A study conducted by the Great Place To Work® Institute in the real estate industry showcases the five great workplaces in the sector. It also highlights how organisations can achieve business objectives by building better workplaces. What are the biggest strengths of the real estate industry as represented by these organisations? What made the best stand out from the rest? CW Property Today delves deeper for answers.
The real-estate industry employs over 45 million people and is the fourth most impactful industry in India in terms of employment generation. This year, the Great Place To Work® Institute surveyed around 3,300 employees from the real-estate industry to measure the extent to which they find their organisations great workplaces. The Great Place To Work® Institute is a global management consulting, research and training firm dedicated at enabling organisations to achieve business objectives by building better workplaces. During the course of a typical year, the Great Place To Work® Institute works with over 7,700 organisations, representing over 15 million employees in over 52 countries. These partnerships continually build unique expertise, including multi-industry workplace culture benchmarking and best practice databases.
According to a study by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), the booming building, construction and real-estate sector will need around a 76.5-million-strong workforce from 2013 to 2022. One of the major long-term challenges faced by this industry has always been shortage of proficient and skilled talent, which pushes up project costs and risks. This means that the major priorities for the real-estate sector would be to attract and retain talent. Independent research has proven that when times are tough, employees at great workplaces show the resiliency to pull through. When times get better, those same employees are ready to lead the rally. It all adds up to cumulative success 2x better than the market average. Organisations that are great workplaces typically have half the voluntary turnover of their competitors, saving money in employee recruitment and training. This makes it important for organisations in the real-estate industry to prioritise and focus on building and sustaining a great workplace culture for their employees. What are some of the biggest strengths of the real-estate industry as represented by these organisations? According to the findings of the study on the real-estate industry in India this year, 89 per cent of employees who responded to the survey feel their organisation is a physically safe place for them to work and 81 per cent said they want to work at their organisation for a long time. This is a reflection that their professional growth, development needs and personal needs are met. Eighty-eight per cent of the respondents in the real-estate industry feel they are treated as full members regardless of their religion; 84 per cent of employees feel their management is adept at making decisions for the business, providing leadership to the organisation; and 83 per cent of respondents feel that people participate in celebrating special occasions with their colleagues at work.
Going forward, the industry also has opportunities to do better by focusing on a few areas of opportunities. Fewer employees feel they have special and unique benefits at the organisation and that employees receive a fair share of profits made by their respective organisations. Another concern that employees in this sector expressed around is politicking and backstabbing by their colleagues. The real-estate industry also needs to prioritise on providing training and development to employees to enable them to advance in their work.
From the organisations that were studied by the Great Place To Work® Institute, some stood out as the best in the industry. Brigade Enterprises Ltd, Embassy Group, Godrej Properties Ltd, Lodha Group and Mahindra Lifespace Developers Ltd were identified as some of the best workplaces in the real-estate sector.
What made the best stand out from the rest?
The differentiating factors among these top five best workplaces and other organisations in the sector are that employees in the former feel that they are given meaningful work and are accountable for ensuring that the work is completed. A higher percentage of employees in the top five workplaces responded positively to the statement: ´We have special and unique benefits here.´ This means these organisations focus on providing unique and special benefits that cater to different employee segments; for instance, day-care centres and lactation rooms for working mothers; educational assistance; employee stock options as a tool to retain middle to senior managers; concierge services; and health awareness programmes. For example, as mentioned earlier, at Lodha Group, the board of directors selects members of the top management based on performance, potential, commitment and excellence and provides them a chance to own a home.
Compared to other organisations, the top five best workplaces in the real-estate industry also provide more growth opportunities to employees in the form of training and development that enable them to advance in their work. The top five have also scored higher on the statement, ´Everyone has an opportunity to get special recognition´, which suggests that employees regardless of position and tenure have the chance to receive distinctive acknowledgement.
The employees at these organisations feel inspired by the management´s ability and believe they have a clear view of where the organisation is going and how to get there. They also feel that they are informed by the management about important issues and changes in the business that affect their jobs and the business as a whole. For instance, Godrej Properties Ltd. has its own half-yearly internal newsletter, Storey Times. It has many sections aimed to update employees about happenings and events from different regions. It has a theme for every issue and is fun and informative. In addition to printed copies, there is an online version of the same to read on the computer or on hand-held devices.
At Embassy Group, good opportunities to learn, capable and supportive management and, most important, the feeling of being a part of a big caring family is what characterises the work experience. As mentioned earlier, as a practice, every three years it takes all its employees across all levels on an international trip. And at Brigade Enterprises, the zeal and dedication they display about every facet being a social entity make them appear more like activists.
Independent research affirms that organisations that are great workplaces are more successful financially and outperform standard market indices by three times. Nine of the 36 organisations identified in the research by Jim Collins based on up to 60 years of performance data published in three books -Good To Great, Great by Choice, and Built To Last - have also been identified as great workplaces. These organisations are more sustainable. Research at Cornell University confirms that organisations that are great workplaces provide better customer satisfaction. Also, The Edelman Trust Barometer research confirms that employees of organisations that are great workplaces are instrumental in spreading positive word-of-mouth referrals about companies, their products and services. And the research of John Helliwell et al at the University of British Columbia affirms the strong positive impact that great workplaces have on their employees´ subjective wellbeing.
So what is a great workplace and how can an organisation build one?
Great workplaces are characterised by three key relationships. The Great Place To Work® Institute´s research suggests that at great workplaces, employees trust (credibility, respect, and fairness) the people they work for, have pride in the work they do and enjoy the company of people they work with. We put together a list of 56 variables that come together to make an organisation a great place to work for its employees in a comprehensive model. It´s widely known as the Great Place To Work® Trust Index Model, the world´s most well-researched, accepted and sustainable definition of a great workplace, from an employee´s point of view. The Great Place To Work® Trust Index Employee Survey is one of the most comprehensive methods of measuring the experience of employees at their organisation. In our research, we found that organisations that are successful at creating and sustaining a great workplace culture follow specific practices in nine key areas. These key areas are outlined in the Great Place To Work® People Practice Framework. Great practices in these areas can help an organisation achieve its objectives with employees who give their personal best and work as a team. This is known as the Great Place To Work® Culture Audit Framework - one of the best ways of assessing an organisation´s people practices, mapping their impact on employee perceptions, and outlining a clear set of actions for leaders and managers to improve results.
We believe any organisation can become a great workplace; all it takes is intent and commitment. To begin the journey of creating a great workplace, an organisation must find out where it stands, what employees like about working at the organisation, and what could be better. It must assess the strength and impact of existing people-related management practices on employee perceptions. Once the foundation of a great workplace is laid, its success largely depends on its people managers to create and sustain a great workplace culture by translating organisational goals into daily interactions that inspire employees. Great organisations build a great employer brand and are recognised as a great workplace by their potential as well as current employees. Organisations must effectively communicate what makes them a great workplace to the people inside and outside the organisation.
Why is it a great place to work?
Brigade Enterprises is into the business of building, but the zeal and dedication it displays about every facet of it being a social entity makes it appear more like an activist of a cause dear to its heart. There is a stamp of the organisation culture in almost every practice, whether it is the morning prayer session, the Neo B badge for new employees or even the EVOLVE card for recognising positive and negative value display. The leadership commitment towards excellence is amply evident in the numerous collaborative programmes around process improvements, idea generation and knowledge sharing. What also shines through is the care the organisation displays for all who are connected to it - Bereavement counselling, buddies for expectant mothers, benefits that extend to even contract staff and utmost concern for safety, etc.
Why is it a great place to work?
Embassy Group successfully breaks the myth that the construction industry is run in an unprofessional and unfriendly manner. Good opportunities to learn, capable and supportive management and, most important, the feeling of being part of a big caring family characterise the work experience at Embassy. The once-in-three-years international trip gives a new dimension to the ´all-inclusive´ tag associated with holidays. This, plus the impressive community agenda of Embassy, proves that it certainly has an identity that goes beyond mere bricks and mortar.
Inspiring: As a practice, every three years the Embassy Group takes all its employees across all levels on an international trip. The team´s international sojourn every three years is legendary. It is an unforgettable experience familiar to most old timers and part of the informal induction for new entrants to get imbibed into the culture at Embassy. This trip provides an opportunity for all employees to spend time with each other, company management and leadership in an informal environment. Irrespective of grades or levels, all the employees are given the same food and accommodation and they all fly economy class irrespective of their eligibilities. It is an opportunity for employees to gain exposure to international travel, global living and practices, as well as contemporary architecture across the globe. This is apart from the bonding, sharing and understanding that is created across all levels of the company - from drivers and office staff to the chairman of the company. This is a unique practice for the industry and has been consistently followed for over a decade - the last trip was to Dubai in October 2013 where over 210 employees travelled.
Why is it a great place to work?
Godrej Properties is a great place to work because of its association with the iconic Godrej Group, which is known for its ethical and transparent practices. Management is supportive and caring and new entrants feel welcomed in the organisation by management and HR, which organises gifts and celebrates achievements, both personal and professional, involving their families at times. Employees have special benefits that help them achieve work-life balance, a novelty in the real estate space. The organisation offers good training and development programmes for employees, ensuring both professional and personal growth.
Communicating: Effective communication plays a vital role in the success of any organisation - an informed employee is an engaged employee! Management encourages access to information across the organisation, enabling employees to foster the culture of transparency and open communication. The organisation has developed some communication platforms that enable senior management to cascade crucial messages to the larger workforce.
These include the Godrej Properties Annual Conference, a mega event where all GPLites come together at a location away from work. It is one of the most awaited initiatives of the year and the atmosphere is absolutely electric. This year, the buzz was created in a unique way - 15 days before the conference, the entire organisation split into five groups, with every group having a leader. The groups were assigned one tenet as part of the main theme, Power of One, for which they were given a small brief on using photographs, videos and other media to bring out the essence of the theme.
The five groups created on the basis of these tenets were Emotional Resonance within teams; Trust as the bedrock for relationships and dialogue; Commitment to team and goals; Risk-taking ability to go from good to great; and Hunger to achieve challenging goals. The activity had all employees across regions share their ideas and photographs based on the theme, which were then collated and screened by the leader of the group. These pictures and videos were put into an AV, which was showcased with a storyline at the conference. The five groups created based on the Power of One theme were also given colour codes and dedicated space in the sprawling lawns. The chief facilitator explained the activity to all employees. The activity required teams to use metal rods, clamps and a blueprint to put together a structure of a rollercoaster, which would allow a ball to pass over the dedicated rail-like path along its tracks. The blueprint had the entire 50-60 ft structure split into smaller structures, with triggers in place to allow for one section to be connected to the next. All employees were involved in this activity, with complete dedication, and every small team within the group worked like clockwork to encourage one another and achieve the desired result: The structure. The teams were told after all the smaller structures were in place, to get all these together, to put together the final structure. The end result was an amazing display of teamwork and collaboration.
The main conference had all 600 employees of GPL under one roof. The conference began with a dance performance by the senior leadership team, which had everyone whistling and cheering. The dance was a medley of Bollywood songs, with a set of leaders being introduced in every song. The final song had Pirojsha Godrej joining the team and shaking a leg to the music.
Another highlight at the conference is the Info Fair booths arranged by different functions to talk about important aspects of the business. This year, the Info Fairs saw teams involving senior leaders and team members taking up innovative ways of talking about their topics using games, videos and props. The topics included Delight Our Customers, Sales Acceleration, GPL Design Studio and Launch New Projects on Schedules. This was followed by Pirojsha´s presentation, which spoke about the employee value proposition on three tenets: Tough Love; Whole Self; and Your Canvas.
The presentation moved away from the regular update on numbers and focused on how the future looks for the organisation, with every tenet being represented with relevant photographs of employees within GPL, and how the entire culture in the organisation focuses on these tenets.
Why is it a great place to work?
Lodha Group offers a rewarding and safe work environment while instilling great pride in employees through various programmes that reinforce values and ethics and plenty of CSR initiatives.
Inspiring: Lodha Values are the bedrock of the Lodha way of functioning. The five core values are:
Every year, Lodha organises a Lodha Values Reinforcement Week, which is a road show to take Lodha Values into the hearts of associates. This entails going into every site, office and department to instil the spirit of Lodha Values. The methodology adopted is a series of fun and learning activities that enable associates to understand and remember the values and how they are using them in their day-to-day work. The activities include jigsaw puzzles with Lodha buildings on one side, which on formation can be turned to see Lodha Values, driving the intent that Lodha is made of its values. Then, there are teambuilding activities where groups work together to achieve a target linked to a value. At the end of each session, the facilitator brings up the energy by asking all participants to pledge the Lodha Values after him and there are prizes and customised T-shirts given out. In 2014, the road show covered over 2,500 associates. During Values Reinforcement Week, an online set of games and quizzes is put up every day, requiring associates to solve them with Lodha Values. Winners who solve the puzzle each day and the puzzles of the whole week are given gift vouchers. Lodha believes in enabling associates to imbibe their primary and secondary drivers models. To effectuate the same, a Primary and Secondary Drivers Week was celebrated this year. As part of this week, sessions were conducted on all sites and in all departments. Each session began with an introduction of the concept of primary and secondary drivers, followed by an AV clip of the managing director where he highlighted the importance of primary and secondary drivers and how to use the priority order. During each session, associates got the chance to engage in fun events based on the primary and secondary drivers. They also got to play a simulation game helping them internalise the objective of the drivers. The sessions covered over 2,500 associates.
Thanking: At Lodha, the focus is to ensure a clean and transparent environment for conducting business and reinforce the company´s belief in doing things ethically and without taking undue advantage of any relationship. In case an associate finds out about any unethical practice being undertaken by a Lodha associate or partner (including vendors and customers), they immediately report the matter to the concerned authority. If merit is found in the case, a Good Citizen´s Award of up to Rs 5 lakh is awarded to the associate reporting the incident. This year, two associates have been awarded for their contribution to upholding the integrity of the organisation.
Rewarding: At Lodha, the focus is to recognise selected members of the top management responsible for the long-term growth of the organisation and link larger rewards to a longer association with the company. The board of directors selects members of the top management based on exhibited performance, long-term growth potential within the organisation, commitment to company values and excellence in key competencies. Selected members are provided the opportunity to own a home at one of the company´s developments. The value of the corpus is computed on a five-year scenario, comprising of three annual grants. The value of the annual grant is based on the employee´s tenure and fixed compensation. Annual grants vest over successive three-year periods in a 34:33:33 ratio. Once vested, the benefit can be utilised by the employee anytime during his or her tenure. The identified associates are felicitated with a trophy, a badge and a special Housing Benefit Plan under one of the following plans that vary by the quantum of reward and the seniority of associates eligible: Chairman´s Club, Director´s Club and President´s Club. To date, 54 associates have been covered under this award. Further, customer care associates are awarded for achieving collection targets with incentives. These are paid on the basis of nature of project - high end, aspiration, CASA, commercial - and the percentage of collection target achieved. Instead of a fixed amount as reward, associates are paid rewards as a percentage of their monthly salary. Thus, the rewards are distributed in a fair proportion to all eligible associates. To date, 210 associates have been covered under this, with the total reward amount being about Rs 50 lakh. What´s more, under the EHS guidelines of the company, each site has to achieve the goal of ´0 Hospitalisation, 0 Fatality´.
To incentivise associates to achieve this goal, every site that remains free of any major accidents for a financial year shall be eligible to receive a safety bonus of Rs 5,000 for each confirmed construction management associate working on it.
Contributing: Lodha saves power by making optimum use of a traffic management system with elevators. In the corporate office, an advanced computer system keeps track of the location of elevator cars. This enables grouping people together travelling to the same floor, thus reducing the number of intermediate stops and improving power efficiency. This system represents a quantum leap forward in eco-friendly technology.
Why is it a great place to work?
Mahindra Lifespace Developers provides a caring and inspiring value-based work environment for its employees with plenty of opportunities for work-life balance and professional development. There is respect for individuals-the organisation cares and the leadership team is fair enough in providing opportunities with free hands at the workplace.
Inspiring: Take, for instance, an event where an executive board member interacts with a select group of a dozen young leaders below the age of 35 across the Mahindra Group. Such interactions create a sense of family, reinforce a common purpose and engender pride. Fireside chats are telecast live across the Mahindra Group.
Balancing: Mahindra Lifespaces believes in the concept of proper prioritisation between work (career and ambition) and lifestyle (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development or meditation). To this end, it has a Wellness Policy in place and has branded Wellness for Employees initiatives as ´WE´. It is committed to the overall health and well-being of employees and recognises the impact employee wellness has on workplace productivity. It believes that a healthy workforce is a more productive one and results in less absenteeism, fewer accidents, lower healthcare demands and greater overall savings by reducing the incidence of disease and disability. Employee wellness is promoted by a combination of training programmes, preventive health examinations and wellness activities like yoga.
Contributing: Jwala is a bi-annual CSR newsletter that gives a brief account of all CSR activities taking place in the sector. The objective of this newsletter is to create more social awareness, especially on issues that affect the communities and encourage more participation in employee social options (ESOPs) and other CSR activities.