The role of HR within organisations has evolved and expanded over the last couple of decades. It’s shifted from a more reactive traditional department focusing on recruitment, resignations as well as payroll and administrative responsibilities, to a more business-orientated division which is more proactive and involved in formulating the strategic direction of the business with all things employee-focused. So, with this in mind, focusing on engaging and ensuring employees are happy is a key function of any HR role. Employee engagement is thus now seen as a critical part of running a successful team and organisation as a whole. In fact, given the breadth of their responsibilities, there are several challenges that affect HR directors and their teams, both on a national and global level.
The value of employee engagement
Engaged employees are priceless. There’s no value a company can attach to a team which are engaged, happy and motivated. Employees are a company’s biggest ambassador and can either positively or negatively spread the reputation of the business, so it’s worthwhile to take a step back and look at the bigger picture how to best engage your employees.
Understanding employee benefits packages
When the millennials joined the workforce, they fundamentally changed the future of working and the workspace. A job for life became something of the past, as employees are more fluid and switch jobs every couple of years. Gone are the days of striving for the carriage clock or gold pen. This generation and the subsequent ones which have followed, aren’t afraid to ask for what they believe they’re worth as well as for a comprehensive benefits package, on top of their monthly pay check.
With this in mind, HR teams have been encouraged to really get under the skin of its workforce, understanding their likes and dislikes, demographics and ingrained values. It’s been fundamental to work out what employee benefits are best tailored to the organisational requirements and often a industry provider has been brought on board to manage and engage employees from a benefits perspective. For example, an employee benefits scheme can focus on everyday savings at major high street retailers, plus include a section on health and wellbeing with everything on offer from gyms to yoga classes and meditation apps as well as things such as reduced-price tickets and travel offers. The list is endless what can be bespoke and relevant.
One key challenge with this is that offers may need to be localised if the workforce is dispersed globally and currencies may need converting and adjusting. What works for one country, may not be available in another country. If benefits are online, things such as tax, delivery and fulfilment costs need careful consideration.
Day-to-day delivery and set up
Employee engagement is not a once a year task, but rather something employers need to incorporate into the everyday workings of its business. Engagement processes need to be weaved into the way the company operates, so it doesn’t become a burden. Initially, there may be a time-factor involved as well as set up fees in order to get whatever engagement features into place, whereby they can be automated and augmented into daily interactions.
Another key factor when rolling out a global engagement strategy is the manpower and resources at hand. For example, a HQ may have 15 people in the HR function to deliver and maintain engagement programmes and initiatives, whereas offices in smaller, more remote locations may only have 1 person. Often the larger offices have more advanced infrastructure for such roll-out of programmes, so a smaller office may take longer and it may be more manual.
Recruitment and Retention
We all know that attracting and retaining the best talent is one of the biggest challenge’s organisations face. In the UK 43% of employers feel it has become more difficult to fill job vacancies over the last 12 months, and in turn, the cost of attracting the right talent has gone up. It’s far more cost-effective to reduce talent churn than it is to attract new employees yet most businesses still struggle with this. In addition, the time taken to get new staff up to speed with the way your organisation operates can have an impact on productivity.
In addition to this, the younger, more savvy generations (millennials, Gen-Z) are, on the whole, looking for more than just a salary. They want opportunities for advancement and the ability to learn new skills and develop holistically. They want to feel like they are contributing to the bigger whole and their work is indeed, meaningful. They like making a positive impact in whatever they are doing. They want constant feedback to show you care about them and their career development and that you are acknowledging their efforts. Recognise behaviours which support your organisation’s values and culture with a reward and recognition programme. For example, long service awards may only be relevant for engaging older generations, so consider recognising 1-year work anniversaries as this will make employees feel valued and that their contributions are important. Rewards need to be tailored to their motivations and interests, so age appropriation needs to be taken into account. Technology can make a major difference with this generation when it comes to engagement, so companies can use an online portal as a hub for all recognition focused activities. With this in mind, ensuring the necessary stops are in place to engage and ensure all employees feel satisfied and fulfilled are business critical.
Culture, culture, culture
Employee engagement is very closely tied to company culture. There are so many ways to foster and maintain a conducive culture which is aligned to the values of the organisation, and at the same time, takes the employees’ needs and priorities into account. Silicon Valley is often known for their office slides, free barbers, unlimited snacks and drinks and ping-pong tables. These perks may seem unimaginable for some organisations, but the ideas of them allude to the fact that it’s not only about work, work, work! These can encourage a greater sense of employee engagement amongst the teams, and shows that managers and leaders do want their employees to have fun, and let their hair down, so to speak. They want the culture to be all-inclusive and one of enjoyment where employees love to be a part of, as this will in turn, hopefully, be conducive for creating hard working teams who work hard and play harder. However, what needs to be considered again, is how to create an culture of engagement, and whether the same culture is transferable to all offices around the world, or whether the culture should be country specific, due to difference nuances, language and preferences.
With a dispersed team, clear and concise communication about all employee-centric matters are crucial. Employers need to be purposeful at communicating in an authentic, real way. Employees prefer a more informal and engaging manner about relevant matters, rather than a lot of corporate jargon which goes unnoticed.