Smiles on the faces of your staff could mean productivity and sustainable business for your organisation, said human-resource consultant Chaitawee Senawong.Speaking at a seminar on "How to Make Staff Love Their Organisation" held by the Thailand Productivity Institute, the former Siam Cement Group HR practitioner said the "happy workplace" had become a popular concept. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for example, considers this matter seriously when it plans to send astronauts into outer space.
"In the present era, HR can no longer simply enforce the rules and regulations as it did in the past. Gen Y workers do not like to be forced, and they will leave the company," he said. Generation Y is usually defined as those born in or after the late 1970s.
To be loved by their employees, Chaitawee said firms must act first in giving "love" and happiness to their staff. This requires "good people management", a broad concept that can be applied variably in different organisations, depending on their uniqueness, culture, and the type of employees they're seeking.
For example, to serve the Gen Y desire for cash, some companies are now paying bonuses every quarter, or raising the cash portion of the total remuneration packages designed specifically for younger workers (at the expense of benefits valued less by young staff such as health insurance and allowances).
While there is no single solution fit for all companies, it is also crucial for firms constantly to find new ways and methods to keep their staff engaged. This is comparable to the love affair of a couple, Chaitawee said.
"Psychologists have discovered that in love, the 'glue' that has bound two people together can deteriorate over time. Couples need to keep applying 'new glue'" to sustain the love.
"Similarly, staff will sooner or later disfavour [an engagement programme] if their companies stick to their old techniques," he said.
Companies must take a holistic view on people management, meaning they take care not only of their staff's physical and monetary well-being, but also their intellectual and spiritual needs. Walmart, for instance, was able to trim its exorbitant staff turnover rate after it abandoned its mandatory staff uniforms.
"Thai Gen Y also don't like uniforms and captivity. Don't turn them against you by blocking their Facebook usage [at the office], because they can use their iPhone or they can install an Aircard [in the firm's computer] to surf their Facebook pages anyway," he said.
Managers will sometimes try to give their Gen Y staff a format to follow, since they have had success in the past with that methodology. But since Gen Y staff normally don't like to be ordered around, Chaitawee said, they might respond like this: "Brother, why don't you just tell me what you want?"
He continued: "Because they would also speak like this to their parents. Who are you that they should give a damn?
"And this implies they already love you. Because they're still talking and telling you [what they think]. If they don't, they won't say anything, and will just prepare to leave" the company.
Unlike in the old days, employees no longer enjoy taking part in their companies' activities held after work such as sport and game contests, since they would rather preserve their free time for their individual preferences.
The most popular activity currently held by many Thai firms after work, nevertheless, is a meditation course or a dharma practice club.
Gen Y staff's individualism goes so far that some will quit their firm simply because they don't have their individual e-mails used for contacting clients, he said.
Companies cannot survive in today's competition without the ability to innovate, and to sustain productivity. And these elements cannot be achieved without engaged workers, Chaitawee concluded.