A revamped approach to talent management, employer branding, leadership development and HR systems has helped contribute to double-digit growth in MYOB Group’s bottom line as well as a near 10 per cent lift in employee engagement, according to its head of people and performance, Alla Keogh.

“We operate in an industry that’s undergoing significant transformation, and our ability to adapt to change and build resilience in the way we operate have been critical to success,” said Keogh.

With significant change and disruption to the industry over the past several years, Keogh said the transition of MYOB’s products, services and offerings to the cloud have created a need for some “fairly major changes” to the organisation and its culture, as well as a significant shift in its work practices.

“Something that we’ve been working really hard on more recently is the right positioning of our talent brand in the market,” she said.

“We’ve really had to turn perceptions around, because MYOB has been around for around for more than 25 years, this carries with it a perception from the labour market around what type of organisation we are.

“It’s been a challenge to shift that,” said Keogh, who explained that as the business has moved more of its products and clients into the cloud, it has needed to attract a “very different kind of individual” to the business.

“We’ve also needed to take those key people in our business who have been with us for a very long time, on that journey,” she explained.

Revitalising the employer brand
MYOB Group, which provides accounting, payroll, tax, practice management, CRM, job costing, inventory and other services to about 1.2 million businesses across Australia and New Zealand, has revamped its employer brand in the process.

“We’ve really focused on changing job seekers’ perception of our employment brand,” said Keogh.

“The way in which we’ve done that is to take the opportunity to showcase the way in which we’ve changed, and the way which our work practices and our culture has changed, and taking that out into the market,” she said.

“We’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about how we address the diversity issue in our industry.

“We have successfully rallied all 1,200 of our employees around that message, and this has really reinforced the type of culture that we’ve been trying to build”

“We have a number of initiatives that are about attracting girls and women to IT careers, as well as developing future women leaders and creating those pipelines both internally and externally.”

Keogh explained that one of the things that have been “incredibly successful” for MYOB in the process is understanding what resonates with employees from an employment or talent brand perspective.

“We have developed a message around what we do and our purpose, and why that matters – not only to our people but also the impact that it has on our client base and the Australian-New Zealand economy at large,” said Keogh.

“By really identifying what that purpose is, and creating a message that is aligned with our vision and our values, we have successfully rallied all 1,200 of our employees around that message, and this has really reinforced the type of culture that we’ve been trying to build.”

Driving customer engagement
Last year the MYOB launched its latest three-year strategic plan, with a strong focus on investing in product innovation and identifying acquisition opportunities that will support the business’ organic growth.

There are a number of opportunities in MYOB’s core markets across Australia and New Zealand, according to Keogh, who said other opportunities lie in the areas of cloud penetration, automation and connectivity for customers.

“It’s really all about making their business life easier and simpler,” said Keogh, who explained that MYOB is moving towards a single platform which will allow all of its clients to integrate their systems and collaborate in new and different ways.

“We find that our new clients and our existing clients often have very different needs, and there is a significant customer base that is still using our desktop of products.

“Some of them are moving online, while for others it’s about supporting them with the products that they’re currently using.”

“It is not something that the HR teams owns; it is something that the business absolutely owns, and feels responsible for”

MYOB has also invested in the creation of a new workspace (based in Richmond Victoria) which employs the latest in technology for up to 250 of its technical engineering and product teams in a single facility.

“So all of these investments are very much about positioning us well to succeed over the next three years,” she said.

There are four strategic pillars of success within MYOB: clients, financials, customer loyalty, and employee engagement, and Keogh said these four pillars are critical to driving commercial value within the business.

MYOB employs net promote scores to measure client engagement, and Keogh said there is an equally strong focus on measuring, driving and acting on employee feedback.

“This accountability is cascaded right through the business,” she said.

“It is not something that the HR teams owns; it is something that the business absolutely owns, and feels responsible for.”

Getting everyone on the same strategy page
“Having a clear strategy and a real clarity in the way that we align our top line business goals and cascade them through our workforce is something that we spend a lot of time on,” said Keogh.

MYOB employs a framework called ‘Hashtag Results’ which helps ensure every person in the business understands how their individual contribution and the contribution of their team impacts one or more of our four strategic pillars.

The business has also invested heavily over the past 18 months in technology that has allowed it to increase levels of transparency at every level, through the deployment of solutions including Cornerstone OnDemand as well as Culture Amp.

“Often when you’re talking about moving from one type of HR tool or system to another, this doesn’t always have immediate benefits,” she said.

“We’re moving in that big data space where we’re able to combine employee engagement data with other indicators, metrics and data that we collect from around the business”

“For us, there’s been a significant change as we’ve moved away from the traditional engagement survey approach to a much more dynamic approach has had an immediate impact on the business.”

Employee engagement is evolving in different ways as a result, and Keogh explained that she expects this will get a point where it will always be “on”.

“Rather than measuring engagement at a point in time, I think we will actually evolve to collecting employee feedback and measuring engagement on an ongoing basis,” she said.

“I also see that there will be a lot more correlation and triangulation of data, so we’re moving in that big data space where we’re able to combine employee engagement data with other indicators, metrics and data that we collect from around the business to be able to predict employee behaviour in a much more sophisticated way than we currently do.”

The evolution of employee engagement
There are a number of key drivers of employee engagement within MYOB, according to Keogh, who said that it is important to ensure the employee experience of culture and brand are consistent throughout the employee life-cycle – and that these are also conveyed in every customer interaction.

“There’s no gap between what our employees experience, what we want our employees to experience, and what we want our clients to experience,” she said.

“There’s got to be an absolute connection and consistency in that experience.”

MYOB has been able to achieve an almost 10 per cent increase in employee engagement as a result of the above, with corresponding increases in productivity, retention and a reduction in employee attrition.

“There’s no gap between what our employees experience, what we want our employees to experience, and what we want our clients to experience”

“We also have a record retention rate among our client base, which is really telling us that we’re doing a lot of things right,” she said.

We also look at things like revenue per salesperson, so by measuring and acting on employee feedback in a much more timely way we’re able to get much more traction in making changes in our business.

“We have also seen the impact on our bottom line results, and have continued to deliver double-digit growth.

“While we may not be growing as rapidly as some of the newer software companies, we have a very strong and a very sustainable business.

“Through driving employee engagement and our vision, values and culture, we’ve helped empower our employees to really focus on creating wow experiences for our customers. “Ultimately, that’s what helps us grow out our subscriber base and increase our customer loyalty.”

Improving leadership quality and management capability
There has been a strong focus on talent management and MYOB’s internal talent bench-strength, and Keogh said it was important to understand at any given point in time where its capabilities, strengths and gaps were.

“So this was about planning to address those gaps in a very proactive way, through succession planning, building internal talent pipelines and being much more proactive at identifying external talent for roles that don’t yet exist,” she said.

“We worked very closely with the business and key managers to understanding what the current and future needs are, and put plans in place to address those.”

Leadership development has also been a strong focus for Keogh and her HR team, and she said MYOB’s CEO is a big believer in the fact that “everyone deserves an exceptional manager”.

“About 12 months ago, we decided to turn that belief into a reality within our business,” she said.

“There has been a significant shift and increase in the quality of the relationships between our managers and their people”

“We implemented what we call our ‘management right philosophy’, which is all about the right team doing the right thing in the right way and driving the right results.

“Every six months we collect and measure upward feedback on every single manager in our organisation around five management competencies: clarity, accountability, growth, recognition and meaning.

“Our expectation is that every manager will have an average score of eight or above on that management right goal, or they shouldn’t be a manager,” she said.

MYOB measures management effectiveness every six months, and closely tracks both the time that its people are spending on compliance activities, the time that they’re spending in important conversations, and dialogue of performance feedback.

“We know that the time they’re spending on compliance and people management activities has decreased,” she said

“What that has enabled is an increase in the time that they’re spending face-to-face and having dialogues with their people.

“There has been a significant shift and increase in the quality of the relationships between our managers and their people, and that comes through in our upwards feedback process.”

Image: Hayden Brotchie