Engaged employees: Engine of an enterprise

Monday, 22 November 2010 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

We cannot think of results without people. It is not all employees that contribute to organisational success, as we discussed in the last column. Engaged employees make the difference. They are the engine of the enterprise that they are working for. Let’s explore why.

There is ample evidence to demonstrate how employee engagement has acted as a driver for organisational success. In a more symbolic manner, they become the engine of their enterprise. This is visible through a variety of success stories across the globe. They also portray the essence of employees’ head, hands and heart involvement in work.

The world’s first “astropreneur”

The first case is about the world’s first “astropreneur,” as BBC coined the term. Sir Richard Branson has moved beyond from just being an entrepreneur to a new venture of taking tourists to outer space. His views on engaging employees are worth noting.

“Staff first, customers second, and shareholders third, is something I really believe. I am of the opinion that my employees should be given top priority. Therefore it is necessary to create a friendly, supportive, non-hierarchical, family-like atmosphere in all my companies, an ambiance in which people have fun and enjoy themselves.”

Branson uses the term, “I believe”. Not I guess, I suspect, I assume or I think. It shows the strong conviction of the need for people. Not just people, but engaged employees.

Such an approach has shown exceptional results by his venture capital conglomerate, Virgin Group. Having core business areas of travel, entertainment and lifestyle, the net worth of Virgin Group exceeds Sterling Pounds 5 billion. It consists of more than 400 companies around the world, with engaged employees.

Nayar’s innovative approaches

The next case is of Indian origin. Vineet Nayar, the CEO of a $2.3 billion company called HCL Technologies, with 60,000 professionals in 26 countries where his approach of “employees first and customers second” has yielded results. Nayar’s innovative approaches to strengthen employee engagement have resulted in threefold expansion of operating profits since 2005, despite global recession.

The Marriott method

Another story is about Karl Fischer, regional Vice President of Human Resources at Marriott International. He says that higher employee engagement at Marriott means:

  • 12% higher revenue per compensation dollar
  • 9% higher house profit margin
  • 9% of guests are less likely to have problems and
  • 11% of guests are more likely to return

“The Morrison Way”

The above numbers aptly justify the enhanced results through engaged employees.

Soyars and Brusino, researchers of organisational behaviour report an employee engagement story of Morrison. It is a multinational which provides food, nutrition, and dining services to the healthcare and senior living markets, employs more than 14,000 employees in more than 450 locations.

According to them, the company is guided by a mission statement called “The Morrison Way,” which focuses on five core values — trust, team, customer focus, learning, and profit. It represents Morrison’s culture in which people are the driving force.

One of the ways Morrison fosters connections at work is through a program called CHAT (Communication, Help, And Training). CHAT is a monthly meeting that covers anything from safety to well-being. Because the topics of these meetings transcend the workplace, they offer managers and employees the opportunity to discuss issues on a more personal level, allowing them to develop a richer relationship.

In addition to CHAT, Morrison uses a format of daily meetings that keep employees current on events in the workplace and reinforce key messages of service and training. According to them, Morrison also provides learning opportunities through stretch assignments and encourages growth through yearly reviews and a development plan for every employee.

MoisonCoors’ success story

Lockwood, another researcher, shares a success story of a US-based beverage company called MoisonCoors. It was found there that engaged employees were five times less likely than non-engaged employees to have a safety incident and seven times less likely to have a lost-time safety incident.

In fact, the average cost of a safety incident for an engaged employee was $63, compared with an average of $392 for a non-engaged employee. Consequently, through strengthening employee engagement, the company had saved $1,721,760 in safety costs in 2002. In addition, savings were found in sales performance teams through engagement. Encouraging results were found even during the recent recession.

Royal Bank of Scotland’s approach

Royal Bank of Scotland is another case in point. At the bank, employee engagement is divided into three components based on the answers from employee surveys, viz. say, stay and strive.

  • Say: Consistently speaks positively about the organisation to colleagues, potential employees and customers
  • Stay: Has an intense desire to be a member of the organisation
  • Strive: Exerts extra effort and engages in behaviors that contribute to business success

In fact, the bank has improved employee engagement with new flexible benefits tool, called RBSelect. With RBSelect, depending on the job, jurisdiction and the country, employees can buy different kinds of benefits. In the United Kingdom, for example, employees can opt for insurances for themselves or their family, additional medical benefits, pension plans, a bicycle for riding to work, transportation allowances, bus tickets, etc.

Sri Lankan examples

In the case of Sri Lanka, many such examples can be found where focused effort towards engaging employees had yielded results. Despite the scarcity of documented evidence, efforts are being made in this front, with vision and vigour. One common characteristic among the top 10 winners of National HR Awards 2010 was the sustained focus on employee engagement. However, the scope is vast and the continuous improvement path remains widely open.

The overarching theme so far is the success possible with engaged employees. How can we make it happen? What are possible strategies available in front of us? The next column of Humane Results will deal with this important aspect.

(Dr. Ajantha Dharmasiri is a Senior Faculty Member and a Management Consultant attached to the Postgraduate Institute of Management, University of Sri Jayewardenepura. He also serves as an adjunct faculty in International Human Resource Management at the Price College of Business, University of Oklahoma, USA. He has over two decades of both private and public sector working experience in diverse environments including Unilever and Nestlé. He has engaged in consultancies in more than 10 countries. He is a Commonwealth AMDISA Doctoral Fellow and Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow. He holds a Ph.D. and an MBA from the Postgraduate Institute of Management, University of Sri Jayewardenepura and a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Moratuwa. He is also a member of the Chartered Management Institute, UK.)

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