have to agree with someone to empathize with them.

If you’re lucky, you’ll end up working with some pretty awesome people. Being a friend to your employees should be fun, so just be sure to lay down some boundaries for the office and stick to the guidelines. This friendly association will prove rewarding for both of you – without making work too awkward.


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