After attending the recent, annual Employee Engagement & Employer Branding conference, 3 themes were prevalent: stress, social media and the significance of surveys…
Higher stress levels and longer hours are with us for the next three years according to Towers Watson’s Global Workforce Study. The cracks are already starting to show. Employees – having put up with increased responsibility, static pay, and curtailed career development – are losing the will and the inclination to go that extra mile, with 32% of those polled in a recent research report thinking about moving job. This year’s Employee Engagement & Employer Branding 2012 conference brought together some of the leading lights of the engagement industry to discuss how employers can both maintain and improve the discretionary and motivation levels needed in these difficult times.
Towers Watson argued that the root cause could lie with the leadership team: distracted by what they see as the crucial bottom line issue they have inadvertently sidelined the people management agenda. Pinea3 urged organisations to reconsider themselves as a living system with their own energy and to use this energy to drive the business forward. Instead of withdrawing into their own space, leaders need to ‘expand’ themselves, by trusting their creativity and energising their workforce.
Consider how much you really know about engagement as an organisation, said Nicholas Higgins of Valuentis? Take time to think about whether your approach to engagement is to ‘play down’, play act, play safe, or play make – ‘play make’ being the top end of the scale where employee engagement is completely embedded in the core of the organisation.
Enlightening case studies included insurance services group Phoenix, who had embarked on a programme of embedding core values into their engagement strategy. True success came, however, from handing ownership of the programme to executive managers, and not, as is usually the case, HR. New Look revealed how their HR team took the organisation from a brand that had forgotten what it’s prime objective was (fast fashion) to a profitable, sustainable business through a series of leadership programmes, using their values as instructions – not just ’good-to-have’ guides. This was a theme echoed in a DHL case study by Maverick. Having become disconnected with their business focus, they tapped into their creativity to reconnect both the management team and their employees by storytelling, all the while aligning the story with the business vision and strategy.
Through the delegates’ buzz of conversation at the conference the one topic that seemed to trigger the most angst was social media. Employee engagement and employer branding are more linked now than ever before through the digital revolution. Most organisations are petrified of losing control of their brand and of what was primarily a marketing/PR capability. The message from Michele Wagner at the engineering and construction group URS, was that social media shouldn’t be about the technology itself – but about the people who use it. Be brave, was the advice, by creating a clear and consistent social media policy. Don’t do it on the cheap, make sure you embed the social media strategy to your business strategy and use it as a means to establish expertise, foster relationships with your employees and share industry news. Remember, it’s the conversations that people are having with each other – not necessarily with you – that can define your employer brand was the conclusion.
Kenexa focussed on the benefits of turning big data, specifically survey results, into big outcomes. Think about your EPV, measure what matters and then isolate the issues and improve them. Three years ago Virgin Holidays were shocked to discover that only 46% of their workforce believed the organisation lived their values. They isolated customer service as the key to greater returns and instigated a programme of rewarding staff for living their values with incentives directly linked to performance.
But what happens when results from engagement surveys are positive but sales growth is stalling? Astellas Pharma experienced just this. Having to contend with the external pressures of patents expiring, declining western markets and an increasing marketplace in emerging economies – albeit with an engaged workforce – they realised that an integrated leadership programme was the crux to securing consistent growth and development.
Insurance group RSA’s novel approach to their leadership programme was to ‘buddy’ up members of their leadership team with frontline employees, creating a greater sense of partnership and a more cohesive feeling of mission and purpose. At a different management level Rentokil, faced with declining loyalty levels, recognised that it was engaging the line manager that was critical to driving higher levels of customer retention. Their survey results revealed that a 3% improvement in manager engagement, through structured training and more face-to-face interaction, had resulted in a 1% increase in employee retention (saving the company up to £1m in recruitment costs).
Reports suggest that the employee engagement gap between average and high performing organisations is widening. Over the course of two days Employee Engagement & Employer Branding’s revealing and illuminating presentations underlined the fact that – as one delegate disclosed – a brand’s reputation can be seen to sit in the intersection between employee engagement and sustainability. Only then can there be true authenticity, making the business attractive to employees who in turn engage both customers and stakeholders.
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Registrations are now open for our Engage Europe 2013 conference. With over 100 attendees in 2012, Engage Europe is a truly global interactive forum, where delegates attend from Eastern and Western Europe, America, Asia and the Middle East, to learn, share ideas and best practice and discuss ways to overcome challenges involved in employee engagement and employer branding in today’s economy, from a non-UK perspective.
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