There are seven areas leaders and managers need to focus on to increase employee engagement and enhance workplace performance, according to the head of HR for global recruitment firm Talent International.
The firm, which was recently recognised in Gallup’s global 2019 Great Workplace Awards (the only recruitment company in the world and one of only two Australian-based companies to be recognised in the group of winners), has achieved consistently high levels of employee engagement through investing in its people to create a positive, supportive employee experience.
This has had a direct impact on business performance, with Talent jumping from position 96 last year to 87 this year in Australia’s 500 Top Private Companies list, with a reported group turnover of $640 million for FY19 and a year-on-year growth of 16 per cent.
Talent was recognised by Gallup for a number of key initiatives, including increased communication at all levels of the business, a new online training program, a real-time recognition tool, and a reinvention of the company’s values (with input from all employees in every region).
April Marcot, head of people & culture at Talent, explained that the firm has focused on creating a culture that thrives on high performance, embraces difference, and embodies its values.
“Our teams feel connected to, and deeply passionate about our vision and purpose,” she said.
“Our management team understands the intrinsic relationship between performance and engagement.”
Marcot explained that there have been seven areas that leaders and managers across the business focus on to drive employee engagement and performance.
1. Establish your baseline
Marcot explained that it is important to start with understanding the current level of employee engagement within your organisation.
“It’s not where you start but where you go from there that matters,” she said.
An engagement survey can help establish a baseline to work from, and this can provide facts, figures and anecdotes to assist in measuring the different areas of engagement.
“Our management team understands the intrinsic relationship between performance and engagement”
“If your company measures well in areas relating to social engagement but low in relation to training and development – you will know which areas to focus on and plan around for improvement,” said Marcot, who added that this will also help make qualitative work more measurable later in the process.
“Listen to your people, they will give you the answers you need, and, at the same time, they will appreciate being asked,” she said.
“They might even offer much simpler and more intuitive solutions than grand corporate schemes.”
2. Impact of managers
While initiatives, incentives and programs from head office are important to increase employee engagement, Marcot said it’s the relationship between team members and the manager that is responsible for 70 per cent of employee engagement and, therefore, productivity.
“This has been quantified in an enormous amount workplace research including Gallup studies, and from my own experience, I have found it to be the most important factor in creating an engaged team,” she said.
“Start with giving your managers the tools and support they need to get it right. Give them the autonomy to lead, encourage them to communicate and listen, set clear goals, and give feedback regularly.”
3. Play to their strengths
It is also important to help connect people with the right positions within the company, as Marcot said this helps them progress in their career by allowing and encouraging them to do what they are good at.
“Develop people in their roles individually, and help them become leaders in their field, within their strengths and interests,” she said.
“You don’t need to be a manager to be a leader, as career progression means different things to different people.”
Marcot explained that not everyone wants to be (or can be a manager of people) but everyone can be a leader, given the right opportunity.
4. Connect culture and performance
Clearly communicated values that resonate with employees will go a long way in shaping behaviour and identifying behavioural expectations, Marcot added.
These values need to be communicated and reinforced constantly, in various ways to reach everyone.
“Showing support and caring for your team members does not come at the expense of performance, it actually improves it”
“If you don’t already have clearly defined values, or they need a refresh, get everyone involved in helping to define them,” she said.
“Give them a sense of ownership and accountability in creating and living them.”
Leaders and managers need to be prepared to make some hard calls to show they not only support but also live by these values.
5. Communicate and have meaningful conversations
The importance of communication in employee engagement should not be underestimated, according to Marcot, who said to “overcommunicate with everyone all the time”.
“Make communications global, local, in writing, in person and in teams,” she said.
“Share the vision, the plans and the progress, celebrate the wins, and share learnings for improvement.”
This helps people feel involved and connected to the purpose of the company.
“Taking the time to genuinely listen is one of the most effective ways to understand the people in your organisation; it’s also a great way to learn from them in order to be a better leader.”
6. Celebrate success
Within Talent, teams are motivated by helping them understand what success looks like, and by helping them understand how it was achieved.
“Start with recognising good behaviour, catch people doing a great job and acknowledge it,” said Marcot.
“By sharing the highs and lows of their own journey, leaders and managers can help their team members to see that success comes from sustained hard work, not by having the magic touch.”
7. Kindness is not a weakness
Treating people with respect and kindness does not mean there cannot be a strong focus on performance, added Marcot, who said this can strongly influence employee engagement.
“Celebrating people’s differences and opinions, respecting social and emotional needs, will result in an engaged team wanting to push harder and go the extra mile,” she said.
“Showing support and caring for your team members does not come at the expense of performance, it actually improves it.
“Allowing people to bring their whole selves to work will ensure they continue to come to work, and love being there.”