According to a 2015 Conference Board CEO study, companies across the world are placing high importance on employee engagement in their respective workplaces, in order to assist companies withstand a slow economy and become globally competitive.
Engaged employees achieve higher productivity and profitability for organisations because they are enthusiastic to work every day and perform better than their less engaged peers. They understand their jobs well and how they fit into the larger picture; enabling them to be more satisfied and proactive with their work. They also tend to be more attentive to the needs of their clients, which equates to improved customer satisfaction and retention. Engaged employees assist to boost recruitment and attract more talented employees because they provide social proof that their company is a great place to work.
According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the Global Workforce report, Australia boasts relatively high employee engagement levels but still has lots of room for improvement. Only 24% of employees are engaged with their work, while over 60% of workers hold an opposing view on their jobs; compared with top companies like Google where only 1 in every 20 employees is not engaged.
The report also noted that farmers and service workers are more engaged than those who are employed in a corporate setting. These findings show that business owners and People & Culture departments in Australia need to work harder to engage their workforce, and may learn lessons from the unique approaches taken by the companies showcased below to inspire their workers:
1. Invest in your employees – Online shoe retailer Zappos invests in its people to maintain its record of stellar customer service. New hires undergo onboarding as well as an “incubation” period that can last up to six months. The actual training for the job only starts after this period. The company then follows up with coaching and mentoring to lessen turnover.
Web-based employee feedback platform 15Five also invests in its employees to promote personal and professional growth. The company gives all its employees US$500 on their birthday to spend on any preferred development courses. For instance, the company’s head writer spent the money on a creative writing class, which has been a win-win as the writer was able to pursue personal writing projects, while the company saw improvements in his output.
2. Live out your company’s purpose – When Andrew Limouris started Medix Staffing Solutions, his goal was to create a workplace where employees could become friends. Unfortunately, the age gap widened as his company grew and this led to his employees having differences in preferences such as dress code and location, which eventually led to high turnover. Limouris introduced a loose dress code policy and offered telecommuting, however turnover rates remained high. Eventually consultants helped pinpoint the problem: the employees did not understand or connect with the purpose of the company. After internal discussions, Limouris branded the company’s goal into a battle cry of “Positively Impacting Lives.” Underlying this was a goal to help 20,000 people find employment.
Limouris learned that the effect of rewards in motivating employees only lasted for a short time.. However, Medix’s new mantra helped renew their employees’ drive for their jobs. Their battle cry also inspired related team-building activities, which soon began to translate into high productivity and low turnover.
3. Recognise your employees’ accomplishments – In addition to getting a salary, people want to work in a job that makes a difference. Southwest Airlines motivates its workforce by communicating how they can create an impact in their customers’ lives. The airline features employees that have gone the extra mile in their monthly magazine and internal videos, and acknowledges them in recognition awards and programs. In one video, Southwest showed two of their customer service agents that gave a family some extra time to say goodbye to their father, who was leaving for a six-month deployment in Kuwait. Videos like this help employees see the company’s goal in action, and inspires them to give their ultimate best to their work so that they too can make a difference in the lives of their customers.
4. Encourage employees to provide feedback – AT&T created a digital system that enables its employees to submit feedback or suggestions to the company. The feedback is shared online, and a small team reads it before sending it to a respective team leader or an expert that can work on the issue. Employees can track the status of their feedback and the responses to it, as well as leave their own comments.
Toyota has also implemented an innovative system of encouraging employee feedback. With the Japanese NikoNiko calendar, the company gauges the feelings of its employees daily through smiley faces. If the production team notices a lot of red faces, they immediately investigate and address the issue to show that the company is committed in responding to its employees’ needs.
5. Provide employees work-life balance – Employees can feel burnout when they work excessive hours without having enough time off. Employee rewards company Next Jump subsidises half of the annual leave expenses of its employees up to US$5,000. The company also looks after the health of employees through a competitive workout program and provision of healthy food. But what’s truly extraordinary about Next Jump is its “No Fire Policy.” The company will make a contractual promise never to fire its employees unless they exhibit unethical behaviour. If their employees are feeling stressed out or not performing to their expectations, the company will intervene and explore any initiative to boost their morale and to improve their performance.