India has the world’s third-largest purchasing economy, and a population of over 480 million workers. Despite that, over 40 million Indian citizens were unemployed. Jobs are prized in India, but the country is incredibly diverse culturally. This means education as stratified across their diverse population necessarily differs. In India today there are over 750 different languages, and in the last fifty years about 250 languages have died out. Properly providing education for that level of cultural diversity is a challenge to say the least. On top of this, while roughly 8 out of 10 Indians are Hindu, there are still more than seven different spiritual disciplines practiced throughout the country. Hinduism has a distinct influence, however, and this has definitely led to a certain kind of work ethic among Indians. Generally, the high focus on individuality and personal achievement that comes with Hinduism influences an Indian employee’s perspective in the workplace.
Since there is so much diversity in the developing technological cornucopia of modern India, this has created a market where cogent management skills, IT skills, and financial acumen are highly prized. But a solid education is difficult given the country’s vastness, so a great deal of unemployed people in India don’t have a marketable skill. When one is found, it is pursued with complete passion, ambition, and tenacity. As well, because of this individualistic push for advancement and success, Indian culture generally makes public recognition a big deal. There’s a reason Indian military uniforms and clothing are so extravagant and expressive. The occupation of the wearer is meant to be noted; that or their cultural status. So when approaching your own culturally diverse group of Indian employees, it makes a lot of sense to consider these cultural items and tailor your incentives appropriately.
Tips On Proper Employee Recognition
Employees thrive on recognition, but their ambition can make it so they have a tough time feeling as though they are properly recognized in the workplace. In order to have the right kind of attitude and psychological health, an employee must feel that their value has not gone without being noticed. Making them feel this way should be a big part of your company culture. You must be careful, though. Proper incentives and recognition require a strategic approach considerate of diversity. Sometimes what works in Western cultures simply will not work in India.
Follow Cultural Norms: You might think giving one of your female employees a necklace or a fine set of earrings as a reward for meeting an objective would be a fine idea. But you may be incorrect. If you’re a male manager, then it is incorrect under any circumstances for you to present jewelry to a woman. That sounds strange to Western ears, but it is the case. Indian gift-giving is a subject that requires attention to detail. As a result, when you’re structuring your incentives you have got to be careful that you are culturally conscious. If you’re recognizing an employee for doing something excellent, and your recognition is a cultural taboo, then it could end up back-firing as the employee deals with embarrassment going forward. As good as Indian employees respond to recognition, bad recognition is equally destructive.
Provide Positive Feedback: Positive feedback is something that crosses Western cultural borders, however. You’ll find that using this method to help incentivize performance is especially effective among Indians. Due to the individualistic, ambitious nature of most Indian employees, knowing they’ve done a good job affects them a great deal, and helps fuel their natural ambition. They’ll probably even share your good praises across whatever social media platform they’re involved with.
Tele-density: Social media is a big deal in India. As of Fall, 2015, just under 80% of the Indian market had “tele-density”, meaning 8 out of 10 people in India have a mobile phone. Because of the country’s size, diversity, and population, maintaining connections digitally has become a cultural phenomenon in India. If you’re going to recognize employees, having a means of extending that recognition digitally is paramount. Indians are naturally expressive, and something they can share on social media will incentivize them greatly.
Allow Expression: Because of the natural expressiveness of Indian culture, giving workers a means of creatively communicating their triumphs and ideas is also a great way to incentivize a workforce. It will additionally make it easier for you to communicate with them such that competent employees can be identified and advanced. Expressive employees who feel free, are psychologically healthy, and have experienced the right kind of recognition will be able to communicate with you on a more effective level. That communication can help you identify employees doing a good job who may otherwise have gone unnoticed.
People like gifts and recognition. They like to be expressive—that’s something that is cross-cultural. The Indian culture, diverse as it is, has many eccentricities about it that shouldn’t be ignored, but which aren’t entirely alien. Learning the cultural norms of your Indian employees will help you help them. It’s an upward spiral.
As the purchasing power in India’s burgeoning economic arena increases, demand for products, services, and specialists will naturally increase as well, and the number of Indian workers will very likely follow that trend. This is a region of the world with hard workers willing to out-perform, provided they are merely recognized for it—in a culturally sensitive way, of course. Since there is such a high demand for competence in India, rewarding that competence properly is an investment for which you can expect greater returns in India than most countries of Western sensibility. But this can only be done through understanding the culture of the environment producing such employees, and adapting with it. Trying to force it into a western mold will just frustrate everyone. India truly is a round peg, and it can’t be made to fit in a square hole.
About Strategic Incentives: Strategic Incentives is a leading nationwide provider of employee motivation programs. The company works with HR managers to implement sales incentive programs and safety incentives to retain employees, and loyalty programs to build customer relationships. Visit the website at http://www.strategicincentives.com to download a complimentary PDF of “35 Ways to Use Incentive Programs.” “Like” the Facebook page to receive regular updates on sales incentives and promotional ideas. Call 888-686-8116 for more information on creating an in-depth performance improvement plan.
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