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Engagement, performance and productivity, the big post-COVID questions

Luigia Ingianni, Commissioner of the Employment Standards Office - Qatar Financial Centre

Promoting and protecting members of a country’s human capital is a strong indicator of a progressive society. In the world of business, this entails protecting the wellbeing of employees and providing them with tools and opportunities to grow, bring their whole self to work, and unlock their potential.

Engaged and motivated employees are catalysts for agility and innovation and vital to achieving corporate goals and organisational success.

In addition to ensuring compliance with the statutory requirements of the applicable legislation, the provision of a safe working environment, fair wages, equal opportunities, work-life balance, and time off to reenergise, significantly impact employee engagement. However, these may not be sufficient and even employers who are fully compliant with legal and statutory requirements may still face productivity issues generated by a lack of engagement.

But what does engagement mean? Is it only about liking a job and wanting to do well?

Among the many definitions available, Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter, in their “The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement,” focus on “the level of emotional commitment and connections employees have to an organisation, which is driven by how successful they are at work, both personally and organisationally.”

The definition above is supported by significant research emphasising the importance of the employee’s personal and emotional connection to work. This is even more relevant in the post-pandemic world of work, where basic human needs have become a priority for most employees: establishing a sense of purpose, autonomy, belonging.

When the employees feel that they can bring their authentic selves to work and that their unique contribution is important to achieving organisational purpose and goals, they feel “owners” of their work and see themselves as a pivotal part of the team. This is how a sense of purpose, autonomy and belonging is fulfilled. Do you remember the doubtful story about an engaged janitor at NASA who when asked by Kennedy what he was doing, replied: “I am helping to put a man on the Moon?”

In their research, London Business School professors Dan Cable and Freek Vermeulen pointed out some tools to create meaningful workplaces. They state that the ability of leaders to connect daily work to a greater goal stands out in giving employees a clear sense of direction, of where the organisation is headed, in giving them a sense of control, ownership, and accountability and making them feel part of the engine driving the organisation toward success.

Psychological safety is also an imperative and by providing employees with the freedom to express their creativity without fear of being judged, employers create safe spaces that foster innovation.

The health crisis gave us a great opportunity to rethink the employment relations, look at them from a different angle and move from “management of human resources” to the “development of resourceful humans”.

Employee engagement is strategic to organisational success and it is time for employers to redefine their expectations towards people. To achieve organisational success, employers need to create purpose-driven cultures of ownership, shared responsibility, and proactive initiative. Assigning employees meaningful work, monitoring, and acknowledging their progress and appreciating an individual’s contributions are a powerful driving force for a constantly engaged workforce.

Engaged employees build better, stronger and more resilient organisations: they make better decisions because they understand more about the organisation, the customers and the context they are operating in, are more productive because they like what they are doing and innovate more because they sincerely want the organisation to succeed.

Honouring the rights and ensuring the wellbeing of employees require familiarisation with the applicable laws and labour standards, which can vary depending on where the business is setup.

To ensure compliance with its regulatory environment, Qatar Financial Centre (QFC), a leading onshore financial and business centre in the region with a commitment to advancing Qatar’s key development pillars – environmental, economic, social and human, has established the Employment Standards Office (ESO), an independent institution administering the QFC employment and labour standards and assisting employers and employees to comply with those standards and prevent workplace conflict.

In particular, under the Employment and Labour Standards Administration (ELSA) division, the ESO provides legal expertise and assistance to review and attest employment agreements and Human Resources policies, and manages employment issues, including training on several aspects of the employment relationship. It also conducts labour inspections and monitoring activities to monitor the level of compliance with the QFC employment and labour standards.

Under the Commission for Conciliation and Adjudication (CCA) of employment disputes, the ESO provides conciliation services through conciliators certified by the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organisation (ITC ILO) with the aim of resolving disputes amicably, at an early stage, before they escalate to major conflicts. When disputes cannot be settled, the ESO resolves the conflict by adjudication and its determination of the complaint can be appealed at the Regulatory Tribunal of the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre (QICDRC).

While COVID-19 has abruptly and dramatically changed work dynamics globally, the business environment has long been evolving at an increasingly rapid pace, making it easier to get lost in equally evolving policies in relation to employee management. In such scenarios, institutions such as QFC’s ESO can provide invaluable resources to support both employees and employers and foster productive relationships for a vibrant business ecosystem.

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