How to keep employees engaged? Focus on ‘flow’

How to keep employees engaged? Focus on ‘flow’

The post-pandemic workplace is a whole new hybrid animal. Employees and employers have both shifted their priorities over the last two years. In an exclusive interaction with Business Today, Faridun Dotiwala, Partner, McKinsey & Company, said that the success of a post-pandemic workplace will depend on a company’s ability to create a state of flow for its employees.

Faridun Dotiwala, Partner, McKinsey & Company Faridun Dotiwala, Partner, McKinsey & Company

The post-pandemic tech-disrupted workplace has one big problem – a disengaged employee. With jargons like hybrid work, work from home, moonlighting, and quiet quitting floating around the subject of employment, the biggest challenge now before employers is to be able to create cohesive, engaged workplaces.

What is a flow state at the workplace?

The clue to the creation of a cohesive engaged workplace lies in the creation of ‘flow’. “Flow is created in the presence of job and task match,” Faridun Dotiwala, Partner, McKinsey & Company tells Business Today. 

“Disengagement with work has been an increasing complaint in the corporate sector worldwide and is not something new,” he adds. “There are three practical ways to build meaning. Allow employees to craft their own goals - the very act of authorship leads to ownership, balance skill, and challenge. Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, an authority on happiness and creativity, notes that finding the right match between an individual’s skill level and the degree of challenge is a crucial element in generating meaning and hence ‘flow’. When an imbalance exists, a person cannot give his or her best,” Dotiwala says. 

He adds by saying, that job-task matching is a crucial task before employers, and most employee dissatisfaction or disengagement crops from a mismatch in ability and task. “For example, pairing a low-skilled person with a high challenge will lead to anxiety; pairing a highly skilled person with a low challenge will lead to boredom; while a low-skilled person with a low challenge will lead to apathy.” 

Lack of meaning
While it is usually perceived that disengagement at work can occur because of mechanical or task-driven work, Dotiwala feels it is mostly a result of a ‘lack of meaning’ most people find in their professional pursuits. “What matters most are, meaning, passion, excitement, and being inspired by a larger purpose. Despite the best intentions, it is not easy for CEOs to enable employees to find deeper meaning in their work. It is much more than an exciting vision. Inspirational visions have little impact if they do not address the hearts of employees,” he says.

Fast growth on the horizon
The post-pandemic hybrid work culture has disrupted the workspace as we knew it but it is also like to trigger faster growth than before. “There is much more to hybrid working in the post-pandemic world. As Ray Kurzweil says, we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress,” he explains. 

According to McKinsey data, there is likely to be a 50-60 per cent greater demand than supply for tech-talent like big data and building digital capabilities. Around 60 per cent of occupations will have 30 per cent of their tasks automated and we will see a 25 per cent increase in occupation transitions by 2030.

“So yes, not just work policies but new ways of managing talent will become imperative. This includes everything from determining the nature of talent needed, to recruiting, skilling, motivating, and managing the workforce,” adds Dotiwala.
Quitting spree
“Around 40 per cent of workers globally say they may leave their jobs in the next 3 to 6 months. When we analyse the reasons for this, we realise employers can’t fix what they don’t understand. Employees place the most value on relational elements for example, a sense of belonging, feeling valued by managers and the organisation whereas employers over-index on transactional factors for example, compensation, and roles,” he adds.  

What motivates people? 
“What motivates me need not motivate you. The common error that leaders and organisations make is to assume that everyone is motivated by the same thing. Research shows there are five typical sources of inspiration in an organisational context. People are inspired by - the impact on society, the impact on customers, how well the company does, their team environment, personal learning, and growth. The challenge is the general population is equally distributed amongst these five in what motivates them. This means organisations need to tell all 5 stories at once,” he adds.

Faridun Dotiwala works in the area of organisational health leads talent-management at McKinsey & Company.