FOSTERING EMPLOYEE engagement can
be a formidable problem for large organizations
with far-flung teams operating in different time
zones. On the surface, large organizations should
be able to handle the ups and downs of intelligent
risk-taking. In practice, however, their talent management processes often enforce conformity,
legitimize mediocrity and penalize failed attempts
at innovative thinking. For employees, a tried-and-true way to survive in such environments is to be
average and to avoid rocking the boat.
In 2009, we set out to explore how leaders in our
own organization could boost employee engagement and creativity while promoting a culture that
rewards innovation and entrepreneurship. We initiated a contest across four Deloitte LLP offices located
in India. Employees were invited to join teams,
which were asked to develop solutions to a wide
range of challenging, real-life business problems. We
judged the teams on several criteria, including: their
ability to identify the critical issues; the quality of
their analyses; the extent to which they found solutions that challenged the status quo; their ability to
offer practical suggestions; and their effectiveness at
presenting and communicating their views.
The program, called Maverick, was designed to
challenge the conventional view of employer-em-
ployee relationships as transactional and to find
new ways to win the hearts and minds of our
organization’s employees. We wanted to harness
their best critical thinking and collaboration skills
for the benefit of the organization, and we also
hoped to provide an alternative to the traditional
manager-employee hierarchical relationship.
The contest itself was organized along the lines
of a reality TV show. The winning teams advanced
each week, while the losers were eliminated. In
addition to receiving small financial rewards, successful teams received prizes designed to advance
the goals of the program. The winning teams were
awarded opportunities to work closely with senior
leaders on challenging projects such as creating a
program to encourage carpooling and developing
branding exercises for new facilities.
In designing the Maverick program, we brought
several elements together in hopes of finding a
“sweet spot” that was both motivating for employees and beneficial for the company. These elements
Small teams Our decision to go with small teams
of four people was based on the desire to promote
collaboration, minimize free-riding, allow for constructive conflict resolution and build cohesion.
Small teams allow for a clear and meaningful division
of roles and responsibilities as well as transparency
and accountability, all of which help build trust.
Bringing Fun and
Creativity to Work
was a welcome change
How do you inspire employees to become more motivated and perform better?
By challenging them to test their creativity and collaboration skills through a
BY HARI KUMAR AND SATISH RAGHAVENDRAN
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