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Strategies for Engaging and Retaining the Crucial 80% Workforce

Over the past few years, the discourse has been on top talent, higher performers, and upward mobility in the quickly changing modern economy. In this discourse, a sizable portion of the global labor force—often referred to as the "80%"—faces particular difficulties. This diverse workforce, which is vital to our economy and affects every aspect of our lives, frequently lacks the resources and opportunities needed to succeed. In spite of the vital work they perform, four out of five workers worldwide feel overlooked and undervalued. They also lack opportunity and autonomy in their professions. As a result, the great majority feel ignored, underappreciated, and uncared for.

Recognizing the 80 percent of workers: Who are they?
In order to set the stage for the discussion, Karan talked about the results of O.C. Tanner's 2024 Global Culture Report, which compiled opinions from 40,000 individuals in 24 different nations. The report, which focused on comprehending workplace culture from the viewpoint of employees, identified the megatrends influencing workplace culture as equitable flexibility, nimble resilience, practical empathy, and 80% experience.

According to one of these tendencies, the near-absolute concentration on top achievers leaves the rest of the workforce—roughly 80% of average and above-average performers—feeling undervalued and neglected. This is especially relevant because the report demonstrates the substantial effects that can be achieved by including appreciation into regular employee experiences. Adopting this approach, for instance, can improve happiness, foster a more compassionate organizational culture, and enhance the working environment for all employees.

This conclusion is especially pertinent to sectors where everyday empathy experiences range at different levels, such as manufacturing, retail, IT, and BFSI. According to the survey, there is a significant discrepancy between how employers and employees view caregiving, happy work environments, and compassionate leadership. Employees perceive lower levels in each of these areas. There are two main causes for this worrying gap:

  • Access: The capacity to use different systems, resources, perks, and people to complete tasks and get care while at work.
  •  Enablement: The level of independence, power, and willingness to voice issues at work.


How to use contemporary leadership management concepts to increase participation and include the 80% in decision-making ?
According to Chandini, it's critical to acknowledge that even those who may not be high achievers have strengths in some areas of their work, and providing a platform for everyone to share these skills is essential. She continued by saying that we need to train leaders to listen to others in order to connect with every member of their team. To maximize the stickiness of the change and make the contributions of the people who provided the solutions obvious, any gaps that need to be filled should be tackled collaboratively by the team. The core components of the modern leadership style include listening to others, including everyone, and closing gaps by incorporating feedback from everyone on the team.

Rajita continued by saying that the 80/20 equation would probably alter as labor shortages drive workplace trends and that it will be essential to redefine professional pathways for advancement and mobility. Cross-functional group formation, which Kyndryl practices, fosters the notion that everyone should have a purpose in their work, increases intrinsic drive, and aids in the development of autonomy. According to Sumit, the main objective of the concept is to foster a sense of inclusion and belonging in a diverse workforce that might not share many characteristics. He clarified that this procedure starts at Fujitsu with an exercise called "purpose carving" that is done at the induction to dismantle hierarchical boundaries. Moreover, encouraging employee-focused dialogues about culture and performance can foster a mentality that prioritizes listening to others and meeting their needs.

Encouraging People to Learn in Order to Make Corporate Learning Initiatives Inclusive and Effective
Rajita mentioned that one way to emphasize the value of skilling is to assist people see how their function fits into the overall organizational and business framework. People are more likely to actively choose the talents they wish to acquire in order to perform better when they are all aware of the company's objectives and can see how they contribute to changes in the organization. People at Kyndryl, for instance, can better grasp the competences required to fulfill their current and future positions by using a complete global skills career framework that is based on business, customer, and employee objectives.

According to Chandini, inflexible learning environments frequently discourage people from making the commitment to develop their skills. She mentioned that workers at HCL are able to choose whatever talent they wish to hone. All individuals have equal access to high-quality educational programs taught by internationally renowned instructors. Additionally, there is no difference in the value of technical and non-technical skill-building courses; both are regarded as equally important. Lastly, creating strong mentorship frameworks and gamifying some components of learning to prod and encourage others can boost people's enthusiasm and openness to learning.

Acknowledging and Recognizing the 80% of Performers in a Meaningful Way
When it comes to giving employees the chance to be recognized, access is a crucial component that needs to be present in whatever setting they work in. Karan discussed O.C. Tanner's collaboration with Starbucks and how, particularly for the employees working out of the cafés, they developed a recognition strategy that was highly accessible, technologically enabled, and significant. The appropriate platform and services made everything easier, from long-service recognition to on-the-spot prizes.

Chandini further emphasized that the term "Extra Mile" refers to HCL's recognition gateway, implying that recognition is an activity that occurs outside of human relationships. By democratizing recognition, dismantling barriers based on hierarchy, fostering social recognition, and establishing a system of concrete rewards, we may increase the significance of recognition. Incorporating the employee's family while acknowledging them is another unique approach used by HCL to ensure that the event is genuinely unforgettable for them.

In addition to having the appropriate intervention framework, Sumit stated that humans have a natural need for validation and appreciation and that we should attempt to comprehend how rewards and recognition affect organizational culture. It is possible to deflect attention from the technological side of incentives and increase the authenticity of the act by being aware of when to recognize the proper thing, whether it be an effort, outcome, or milestone. He also mentioned that the best approach to help staff members feel appreciated and wanted is to teach managers how to develop individualized relationships with each member of their team.

Rajita also brought attention to the rapid gratification that is a crucial component of acknowledgment. Every manager and team member behaves differently, therefore we need to encourage the right people to set the proper example by acting in a way that inspires others to strive for the same position. According to Karan, getting the managers to perform recognition consistently and on a large scale is essential, even if budgetary and governance issues will always arise. Ultimately, middle managers and other leaders will be motivated to adopt appropriate recognition procedures if the organization's upper echelons of senior leadership do the same.

By outlining the ABCD framework that HR managers and leaders can use to create a meaningful rewards culture and experiences in their organizations, Chandini effectively summarized the discussion. This means taking a bottoms-up approach and listening to the 80% of employees, creating a transparent and positive work environment, creating meaningful career routes for all-around growth, and coming up with an effective recognition plan to involve every worker.


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