The face of business is changing… Employees have more power than ever, they can influence culture, drive the customer experience, impact sales and influence the image of your employer brand. This power, if recognised and appropriately harnessed, can help businesses achieve a powerful competitive advantage in any industry. Attracting, developing, engaging and retaining the best talent is now, more than ever, the biggest challenge facing businesses small and large today. Put simply, great people make a great organisation; which is the key to future proofing.
The business case for employee engagement is clear. While engagement and culture is considered the number one global business issue (Deloitte), and engaged companies are recognised as growing profits up to three times faster (Corporate Leadership Council), according to Gallup, only 13% of employees do more than ‘turn up on time’ and meet minimum expectations. A great place to work is about designing an organisational structure that allows people to excel. And by those employees excelling, they will deliver business results.
Sandy Nessing, Managing Director Corporate Sustainability at American Electric Power (AEP), recently stated in an interview that, without employee engagement, it’s impossible for businesses to execute on their business strategy or achieve business goals. Some people still raise their eyes when they hear the term, though this is only because so many businesses are paying its vital topic lip service or doing it poorly.
For an employee engagement strategy to be truly successful, it has to be a priority on the board agenda, fully supported by owners, investors and the entire executive team. If the future of business is in people, it means that it’s no longer just HR that must ‘own’ the ‘people stuff’. It’s a business imperative for every leader in a business to embrace.
Some key things to consider to ensure your business is properly future proofing:
1. Leadership and management are undergoing a revolution
In the post-industrial age, where information is often the most precious commodity a business has, companies need to have their direction and business philosophy defined. Employees no longer want to be given instructions for specific tasks, but to become part of a clear purpose defined by a strong leader.
Organisations are waking up to the idea that top-down hierarchies are no longer sustainable or efficient for all companies. With more and more millennials flooding the workforce, it’s not enough for leadership to simply notch up a positive tick on the revenue chart anymore (Forbes).
Millennials require strong coaches and role models. They expect to be respected and treated as the adults they are. If they feel like they aren’t getting this from their workplace, they will go elsewhere. So, leaders will need to show they value their employees and help them to build their strengths.
It is therefore important for organisations to define what leadership ‘looks like’ in their organisation. This means articulating the behaviours …
2. Create real value for employees, with a compelling experience
The idea that ‘your team is only as good as the people in it’ is no longer just motivational lip service. It’s a truth business leaders shouldn’t underestimate. The backbone of any successful business is its culture. It’s nothing new, but now is the time to check back and make sure that your company values are not just ‘words written on a sign on your wall’.
Culture sets the tone for everything that happens within an organisation, defining how your people behave, how your teams interact – driving the business towards success. In small businesses this happens naturally, and then it becomes diluted as they grow. Martin Kuczmarski, chief operating officer at Soho House & Co, explains in The People Formula by Jane Sunley: “It’s so important to create a strong and recognisable culture. This is not about printed collateral and so on; it’s about keeping the message simple. It’s about making sure that everyone, from the highest level down, ‘lives it’ on a continuous basis.”
More than ever, people want to work somewhere with real mission and purpose, where they can contribute and feel proud doing it. They need to know what their company stands for, and trust in their leaders to support and guide them.
3. Software reshapes how people engage with each other
Talent management is about attracting, engaging, developing, progressing and retaining your people; making use of their skills and knowledge in the best way for both individual and organisation. A talent management system will therefore help to do this by digitising the processes and bringing about a bottom-up approach. Companies are beginning to move away from dry print-out review processes and realising that a two-way conversation between leadership and teams is far more engaging than a one-way dialogue.
Now, thanks to employee engagement software, leadership and teams can now have an ongoing, dynamic dialogue around performance. For a big-picture approach, you’ll need access to clear analytics to be able to plan and deliver your people strategy. If you haven’t introduced people analytics to your organisation, or you are a business that isn’t getting the results you need, it is worthwhile taking things back to basics without trying to ‘boil an ocean’.
More so than ever, employees are asking, ‘Does this organisation value my strengths, my contribution and does it allow me to demonstrate this every day?’ For many employees, a job is no longer just a job, it’s part of where they find purpose, and business leaders’ need to listen up and get in-tune with the needs of today’s workforce – before it’s too late.