The Right Way To Boost Employee Engagement

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 employeesOnline 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.



Aged to Perfection – AGE and AGING in the workplace today

The veteran army officer remains revered for their ability to strategise well after they retire. The older actor is celebrated for their contribution to the entertainment industry and for creating memorable moments through theatre or film. The retired athlete remains admired for their superb human achievements long after the race has been run. And the scientist, composer, or humanitarian is honoured for a lifetime’s work in their chosen field and celebrated for years after their discoveries or masterpieces have changed the world.

Yet, something funny happens in the psyche of the worker when it comes to older employees – which often has little to do with being revered and even less to do with humour. Sadly it illustrates that as a nation we are more interested in the celebrity factor that is often out of our reach than in our older workers who have contributed so much and are so close.

So if that is the case, why are we failing to adequately document the older workers’ knowledge, showcase their talents and celebrate them as mentors? Have we become so desensitised that we only want “new” while ‘old’ is irrelevant? Is it simply too hard or we just don’t know how?

As a starting point let’s get clear firstly who is the older Australian, after all? New research undertaken by Westpac has revealed senior Australian business people believe, on average, 47 years old is when age related discrimination first becomes a problem for workers in Australian organisations.

Yet it would be fair to say that most business and professional people are at the peak of their career around this time. Many are in the best position they have ever been in to collaborate, connect and communicate their knowledge and experience and move the dial that points them to further success.

Here are five steps to go from Older to Bolder 

1. Take initiative and help create deliberate learning opportunities in early and tertiary education for different generations to cross pollinate and interact. It all begins with education, so volunteer your time and expertise in ways that will be help people understand the value of different perspectives and ages. If in a position to influence team or group work, ensure there is an equal representation from all ages so people consciously and unconsciously adapt to different ways of problem solving.

2. Ensure graduates and new inductees into organisations are buddied with at least three people from different generations. Keep these exchanges regular and as part of their KPI’s.

3. Provide external work experience opportunities for staff to spend time in different businesses so they are exposed to alternate practices and different ways of thinking in business. Make sure they communicate their learnings back into the organisation.

4. Set up Learning Forums in Open Spaces where staff can learn new skills (work or non work related topics) and hear about what staff can do in and outside their work environment. Allow people to spend time in discussion so there is a greater sense of comfort with different people and exposure to different ideas.

5. Disrupt traditional style meetings so everyone can chair or facilitate a meeting, champion an idea and share results in different ways. Encourage hot desk arrangements so people become more adept and comfortable at interacting.

While these five tips are practical strategies and take time to fully reap the rewards, it will also take a courageous and committed conversation that can present a commercial and business case to all levels of your people if you truly want to bring people together to collaborate rather than let people than stagnate.


Ricky Nowak is a Certified HR Leadership Consultant, Behind Closed Doors Facilitator, Speaker and Author with over 35 years business and corporate experience in leadership across Australasia, specializing in making good people great leaders.

How To Ensure That Employee Professional Development Yields Returns For Your Business

The Business Case For Employee Professional Development

Providing professional development for employees can be advantageous for businesses and enable them to achieve long-term growth. Here are some of the reasons why it makes sense to invest in your employees:

Improved job performance
Investing in professional development for employees can be beneficial for businesses and contribute to their long-term business growth. Through professional development, employees in various roles can acquire skills that would help them improve their performance. For example, those who undergo sales professional development may be able to convert more qualified leads and add to revenue, while those who train on customer service may be able to improve customer retention. Managers who undergo leadership development and mentoring become better leaders. As a result, businesses can enjoy robust growth.

Better job satisfaction and engagement
Professional development gives your employees the opportunity to improve their skills, and enable them to advance in their career. When employees feel that the company is investing in them, they are more likely to become devoted to their job. Professional development can also enable your employees to be more engaged with their work when it is tied to the core values of the company. This will help them understand how their contribution fits into the larger picture, and motivate them to do well.

Lower turnover and enhanced recruitment
When your employees are content with their work, they are also more likely to stay longer in your company. As a result, your business can avoid the various costs associated with a high turnover. This includes lower productivity, lower morale of the remaining employees, as well as allocating a huge amount of time for recruitment and on-boarding new employees. In contrast, satisfied and engaged employees can make your company attractive for fresh talent. This will enable you to build a competent workforce and stand out from the competition.

Though professional development is certainly beneficial, companies should determine its ROI to balance the need on investing in people while achieving returns for their business.

A Step-By-Step Process On Evaluating Employee Professional Development ROI

The Kirkpatrick Four-Level Training Evaluation Model offers a systematic approach in assessing the impact of training and professional development on your employees and to your business. It seeks to evaluate employee training and professional development in a series of four steps or levels.

Level 1: Reaction – This level assesses the reaction or engagement of your employees to the training and professional development program: its presentation, materials and the instructor. You can get verbal feedback by asking them directly if they found the  program relevant, worth their time and if it accommodated their personal learning style. Gauge employee reaction through post-training and professional development surveys, or by observing changes on the job.

Level 2: LearningEvaluating what your employees have learned entails measuring the level of understanding of your employees on the information, skills and techniques that were discussed during training and professional development. To do this, you need to test the knowledge level, skills and attitudes of the participants before and after each session with interviews or verbal assessments.

Level 3: Behaviour – You then need to check how your employees were able to apply the information or skills that they have learned to their job. However, you need to take into account the organisational culture and management practices when assessing behavioural changes. The employees may have learned a lot during training and professional development, however may fail to apply it because of an unsupportive organisational culture or a boss that fails to recognise the behavioural changes; thus leading workers to revert to their old ways. Evaluating behaviour entails conducting interviews or observing employees for a couple months or a year after the training and professional development program ended.

Level 4: ResultsResults pertain to the impact of the training and professional development on your business. Did the program increase productivity, sales or customer satisfaction? Was it able to reduce turnover? You need to assign a monetary value to the benefits your business experienced for measurement. This will then lead you to compute for the actual ROI.

The ROI Equation

Computing for the ROI of Employee Training and Professional Development involves subtracting the cost of training and professional development from the monetary benefits, dividing the result by the monetary benefits, and multiplying this by 100 to get the percentage value for the ROI. For instance, a skills development program at a facility producing small engines generated about AUD 500,000 in benefits through increased productivity and sales. The cost of the program was AUD 100,000. Therefore, ROI can be calculated as shown below:

ROI = [(500,000 – 100,000)/100,000] x 100
ROI = 400%

Using the example above, the ROI of the skills development program is 400%. This means that for every dollar invested in training and professional development, the company earns back four dollars. With this information, senior management can now decide whether the investment on employee training and professional development is worthwhile and how much is appropriate.

Employee development doesn’t have to be elaborate or costly, and the right investment can have substantial payoff in terms of productivity and long-term loyalty. People care if you take a genuine interest in their future, and are likely to return the favour toward your business through their contribution.


‘Mum Connector’ Belinda Jennings Wins Entrepreneurs Scholarship

Founder and CEO of Mum Central, Australian Baby Bargains and Mum’s Pantry, Belinda Jennings is the winner of the 2015 Behind Closed Doors’ (BCD) Adelaide Entrepreneurs Scholarship.

Ms Jennings launched Adelaide Baby Bargains five years ago as a new first-time mum, and using her sales and marketing experience rapidly grew the business, revolutionising the way parents buy and sell children’s products online.

Ms Jennings will look to use the scholarship to open new doors, tap into the minds of some of Adelaide’s most influential leaders and push the boundaries to assist in growing her business.

Announcing the results at BCD’s quarterly Connexions event last night (September 8, 2015), the Founder and Managing Director of the leading business women’s professional development and mentoring company Donny Walford said Ms Jennings was a worthy winner of the 12-month scholarship, valued at over $5,500.

“While the scholarship attracted an impressive array of applicants, the judges felt that Belinda was the standout winner and her passion for her business and entrepreneurial spirit was nothing short of inspirational.

“Belinda has a very clear vision for the future direction of her business and has a passion to inspire and connect with people.

“BCDs Entrepreneurs program will provide Belinda with a professional sounding board and support network where she can discuss professional and personal issues, challenges and strategies in a totally confidential environment while, at the same time, encourage other members to extend themselves to achieve and succeed in new environments,” Ms Walford said.

Ms Jennings believes the BCD Entrepreneurs membership will assist her seek out support and ideas to extend herself personally and professionally.

“I’m actively seeking an opportunity to connect into a safe, secure and empowering network that can assist me on my entrepreneurial journey, and access mentors that will help me continue my growth and development as a business leader,” she said.

Runners-up for the scholarship were Marissa Schulze, Managing Director of Rise High Financial Solutions and Sarah Gun, Owner of GOGO Events.

Think Smart About Your Top Line To Grow Your Bottom Line

In the business world, there has always been the talk of whether enterprises should grow their top line or their bottom line. But what exactly do both these terms mean?

The top line pertains to the gross sales or revenue of the company. An increase in the top line can mean an uptick in sales or clients. On the other hand, the bottom line refers to the income of the company after expenses and income taxes have been subtracted from the revenue. The bottom line is otherwise known as the company’s net earnings or net profits.

Simply put, the top line shows the performance of the company in raising sales of its products or services. Meanwhile, the bottom line pertains to the efficiency of the business in keeping costs down while being able to drive sales. So, which line should businesses focus on?

In the long term, it can be detrimental for a company that only looks at the top line over the bottom line, or vice versa. Growing the top line calls for an increase in production to generate more sales. However, this will entail more materials and equipment, thereby adding costs. Similarly, encouraging more clients to sign up for your services will require additional personnel, which will involve spending on more resources and applications that your growing workforce would use, as well as increasing people in sales. When hiring employees, there are costs incurred; such as training and providing benefits. In return, these expenses will eat up into the revenue, and may not result in additional income/profit.

Meanwhile, increasing the bottom line can involve cutting expenses. This can either compromise the quality of the product, or prevent your business from exploring growth opportunities. For service-related enterprises, scrimping on labour, materials or equipment can make your clients feel unsatisfied with what they have paid for. Using unreliable suppliers, partners or materials can put your quality of products or services at risk. As a result, your clients may switch over to your competitors, while you risk losing a talented workforce.

In both scenarios, it will be hard to sustain business growth.

Therefore, entrepreneurs and executives need to focus on a mixed approach to improve both the top line and the bottom line, as they influence each other greatly. Though this may seem like a difficult undertaking, it can be achieved by rethinking the strategy on marketing, product value and enhancing the efficiency of your workforce.

Three ways to raise both the top line and the bottom line:

1. Be strategic in your marketing to win the right clients – Your marketing strategy needs to attract the right clients, or the people that can contribute to the long-term profitability of your business through their purchasing behaviour. To do this, you need to make use of content that opens up the interest of your audience, and gives them the reason to purchase from you. Once you have them on-board, form relationships with them to ensure repeat business. It is crucial to check the return of investment of (ROI) of your content and your strategy to achieve efficiency and effectiveness in your expenses. With this approach of quality over quantity of clients, you promote sustainable top line growth, while also benefiting your bottom line.

2. Know your service or product’s value to your clients – When you form relationships with your clients, strive to know the benefits or reward that they get from your product or your service. This will guide you in correctly pricing your products and services, as well as directing your investment toward the attributes of your product/service that your clients enjoy. As a result, they will likely promote your product/service to others, without adding to your marketing costs. Focusing on the client benefit of your product or service can also protect you from losing clients if you need to raise prices to grow your bottom line. Furthermore, it can help you determine potential areas for expanding your product/service and your business.

3. Engage your workforce in pursuing growthIdentifying the client benefit of your products and services can help you discover potential opportunities for innovation, or new revenue streams. For this to be successful, you need to engage your workforce through your company’s initiatives. Make sure that they understand the company’s goals in innovating, so that they are willing to work hard to reach it. This requires continuous communication, so encourage them to provide feedback on your initiatives and offer their own ideas in tapping new revenue streams. Remember to show appreciation for their efforts to ensure employee retention while expanding your market.