Aon Hewitt’s 2015 Report on Trends in Global Employee Engagement provides the good news that employee engagement is on the rise globally, with Asia in a favourable position. The report states “Business and talent strategies are intimately connected; leadership and employee engagement are essential for success. The best companies build and sustain a culture of engagement, led by CEOs who understand that employee engagement is not just a “nice to have” but critical to achieving business results. Leaders in these elite organizations also understand that employee engagement is primarily their responsibility.” The studies indicate statistically significant relationships between higher levels of employee engagement and financial performance. It states “In previous studies, we found that a 5% increase in employee engagement is linked to a 3% increase in revenue growth in the subsequent year.” This should assure many employers who are not completely convinced about a clear and measurable relationship that probably hinders their investment in the “happiness within” factor, their people.
Until a few years ago, in working with many MNCs and SMEs, we often used to be asked by clients, especially budget-strapped SMEs, if employee engagement has to be an important part of the branding project, should staff be involved or whether only management involvement would suffice? Some went on to say to share the difficulty of getting staff into an engagement workshop or group discussion within working hours, even if it was an hour or two. We aimed to convince them of the importance and thankfully they usually agreed. These clients went on to eventually appreciate the effort and investment. Things are changing for the better – more and more clients are proactively asking us about how they engage their employees consistently and meaningfully. A welcome and refreshing change surely!
Putting people first
Thankfully, many small to mid sized companies are realising that engaging employees is not the sole prerogative of the large global companies like Google or Facebook. Engagement with your people is not about free gym facilities, snooker tables, cool cafeterias, free food or high salaries; it is about a deeper bond. Great employee engagement is about putting your people at the heart (the “within”) of your business and brand. Many agile and dynamic employers are using both functional and emotive benefits to attract and retain valuable employees. The emotive part of building and engaging is gaining further momentum with the millennials entering the workforce in larger numbers. As per a report by PwC (Millenials at Work, Shaping the Workplace), millenials “do not like rigid corporate structures and are turned off by information silos”. They seek a culture that is empowering, empathetic, encouraging and flexible. The report states, “They want to feel their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are being recognised. And they value similar things in an employer brand as they do in a consumer brand. These are all characteristics that employers can actively address.” Honestly, while this research represents the expectations of the Millenials, I can’t imagine anyone who is not a millennial also not desiring all these characteristics in the culture of the company they work for!
So employers look within and see if your culture puts people at the heart of your business and brand, and very importantly it also embodies values that lie within human beings themselves, of empathy, encouragement and respect. Everything else will follow, with or without the snooker tables and free food!