Outlife Outbound Training
Ravi launched his manufacturing company, StarAC India Pvt Ltd, around 7 years back. Currently, 150 employees work in this company which deals with air conditioners for homes and corporate. The work experience of the employees ranges between 1 to 15 years. It first started by targeting individual homes and slowly penetrated the corporate market. In the initial years, the performance of the company was good. Customers were not only happy with the product quality, but also with the after sales service. The most important aspect of this company was the quality of work life. Employees were treated as assets. As a startup, it gave ample facilities to its employees to keep them happy. As a result of this, the performance of the employees was outstanding. The market share was high and employees were highly committed. This created a healthy organizational culture and scope for organizational learning for the employees.
In the past 1 year, it was observed that there were too many complaints coming from the clients. The after sales service was poor and the market share of the company abruptly went down. Moreover, it was found that employee retention was becoming less and absenteeism rate increased. The employees were under performing, there was lack of motivation, high interpersonal conflict, and the entire organizational culture was going for a toss. Under this alarming situation, Ravi, along with his team of managers decided to intervene into this problem and diagnose the reasons.
They hired an external OD specialist to conduct a survey to understand the reason for this deterioration of the company. The survey was conducted at StarAC and lots of issues were identified which are as follows:
It was diagnosed that there was no action that could foster employee engagement in the past one year, though Ravi says that many of the employees spend time together outside the office, thus indicating that socialization facilitated at work continues outside of it too. Employees also acknowledged the same when asked about integration measures. The employees are actively encouraged to be inclusive and friendly and newcomers are given a welcoming care package as a bonus. Curiously, when asked, about employee engagement activities, few of the responding employees said that there is one, and that they are dissatisfied with it.
Few other respondents said that there is no benefit program in place. Around 5 % also disclosed that they do not need any employee engagement activities. The employees confirm that there are hardly any employee engagement initiatives taken, and that career development possibilities are very limited. Though the HR manager claims that support is readily available for anyone who needs it, most of the employees disagree with the statement. According to 30% of the population, the company has a good flow of communication, though 70% claims that they barely interact with the CEO. Also, in terms of getting feedback, few claims to have received insufficient feedback while others are satisfied. Ravi and his team of managers say that they provide feedback regularly to anyone who wants it.
When describing the company culture, Ravi articulates it as “family-based”, “encouraging” and “positive”. When the employees were asked to accord certain words to it, “bureaucracy”, “politics” and “role conflict” were chosen by these respondents each, with some elaboration shedding light into these choices. They also mentioned that the people who are closer to the management, gets all the favor, exercising an internal “clique” kind of power group. Along with that, overlapping tasks create a lot of friction, with employees having a feeling of job insecurity. In the past one year, the performance of the company has dropped. The cost of the company due to such turmoil within and amongst employees has been exorbitantly high. The human resources of the company are getting drained undermining goals of the company.
Employee disengagement vests on three pillars ,which HRs should focus on. These are self, team and organization culture.
Let us now see the challenges Ravi’s organization was facing at these three levels.
Employees were in blind spots. They became a poor fit because of their personality conflicts and difficulty in adapting with the here and now. They had lack of engagement activities which resulted into ambiguous understanding of roles and expectations. Employees lacked requisite skills to deal with organizational politics and power struggle.
Disengaged employees lacked interactive communication skills. They listened and communicated inarticulately, fostering less open interpersonal communication. The overall team performance got distorted due to interpersonal conflict, power struggle, etc. These lead to complexity, de-motivation and stress amongst the team members. As a team, employees failed to understand mode of transactions (ego states) amongst team members.
Lack of understanding of self, organizational politics and inability to engage with team members gave rise to a culture where employees were less committed, and the outcomes were neither well defined nor well understood. The operational element, the manager, was lacking in this culture, who coaches individual performance to align with strategy and purpose to reach those well defined outcomes.
Ravi in collaboration with his team of managers and the external OD specialist created an action plan so as to bring about a change in the behavior of the employees. They were focusing on specific outcomes such as increasing the sales and post sales service, employee retention and well being, harmonious organizational culture and improved quality of work life through employee engagement programs. They incorporated employee exchange sessions thrice a week where employees will be required to do some activities on team building, interpersonal skills, communication so as to better gel with other team members to understand self and others.
The company also asked the HR managers to personally counsel the employees to have a better understanding of their needs. Reinforcement measures like introducing complimentary notes to star performers across the company through emails and whatsapp groups were taken to motivate employees to have a sense of belongingness. An Employee Wellness Record Software was created whereby the employees could feed in their areas of dissatisfaction which will be addressed by the HR team. Difficult employees were separately counseled by the HR manager.
Ravi also took part in informal meetings once in a month to get feedback from the employees on their working conditions. Employee rewards and recognition was modified and upgraded. As a result of all these, there was a gradual positive change in employee behavior and performance in the first six months. Inter departmental employee involvement programs geared up the morale of the employees whereby the sales increased and people reported that they feel happy and energized than before. At the end of one year of incorporating these intervention strategies, there was a change in the behavior, performance and productivity demonstrated by the employees. People were happy because Ravi also modified his mode of communication where he was more approachable and empathetic to employee needs. The company started functioning much better than before.
From the above scenario, we can infer that Ravi’s company is not the only one dealing with employee engagement issues. Rather, most of the corporate is facing this issue of disengaged employees, resulting in low ROI. The biggest challenge corporate are trying to cope with is to demonstrate significantly higher levels of performance and productivity between engaged and disengaged employees. Engagement goes further than ‘commitment’ and ‘motivation’ in the management literature (Woodruffe, 2006 as cited in CIPD, 2006a). As per a report by Deloitte, 87% of the executives rated culture and employee engagement as the biggest HR challenge. Gallup engagement survey shows that employee communication strategy is a pre requisite for a better performance which in turn is required for a positive outcome. In order to achieve organizational goals, let us now see the various strategies used by corporate to increase trust, integrity and involvement within the employees through employee engagement programs.
Enhancing employee engagement through training and development
In order to cope with this talent disengagement, HR needs to create and hone their culture of engagement. Several models of employee engagement are used to deal with challenging scenarios at workplace, out of which, the Blessing White Employee Engagement Model suffices the purpose of achieving the sustainable employee engagement required for an organization to reach its goals. Full engagement depicts an alignment of maximum job satisfaction (“I like my job and do it well”) with maximum job contribution (“I assist my organization to achieve its goals”). The employee’s engagement level contains items that reflect the two axes of contribution and satisfaction. By plotting a given population against the two axes, 5 distinct employee segments are identified. This is represented as
The Engaged: The personal and organizational interests of the employees align. The employees are satisfied and add success to the company. These employees can transit over time to any of the three adjacent segments, which may impact workforce morale and motivation.
Almost Engaged: These employees are high performers and satisfied with their jobs. They are aware of their job functions. They are highly employable .They take minimal time to achieve the maximum goal.
The Honeymooners &Hamsters: Honeymooners are novice to the organization. They are yet to clearly understand how they can best contribute. Managers should move them out of this temporary holding area to full alignment and productivity. Hamsters may be working hard, but are in effect “spinning their wheels,” working on unimportant tasks, contributing little to the success of the organization. If organizations don’t deal with them, other employees may grow resentful or have to pick up the slack.
The Crash & Burners: These employees are disillusioned and potentially exhausted. They are neither successful nor satisfied. They may leave, or they are more likely to become disengaged. When they do, they often bring down those around them.
The Disengaged: These employees are the most disconnected from organizational priorities. They often feel underutilized and are clearly not getting what they need from work. They are skeptical and likely to induce negativity within the team. If they cannot be coached properly, then exit interviews are their last resort.
RECOMMENDED EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT TOOLS TO IMPROVE ORGANIZATIONAL PERFORMANCE
Various intervention strategies are drivers of employee engagement where they feel a sense of belongingness and valued within the organization. Various models suggest us elements to uplift employee morale and motivation so as to keep them engaged and committed to the organization. The Zinger Model of Employee Engagement (2009) is one such tool which demonstrates intervention strategies at three levels, viz. the organization contribution, the leadership inputs and individual employee contribution to employee engagement. Broadly the strategic interventions would include some of the following changes:
Employee Experience (EX) is the latest evolution from employee engagement. Mckinsey defines EX as “companies and their people working together to create personalized, authentic experiences that ignite passion and tap into purpose to strengthen individual, team, and company performance.” It is a more human centric approach in directing employees towards organizational performance. Employee engagement is unidirectional- company to employee, based on the surveys of employee insights. However, it does not reflect the true sense of how work gets done. Millennials comprise 30% of the organizational population which will leverage to 75% by 2025. The Mckinsey report enlists certain critical factors to improve employee experience which are as follows:
Employee engagement in workplace pave creative ways to communicate with trainees in forms of inbound and outbound trainings, competency mapping, need analysis, performance coaching, engagement through high performing employees, thus creating motivation and reducing stress. HR managers along with the LnD department should focus more on career development tools, set expected individual and team behaviors and reinforce key competencies. A network of engaged workforce can help an organization make necessary changes to create a dynamic work environment and thriving teams.
Outlife is a specialist experiential learning and outbound training provider that conducts behavioral skills training, team building and management development programs using experiential education methodology. The OBT training and team building programs are hands on, engaging, fun, exciting and use adult learning methodology. Outlife conducts employee engagement programs based on three broad categories such as recreational, educational and developmental.
Recreational - Focus is on the team experiencing fun and feel good factor.
Educational - Focus is on the team learning specific learning objectives to bring a change in the way they behave, think or perceive. Mostly employed for team building sessions, behavioral skills training, outbound training.
Developmental - Focus is on learning and knowledge to bring a change in habits, motives, behaviors and attitude. Mostly Employed in Outdoor Management Development and Leadership Development Programs.
While there are many ideas and activities around employee engagement, Outlife can help create motivation and belongingness in your organization through the following employee engagement ideas and activities. These include
Outlife Outbound Training
“Children are disappearing from the outdoors at a rate that would make them top of any conservationist’s list of endangered species if they were any other member of the animal kingdom” – Tim Gill
Children benefit immensely from an outdoor and adventure summer camp. All the advantages mentioned in the previous blog of different interactions and interventions with outdoors can be achieved in a summer camp collectively. Children learn life skills and life lessons which are usually beyond the scope of their regular schooling. Summer camp, according to the study, fosters emotional intelligence (or EQ), self-confidence, independence, healthy living, environmental awareness, learning, leadership and other skills that prove beneficial long into adulthood. They have enormous amount of fun. They become more alive and enthusiastic towards life. They learn to observe and be one with nature. In this process, children push their boundaries; expand their horizons, feel like natural and empowered leaders with empathy and end up discover themselves in many ways. Outdoor summer camps nourish children’s will, spirit and their whole being. Let’s explore how?!
Children lack the time and opportunities for unstructured play. Children are mostly playing indoors with their gadgets or involved in structured play. While they have their benefits, children’s well being, learning and exhilaration of energy, enthusiasm and feel good factor is tremendous in outdoor unstructured play. O&A camps offer more chances for creativity, risk taking, leadership and problem solving. It also teaches them to be open to new outcomes. There is a height sense of accomplishment and zeal that comes through this form of play. These experiences imprint on children values for a lifetime
School of Life skills
Significant raise in self confidence is observed. Children find means to express problem solving abilities. They are open to uncertainty and challenges that come their way. They are willing to move out of their comfort zones and are open to challenges. Their innate leadership qualities and working together abilities find expression. With every successful completion of activity or challenge a sense of accomplishment seeps into children. They change the way they see themselves and others. They choose and shape values for themselves individual and as a group. This builds their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. They mould their personality through these experiences.
Our lifestyle and comfort has retarded physical activity. The O&A camp is full of it! Children are always in action and movement. Be it hiking, walking, rappelling, jumping, zip lining or obstacle courses or climbing a tree or jumping into a lake. They are active, alive, awake and enthusiastic. Surprisingly, children are never tired, it is as though they are running on endless fuel of enthusiasm and energy. This zeal continues even after the camp is over!
Tends both Cognitive and emotional sides
Outdoor & Adventure camps instill the joy of learning. This comes from tending their thinking and emotional sides through powerful learning experiences. In these camps children are learning and absorbing one thing or the other throughout the camp. Sometimes, consciously and sometimes unconsciously but they are learning throughout. They also learn to think in different perspectives and dimensions. They learn both linear and systems thinking. They reflect upon experiences and behaviors. Imagination and creative skills are heightened in O&A camps. Be it through stories or problem solving or through art and craft. It is seen that children trade their limitations of body, mind and heart and darn the courage to imagine. This ability deepens learning, emotions and cognition beyond the camp as well.
Builds relationships and friendships
O&A camps enable children of varied age groups and personalities engage with each other. The activities are a blend of individual and team work. They live, play, eat and go to bed with each other. Camps are cradles of vulnerabilities. It is a place where the most natural selves and instincts are expressed. This fosters relationship and understanding and empathy towards themselves and with others who are different from oneself. They give and receive, help and be helped, they share food and conversations and also fears. They realize how similar and dissimilar they are. They see children with different attitudes and environments. This exposure itself is a great learning experience and influences children’s quality of relationships.
Love for nature
There is no need to stress the importance or benefits of being in nature. The fresh air, being surrounded by trees and shrubs, waking up to twittering birds, watching sunrise and sunset, lying down under night sky and watching stars evoke wonder and love for nature. In natural spaces, children are natural too. They find joy in simple things, pleasure in simple doings, nature restores innocence in children. When children fall in love with nature they fall in love with themselves, too. When they know nature, they know themselves, too. How they treat nature is how they treat themselves, too. Being in nature is being with themselves, too. Nature is a reflection of one’s inner being. O&A camps provide nature experiences throughout the duration.
With the help of the facilitator or an adult or through their own observation children learn to observe patterns and interconnections that exist in nature. Children exposed to activities are thoughtfully chosen to deepen their understanding about the functioning and laws of nature. Such experiences influence their thinking, actions and decision making even as adults. Thus, their engagement with nature and environment will be conscious and driven by insight and responsibility. This carves them as adults who are empowered and pro earth. This is of paramount importance!
Outdoors and adventure is quintessential for children’s wellbeing and O&A summer camps do their best to provide it.
Outlife Experiential Education.
Where Nature Where?
In this heavily networked and connected world, we have lost touch with ourselves. There is so much emphasis on socializing but the feeling of isolation and loneliness hovers in all us. We are living in a paradoxical world with conflicting needs and actions taken to fulfill those needs. What has also changed drastically is “organicness” in us and our choices and we are passing on this epidemic to our children. Can spending time in the outdoors slow down or reverse this change? Can outdoors restore organic nature in our lives especially our children? If yes, Where is nature?
Where is nature? Where is outdoors? How and when do we expose children to the outdoors? When I look outside of my window, I mostly see apartments and flats and gated communities. I see some green cover that is mostly there for decorative purposes. Mostly, cemented or tar roads; no uneven paths with grass and puddles. Where will children run freely with traffic, vehicles and strangers on roads? What if my child touches something or eats something that will cause a cold, an allergy or an infection? How can I make sure my child is safe? Where and how do I start?
What are the available accesses to nature and outdoors? How do we create more accessibility to outdoor play spaces? The crux of this article is to explore doors and windows that lead children to the world of outdoors.
Playgrounds are cradles of spontaneous, unstructured play. Generally, playgrounds are a part of educational institutions and housing complexes with wide open spaces and some play equipments such as swings, slides and monkey bars. They are also used for structured play. Play ground setting touches all areas of child development especially motor development, body coordination and balance, imagination and creativity. Spontaneous play encourages children to think quickly and be open to uncertainty. Free play nurtures interpersonal skills, trust building and communication. Thus, spending time in the play grounds is time invested in well being.
Gardens and Farms
Gardening and farming is a sensory experience for children. They touch and feel the soil and life, seeds and flowers, see the vibrant colors and varied sizes of the plants, insects and birds, can hear birds and insects and smell the amazing scents of the flowers and mud. Children climbing trees, laying with leaves and twigs, digging soil and planting is a holistic experience in itself. They are introduced to life processes and they are part of something coming to life. They learn to nurture and qualities of planning, patience and hard work. Gardening and farming teaches children take responsibility and environmental significance. Children who spend time with plants are seen to be more instinctive and intuitive. Spending time in the farms and gardens can be a sublime experience.
Local parks are good contacts for children with nature. Grass beds with bordering trees and bushy plants are soothing to the eyes and spirit. Pavements for walking and strolling are a breather for children and people of all age groups. Parks provide spaces to play, make friends, enjoy, relax and unwind. The cool breeze and chirping birds teamed with conversations and laughter is a seemingly ideal way to spend every day evenings. Visiting local parks regularly can provide children spaces to free play, foster their physical, mental and emotional health. It is also a place to meet new children and also people of varied ages and backgrounds and play or engage with them in different ways.
National parks and Zoos
National Parks and Zoos makes it feasible to witness wildlife which otherwise cannot be seen, usually especially wild animals. All animals are usually caged or placed in restricted and artificially created environments that mimic their natural ones. Children can see these animals in reality which otherwise would have been in their natural habitats, wild and free. National parks and zoos might ignite enthusiasm and awe towards animals resulting in a surge of excitement in children. Personally this is something I am not in agreement with. Caging animals however conducive it might be, impedes the animal in many ways. A child watching these animals in this manner paints a false picture of the animal and wildlife might be reduced to a mere entertainment affair. Nonetheless, an enjoyable experience for children.
Forests and wildlife sanctuaries
Trails, safaris and jungle stays are a substantive experience of nature. Forests ecology with trees, plants, mosses, creepers and ferns with wild animals, birds and insects is an experience. Unaltered with woody roots, creaky branches, crunching path can fill us with wonder and unruffle us at the same time. The sounds of chirping birds and croaking frogs and crickets and cicadas can put us in state of tranquility. Forests teach us so much and alter us completely. The forests have something for each one of us especially, children. As rightly said – “Once you enter the forest, you never return the same”
Besides that, the purpose of visiting the forest and the people with whom we share our time and experience counts. Free play is not a feasible in the forests or sanctuaries. The possibility of children visiting the forests solely depends on the parents and adult’s affinity towards wildlife. If the parents are fearful or hesitant towards wilderness there are very little chances that the child would visit a forest. A naturalist or a person who is familiar and has some knowledge about the wildlife and ecology can deepen our learning experience in the forests and wildlife sanctuaries. Therefore, forests though enriching for children, the probabilities of accessing it is lean.
Treks and trails
Trekking and hiking is a transforming experience of children and adults. The wooded heaven, the beaten elevated trails, unexpected spotting of birds and animals can fill us with humility. Trekking with minimal resources and challenging themselves to push and adjust to adversities can shape them as independent and resilient individuals. Children develop leadership qualities, boast their confidence and self image and learn endurance. Children and adults who trek together deepen their relationships with each other. They also learn to respect and value nature. They tend to be more sensitive to themselves and others including plants and animals. They learn life lessons through direct experience and reflection. Physical and mental health is an inevitable consequence of trekking. Children become more aware and well-informed about geography, environmental science or wildlife. Treks can be easily considered as a one stop solution for life.
In the past few months, how many fliers do you come across in a day that announces “Summer camps”? Art to Robotics, Baking to Storytelling; Crafts to Culture, so many of them. They are there everywhere, social media, newspapers and Whatsapp groups. Some stand out and are offbeat and some seem like they are all the same. One of the offbeat summer camps would be Outdoor and Adventure summer camp.
What are these outdoor and adventure summer camps? Why would I want to send my children to O&A camp and not a robotics camp? Why climb trees and do cave man things when technology is the thing, right?! If these are your questions and dilemmas then the next article is the answer for you. We will explore the benefits of sending your children to an Outdoor and Adventure summer camp. We will see how these O&A camps can instill love for nature and belongingness in the outdoors in children and also avail to its insurmountable benefits of nature.
Outlife Experiential Education