How championing the talent agenda heightens an employer’s brand reputation
By JI-HAO LEE
As Malaysia moves towards becoming an economically developed, high-income nation, many organisations including multinational companies, public and private enterprises, government-linked companies, and even small and medium-sized enterprises are becoming more aware of the significance and impact of driving high levels of employee engagement and having strong people practices at the workplace.
This then brings them to the question: What constitutes a “best employer”?
Throughout my consulting career, I have had the opportunity to work with a mix of diverse organisations from various industries looking to achieve the same agenda.
I have learnt along the way that there is no perfect formula to achieving this goal. Every organisation will have its own distinct challenges, opportunities and successes depending on each organisation’s people initiatives, management support, effort and appetite to drive a culture of strong employee engagement.
Becoming the best employer is a journey, and every organisation is at different stages of this journey.
To evaluate exactly where an organisation lies in this journey, it is necessary to measure and continuously take action on the drivers of engagement.
Here are some of the steps that successful organisations take when charting the pathway to become an employer of choice.
Step 1: Capture the employees’ voices
An increasing number of organisations today are investing in the effort to measure employee engagement and satisfaction. While some do it internally and others turn to external providers, it is important that employees truly understand the intent of such initiatives and provide open and honest feedback to the management.
In the recently concluded Aon Hewitt Best Employers Malaysia 2015 programme, 89% of participating organisations currently measure engagement and use this external study as an additional measuring tool, while 11% leverage it as the main measure of employee engagement.
Either way, it is undeniable that measuring engagement is an important option today.
Rollout tip: Never ask for individual identifiers when conducting internal surveys. Anonymity is crucial in ensuring accurate, sincere and open feedback from employees.
Step 2: Generate insights
Any survey conducted should lead to data analysis. Not doing so would be counter-productive as employees’ expectations of outcomes and actions would have increased through participation in the survey.
By fully leveraging data, organisations should be able to generate actionable insights based on various employee demographics and engagement drivers.
In identifying actionable insights, what exactly would be useful in creating an impact on engagement?
See Figure 1.
Best employers fare way above the market average across all four pillars, and there are plenty of leading practices to learn from them. Where does your organisation stand in this chart?
This chart clearly shows that while measuring engagement is a must, equal importance should also be placed on having a compelling employer brand, with a well-defined employee value proposition; developing effective leaders, through robust leadership assessment and development programmes; as well as driving a high performance culture where performance is clearly measured and rewarded through strong pay-for-performance rewards interventions.
Rollout tip: As in most internal surveys, overall engagement is just a single number that represents the whole organisation. Demographic cuts and further engagement driver analysis breakdowns will help identify specific areas for action.
Step 3: Take action
The human resources (HR) function usually takes the lead in conducting the survey, and developing action plans. However, it is important that management buy-in and involvement is in place from the start so that action plans do not remain on Excel spreadsheets.
Leveraging on the insights generated from the survey, full management teams should consult together and verify the issues, before deciding on the areas that should be prioritised.
During implementation of action plans, 89% of best employers hold people managers accountable for driving action, compared to 77% of market average.
While it is important to place responsibility and accountability on managers, it is equally important to ensure they are fully equipped and enabled to execute. Sixty-seven per cent of best employers provide action planning training for their people managers while only 36% do at market average.
Focus and direct involvement of managers in taking action create a positive impact on employees, as they are the ones who have a direct impact on the employees’ daily work life.
Rollout tip: HR may sometimes be very ambitious in developing action plans, but do not always get management support in implementation.
Be pragmatic in developing action plans, get management buy-in early, and build a culture where engagement is the responsibility of every manager, not just HR.
Step 4: Communicate
Employees need to be clearly informed of the steps taken by the organisation that addresses their concerns in improving their overall working environment.
While not every concern can be resolved, employees need to know the status and outcomes of their feedback. A regular communication plan roll-out using various channels for reminders and communication sessions will close the feedback loop and maintain the momentum of driving employee engagement.
Rollout tip: An organisation-wide theme, including logo and tagline are always very effective in driving the engagement culture amongst employees. Employees will relate to this theme easily, therefore improving communication through various channels.
Tips for employees: If your organisation has been conducting periodic employee surveys, is the feedback loop closed through all the actions above? If it isn’t, it is time to raise it in the next employee townhall meeting!
Trust in Action
Once an organisation has gathered employee voice, generated actionable insights, developed action plans and communicated them, how do we know and measure its effectiveness at creating an impact on employees?
Recent Aon Hewitt research shows that employees who trust their organisation to act on their feedback, have a higher level of engagement.
So when organisations conduct an engagement survey, it is critical that they act on the results. When leaders promise changes, they must follow through. We call this “Trust in Action”.
Best Employers have highly engaged employees, a strong and compelling employer brand, effective leadership and high performance cultures. Trust in Action scores have a direct and significant correlation with these four themes. This shows that high levels of trust in organisations contribute to whether those organisations are Best Employers.
(See Figure 2.)
Trust is at the heart of employee engagement. Employees will become more trusting, if they see their leaders taking action based on the feedback provided. Leaders should respond quickly after an engagement survey, present a realistic action plan, involve employees in the solutions, hold managers accountable and monitor progress closely.
Of course, leaders themselves need to be engaged in order to engage and build trust in their teams.
By taking these basic steps in measuring and improving employee engagement, with focus on effective people programmes and coupled with significant effort in building the trust of employees, organisations will put themselves on the right path on the journey to becoming a best employer.
Some organisations may take longer than others on this journey, but the key is to measure regularly and keep the momentum; with continuous improvements along the way.
The Aon Hewitt Best Employers Malaysia programme, in partnership with TalentCorp Malaysia and myStarjob.com provides a platform to identify engagement levels, leadership effectiveness, employer brand and culture to drive high performance.
Best practices in talent management are shared with participating organisations and results are benchmarked against other aspiring or recognised Best Employers in Malaysia and Asia.
The registration for the 2016 programme is now open. More information about this programme is available at www.bestemployersasia.com.
Ji-Hao is a senior consultant with Aon Hewitt’s Talent & Engagement Practice in Malaysia and also the country project manager for the Best Employers Malaysia 2015 programme. For more information, drop us a line in the comment box below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Consulting Corner articles, click here.
Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 21 March 2015