28 November, 2018

Put a Ring on It: Employee Engagement Is THE Key to Retention and Productivity for 2019

As 2018 winds to an end, Australia’s unemployment rate is hovering at around 5 percent, which is close to record lows of 4 percent from 2008.  With this in mind, employers need to be looking at how to retain key staff in 2019.

Employee engagement is one area where trickle-down economics actually work. Keeping workers happy not only prevents them from walking elsewhere; it can enhance your business’s reputation for new recruits and boost productivity by up to 20 percent, which in turn affects the bottom line.

At MAYDAY we are super focused on engaging and retaining our people. We have a number of initiatives to increase engagement such as a Tenured Annual Leave Policy, in which employees are rewarded with additional holiday days the longer they stay with the business, as well as a free “quarterly day” every three months to sort out that dreaded life-admin or take a well-deserved long weekend away!

If you want to be competitive heading into 2019, the question you need to be asking, whether you’re a large corporation or an emerging start up is: how can we improve employee engagement? Here are some tips to get a jump on the coming calendar year.

Recognise Different Work Styles and Expectations

Slowly, workplace demographics are shifting, with Baby Boomers being replaced by a larger percentage of Millennials.  Currently, Millennials make up 15 percent of the global workforce, and that number is growing.  A blended workforce of varying age groups means different expectations and work styles.

Millennials grew up with the technology boom and demand the latest gadgets, artificial intelligence, and cloud everything. If you want to hang onto this group, no longer can you get away with outdated computer systems, downtime for IT issues, or poor data to support sales and other functions.

This demographic also has different ideas about the workspace itself. Influences like Silicon Valley in the USA and other tech hubs have made open offices with award-winning architecture ubiquitous, for better or worse. Millennials want non-traditional seating, shared desks and tables, and even shifting office spaces (hot desking).

Millennials may also have different work priorities. Many are willing to take less in the way of traditional compensation in return for a better work environment or control over their work trajectory.

Baby Boomers, on the other hand, may still want a more traditional workspace, so don’t throw away those doors and walls just yet! Boomers tend to be less tech obsessed and more concerned with financial stability, and the closer they move to retirement age, the more they want to be sure they don’t outlive their retirement savings, according to one American study.

Communication styles vary between these groups, largely because of their technological upbringings. Employers need to be forward thinking on issues like:

  • BYOD (bring your own device) to work
  • Cyber security
  • Message media for office communication (texting versus emailing versus calling)
  • Equipment training for less tech-savvy employees (without making them feel embarrassed)

Offer Work Flexibility

One thing employees of nearly every age expect nowadays is workplace flexibility with regard to time and compensation. Think about the way your business structures its work week. Are you offering flexible hours to help those with difficult commutes or school drop offs? What about remote work opportunities?

The best companies in Australia offer perks such as extra leave time for heavy workloads, like Lendlease does, and give paid sabbaticals and generous parental leave for both genders. Some organisations also allow employees to buy and sell annual leave, letting them make money in a financial pinch or bank extra time for a wedding or extended holiday.

Create a Nurturing Work Environment

Workplaces have started to cater to workers more over the last decade in an attempt to woo and retain employees, and it’s not just about the architecture. What kind of perks does your organisation offer?

Every work culture is different, so you have to take a look at what would truly make a difference to your staff. Maybe what your company members really need are free lunches because of stressful deadlines that leave skipping breaks and hungry come 3pm.  Team lunches are also a great way for colleagues to step away from their desks, share a laugh, and share some much-needed bonding time.

At MAYDAY we cover all staff travel costs to and from work, as well as to client meetings. We also have a MAYDAY Wellness Program offering free yoga and Pilates… all extra ways of taking care of and engaging our people.

The list of workplace freebies provided by some employers lately is pretty impressive in the luxury-turned-necessity category:

Provide Transparency and Equality

Transparency is the watchword of the day for many businesses, especially larger ones. Employees now want to know company goals, plans for expansion, and opportunities to have a stake in the company through stock options and profit sharing.

Employee ownership of businesses is gaining attention too, a strategy that improves how workers view their employment and can increase productivity and determination to succeed.

In this era of “Me Too,” gender equality and diversity policies are a must. Lately some companies have been caught out for not paying women the same as their male counterparts. Whilst currently the gender pay gap in Australia hovers around 14.6 percent, the lowest in many years and better than countries like the USA, that gap is still significant.

Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency offers tips to close the gender pay gap within organisations:

  • Make sure there is no bias shown between men and women in the same roles when providing compensation, including bonuses and pay raises.
  • Examine pay levels to ensure higher levels do not contain a disproportionate number of one gender (typically men).
  • Allow equal pathways to both men and women for progressively higher remuneration.

Anti-discrimination policies and transparent salary information are ways to counter finding your business in a legal morass. In 2015-16, the Australian Human Rights Commission reports receiving 16,836 enquiries and 2,013 complaints, many of which cover multiple allegations.

Even better, foster a culture of equality from the top down and live it every day. Macquarie Group finds their philosophy important enough to list on their website to entice prospective employees. Offer free workplace diversity training and an open-door policy when it comes to allegations of bias or harassment. You can teach employees how to settle their own disputes, but the directive for equal pay and equal rights has to come from you.

Continue to Assess Employee Satisfaction

Employees want to be asked what keeps them happy, and it’s a fluid thing, so you as the employer want to find methods to assess staff satisfaction that work for your unique situation. In addition to surveys and company retreats, some organisations hire employee engagement consultants, particularly if they have a large number of workers and want detailed data.

Employee engagement can certainly help your business retain employees, improve productivity and thereby increase profits. But in the end you are part of that environment as well, and wouldn’t you like to also work in an inclusive, uplifting atmosphere? By making sure your employees are satisfied, you create the kind of workplace that gets you out of bed in the morning, and that may be the best perk of all.

If you are interested in hearing more about MAYDAY’s employee engagement strategies for 2019, or you’d like to talk to us about how we partner with your customers, please give us a call on 02 8256 0000 or email our General Manager, Lynne Johnston at Lynne@maydayrecruitment.com.