Change to Engage: An Interview with Rohit Singh Director of Talent Management, MassMutual

Employee engagement is a major priority of today’s HR leaders. With workforces being comprised of multiple generations and ever-evolving technologies, pinpointing motivating factors is proving to be difficult. In this thought-provoking interview, Rohit Singh talks with IQPC Exchange’s Kristen Schipfer-Barrett about motivating multigenerational employees; engagement in 2020; career path evolution; and the rise of organizational flexibility and transparency. 

 KSB: What do you feel is the greatest motivator for actively engaged employees today?

RS: I think there are a few factors that realistically have always been important and seem to have become even more so now. One of these engaging factors is how does the individual’s work connect with the broader purpose of the organization - and society in general. It has become more important to the Millennial generation, which is more socially connected. But, this has always been what people look for in jobs. People always want to see meaning in what they do. I don’t think that has changed at all. People like to have more freedom in having a say in what they are doing and being able to make their own decisions. They want opportunities to try new things and to learn from those things.  More importantly from an organization’s perspective, they want managers and leaders who give them freedom. I would say that those are things that even I would look for in a job.The other factors are the levels of collaboration and teamwork that we can have with our peer group. Those factors contribute to our success and influences how we think about our work.

KSB: I completely agree. I think that these‘wants’ go further than just one generation.

RS: I think that we are just now catching the impact of the connectivity that technology provides. The new generation, having grown up with it, is used to instant feedback and interactions. This is a major motivator for them. One thing that we have realized in our experiences with the younger workforce is that they are constantly networked, or connected. Because of this, they are used to receiving constant feedback on things. The traditional organizational process of periodic evaluations and feedback doesn’t work for them. Instead of mid-year or annual evaluations, they would much rather have more frequent,short bursts of interaction and feedback. That’s part of the motivation. Unless they are constantly aligned through communication and feedback, it impacts their levels of motivation and engagement. They would not be successful in structures where they are given their work and every once in a while get feedback on what they’ve done with it. They like to create something, get feedback and move on to the next task. That’s a key part of the engagement and should be aligned with organizations’compensation and rewards programs.

KSB: I can definitely see how that could engage Millennials. Further, I think that even those who are not digital natives, but digital adapters, are getting used to that in other areas of their lives and have come to expect the same things. It doesn’t seem to be entirely isolated by generational lines.

Do you think these motivators will be different, or intensify, by 2020 due to the fact that organizations and structures are rapidly evolving?

RS: I think that it will be. Even as organizations, we are much more technologically integrated. The work that you do can spill over and the boundaries between personal and professional space will become less and less structured. Even today, the days that I work from home, I use my own technology to access our network but I am able to do my work as if I were in the office.Even our phones allow us to move over and access the same information. As an employee, I use multiple devices to get things done. For the employees, there needs to be an allowance of constant connectivity and the access of information at a click of a button. Look at the Uber app. You can click a button and you know when you will be picked up and who will be picking you up. It’s so constant and seamless. People are expecting the same things from the organizations that they work for.

KSB: How do you think all of this relates to how employees view their career paths?

RS: While this hasn’t happened overnight, the way organizations are structured and the way people look at careers has been constantly evolving.Organizations are getting flatter. There is much less hierarchy. Because organizations are not as hierarchal, career growth and advancement are not going to be a vertical climb. At the same time, individuals look at careers differently. It’s going to be what makes sense for a person at that time in their career. For example, when you get married your priorities change as to how long you are willing to commute or where you are willing to commute to.When you have kids, how much time you are willing to give will change. You still want to be engaged in your work, but it has to make sense with your timelines. Things even change along the way of career enhancements and advancements. At certain times in your career, you’re all in and will work extra hours. But, at other times in your career, you want to take it a little bit easy. Organizations should allow this type of flexibility. Most importantly, we need to feel as if we are controlling our careers. We want to have access to options and can make decisions on what is best for us. We don’t need to be told by our companies what we can and cannot do with our careers.That’s a change in how organizations have begun to think about this. I’ve had conversations with people who refuse to become managers because they say, “I am fine where I am. I’m enjoying this and I don’t want to add a layer of responsibility.” I think we need to prepare for this and to see a person as successful for making their way based on the choices that they make.

KSB: I definitely see that as being true. I think more people want to be in control of their own careers. They want to be able to say, ‘These are the hours I want to work, this is where I want to work from, and this is where I want to go.’ It’s a complete shift from what it used to be.

RS: Exactly. I think organizations are slowly adapting to this. When I first started my career, it wasn’t exactly said, but it was assumed that if you wanted to grow, you had to come into the corporate office. You could not be in some other location and still be enhancing your career. Now, it’s beginning to not matter anymore. With technology, I can access and operate from wherever I am. This adds to the blurring of the line between personal and professional. It also means that organizations should be willing to be more flexible.

I think that an organization can support this by creating the right tools to allow employees to access information about the organization. It should allow employees to know what opportunities are available at their company. Employees should be able to look for those jobs and assess whether they are a good fit for the opportunities, just as they would when they are deciding to purchase things.This would allow employees to use their judgment and decide what is best for their career paths.

KSB: I agree that there is a need for a level of transparency where decisions can be made by employees instead of behind closed doors for employees. I think that the world may be moving towards that due to the ease of accessing information elsewhere. Regardless of generation, it seems that employees aren’t going to stay somewhere where they feel left in the dark and that opportunities are being held from them.