Our (and Nettium’s) CEO, Lam Mun Choong was a keynote speaker at the 2018 Talent Ecosystem Conference, held on the 15th of August at Connexion, Bangsar South. He delivered a session on the topic of “Driving Business Outcomes by Focusing on the Employee Experience”.
When his team (Nettium) first approached the idea of designing their EX, they centered their strategy around addressing employee needs, making work more human, and to make work simpler through living out company values. Applying design thinking, his focus has been on three central aspects of the EX – culture, the workspace and technology.
Nettium’s Improved Benchmarks
Mun Choong outlined some intriguing statistics from Nettium over a 3-year period, ending 2015. While Nettium showed a 2X rise in headcount (86 to 174), the company’s productivity index went up by 2.5X,quality index by 1.4X, and customer satisfaction rose from a B- to a B+.
Nettium also showed lower absenteeism, which brought more than MYR1.36 million to their annual bottom line. A higher rate of employee advocacy was seen as well, which contributed to more than MYR600,000 in annual savings for their recruitment costs. More than 50% of all employees hired up to now have been coming in through employee referrals.
These findings have reinforced the belief that a good EX contributes significantly to the bottom line. Hence, should be approached with some rigour.
Here’s a sneak peek into the 3 central aspects of Nettium’s EX that Mun Choong shared.
The Employee Experience – Culture
There are three gaps, in particular, that Mun Choong wanted to address. First, the knowledge gap because employees often lack an awareness of the culture that the organisation needs. They are often more concerned with their own situation.
Second, the mindset gap – not everyone will believe in the culture that the organisation needs. You will, therefore, need to spend time to see how you can bridge this gap.
Finally, the behaviour gap where employees do not always incorporate the behaviours related to the culture that the organisation needs.
All 3 gaps had to be filled before focusing on communicating the importance of culture. Leaders have the responsibility to manage things operationally based on the culture they create. This involved budgets, structures they establish, as well as policies they enforce.
The Employee Experience – The Workspace
Mun Choong wanted the workplace to be employee-centric, which reflecting the company’s aspirations and values. He involved the employees from the start. The office is Instagram-able, and creates a sense of belonging and pride for all. The workspace helps greatly in employer branding.
Flexible options are present, ranging from open, team-based workspaces, stand-up meetings, sofas and cafes, recreation and nap rooms. He mentioned that people often ask about the purpose of a nap and games room – is he encouraging his people to sleep on the job, or play when they should be working? Would it not be distracting?
Games room (there’s a PS4, pool table, and foosball table)
Yoga classes to unwind after a long day at work.
TheEmployee Experience – Tech
Mun Choong decided that helping managers become better coaches and mentors would be a key piece to the positive EX by providing more insight into individual strengths, motivation and stress factors. After all, Gallup research showed that managers account for up to 70 percent of varianceinemployee engagement.
Behavioural analytics are used to determine the cultural fit, as well as opportunities for job crafting.
Building the culture around collaboration and continuous feedback was going to help. He knew that he could allow technology to become an enabler for a whole host of things – personalised micro learning, provide real-time employee recognition, personalised rewards and flex benefits, help employees improve self-awareness and achieve their goals in real-time.
In his closing notes, he summarised that EX does help to drive better business outcomes. If employers can connect the relationship between the two strongly, they can ensure greater longevity in these campaigns and a better business all around.
This blog post showcases some key slides from Mun Choong’s keynote speech. To get the full public release set of slides, let us know your email here and we’ll email you a copy!
What’s different about workplace culture today? One significant difference is that we’re in the age of the connected stakeholder. Whether it is your employee, partner, customer or community at large, this connectedness can either break or make you, as an organisation, in more ways than one.
When you talk about organisational culture, this used to be something that was very internally driven. The experience, for the longest time, was managed within and to a great extent, what happened inside stayed inside. Word of mouth and referrals, of course, had its place. But today, our always on, always accessible culture and smartphone-driven ways has led to a leaching of this culture outside the organisation. What used to be known just to employees can now spread like wildfire on various platforms – regardless of its veracity. And that can be either a bad or good thing.
Vala Afshar, Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce therefore called it right when he said that, “your company culture is your brand’.
That said, what can we then do about ensuring we build a strong and sustainable workplace culture? You can make sure you tick off the boxes in six aspects of culture.
OC Tanner is a $500 million global company specialising in recognition and culture. They have invested a lot of time and resources in conducting extensive research with more than10,000 companies where their focus has been on the employee’s view of culture. Their research shows that there are six aspects of culture in particular that people look for in a great place to work, which are purpose, opportunity, success, appreciation, well-being and leadership.
This is about connecting your employee to your organisation’s reason for being. This sense of purpose is how your employee makes a difference to your organisation and how your organisation makes a difference in the world. And millennials have long focused on what drives an organisation. These are different values from the days of old where people stayed in one spot for 30 years, waiting on a golden handshake that may or may not come.
As an employee, having a common purpose with the organisation can make all the difference in terms of effort and performance at work.
This is giving it all to your employees – the ability to learn new skills, to develop, to realise their potential and to contribute meaningfully. It seems to make absolute sense except that there are many organisations that are driven by one thing and the employee is their means of getting to it. That narrow-minded approach means they don’t stop to think about their employee and what they may want or need, thus wasting precious time and resources recruiting and retaining people who don’t buy in or remain engaged.
Always think about how your employees can benefit from an opportunity to upskill themselves or for the company to promote cross-functional learning.
“The fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.” If every organisation embraced so wholeheartedly this mantra by IBM’s Thomas Watson Sr, things may be very different in our world today.
When employees are empowered to innovate and correct mistakes, the organisation sets up a system that motivates and encourages employees to fail forward to success.
Who doesn’t feel valued when they are appreciated? While it is very important that organisations recognise both outstanding work and unique contributions, I feel it’s just as important to value and recognise effort as well. It would be good to realise that we do not all start at the same starting line in which case, efforts vary and therefore, need to be taken into account as well.
Developing a culture of recognition can significantly boost satisfaction and retention in the workplace.
Particularly relevant in today’s always on, technologically-driven workplace, a focus on employee well-being goes beyond foosball tables, a well-stocked pantry and gym membership. It’s recognition that an employee’s health is many fold – physical, social, emotional and financial. An organisation is made up of people, right to the top, who make decisions for the organisation every day. This means these leaders themselves experience a sense of well-being which they should rightfully ensure is an experience other employees get as well.
Well-being initiatives should be in place, beside any foosball tables, game rooms, or a fancy pantry.
Leadership comes from the top and drives everything, in many ways. Good leadership connects employees to purpose, empowers them to do great work and helps bring people together in teams and as a whole. Or they don’t. Don’t just let your organisational culture exist – build it, refine it often and mould it to get it just right.
Leaders must live and breathe the organisational culture that they put in place. Be the positive change you wish to see in your organisation.
Culture is challenging because your organisational culture exists whether you want to confront it or not. As Jacob Morgan, author and futurist, shared – “A physical environment doesn’t exist unless the organisation creates or designates one. But the corporate culture is like air–it’s around all the employees who work there even if they aren’t always aware of it. That is what it’s so crucial to actually create and design a culture instead of just letting it exist.“
When we talk of feedback, most of the time, what we’re really talking about is our ability to deal with constructive criticism. No one has an issue taking a compliment but nearly all of us find it challenging to hear something negative about our personality, work style or behaviour.
It starts with truth.
Is feedback not working for you? Understand that our solutions lie not in the quality of answers but in the quality of questions we ask. Let’s examine some examples.
Asking a close-ended question with no consideration or empathy gives the impression that you do not care about your workers’ well-being nor current workloads. Even if the question was not designed to be insensitive, an external party could view it as a “no-excuses” obligation to say – “yes”, or a simple “easy-way-out” – “no”.
Leaders can instead ask an open-ended question with the simple addition of “How” in front of their prior question, opening the door for innovative answers and initiative. It also opens up avenues to be empathetic, in terms of catering to how employers can provide the environment or means to allow workers to take on more responsibility. Perhaps through more L&D events? A robust incentive program? This question invites such responses.
It starts with the truth, a recognition of what we see in front of us and a call for us to be honest about how this may make us feel about the people we’re managing and circumstances we find ourselves in. It calls for humanity, yes, humanity.
The thing about corporate life is that it puts a layer between you and your people. We call on this when we need help and when we’re in a mess. “Am sorry about this, my hands are tied. I wish I could do more.” “I’d really like to help you but my boss says this is how it has to be.”
When it comes to helping a colleague in need, too often we are jaded by the selfish demands placed on ourselves regarding our own responsibilities. Hence, we resort to putting up excuses instead of being honest with our colleagues.
What are we really protecting?
We hold on to this protective layer because it helps us out of tough situations. We’re busy protecting ourselves. But if we want feedback to work, we not only have to listen, we have to take action.
We have to show our people that we’re serious about what we want to discover and then remedy. When we show this to them, not through our words but in our behaviour, then we show our people that we mean what we say.
It is easy enough to see things from our point of view – it is the only view we know and are comfortable with, that we believe is the right view. It takes a big pause for us to step outside ourselves to look beyond at this wide, wide world and consider an alternative to what we’ve always seen and understood. So, “what’s not working?” is less about you see as the way things are and how things need to go and far more about what others see and make sense of things.
You owe a duty.
As an organisation, it is your duty, your responsibility to gather and provide feedback to your people. As an organisation, you should regard as serious, this opportunity to grow your people, to inspire them, to bring out the best in them and to lead.
Gather as much feedback on how you can help your employees grow, then deliver actionable behaviour to cater to those needs and wants.
As much as there are things you are expecting your people to provide you in terms of experience and expertise, they are also looking to you for guidance, hope and faith in carrying out their duties. And more than anything else, remember that they give you thebest hours of their days and best years of their lives in the fulfilment of their obligations.
That is a lot.
Allow the space for providing and receiving feedback to be one that is less chastisement and more of support. Ask questions about what’s working so you know where you need to reinforce certain actions. Ask questions about what’s not working so you know what needs to be fixed. Ask questions about what’s challenging or frustrating them so you can see what support you can provide. Explore a variety of channels, both formal and informal, to collect and collate feedback.
Does the employee really understand that expected level of performance?
Does the employee fully understand what will happen if performance standards are not met?
Have you, as the manager, gotten all the facts?Who, what, where, when, why, and how?
Learn to read between the lines.
You’ve got to treat people the way you want to be treated too. Stay aware – learn how to open your eyes to the truth because there is no one version of the truth. We all bring different experiences and insights to our situations and no two situations are alike.
If you’re facing difficulty, you’ll want a good manager who can spot it early, who will come forward to talk about it. You’ll want a manager who is sensitive enough to know how, when and where to bring it up.
Ask the right questions. Be the support your team needs. Learn to read what your colleagues are telling you.
And you’ll want them to be more of a coach about it – asking probing questions, allowing you to come to the solutions yourself rather than being prescriptive and judgemental. Yet, on top of all of these things, you need to remember to stay compliant and stay legal. Do what you need to do and do it right.
Equality is not a women’s issue – it’s everyone’s issue.
When you take a moment to consider the ramifications of that simple yet powerful statement, you can begin to understand how something like gender equality remains an issue even to this day. Much has improved by leaps and bounds and yet, it still feels like there is a long way to go.
The path to true equality is a long way to go yet.
Addressing familial and societal issues, rather than “women’s issues”.
For many, gender equality seems a far-away topic. It is something to be debated, hummed and hawed at because the road is long and the fight is always so personal. Things seem to move when someone or some people take a vested interest and dedicate the time and energy to move what seems immovable. Especially when gender-related incidents can happen repeatedly, over time and across geographical lines, it would seem that we can get desensitised to what’s happening around us and to our own. This, in turn, leads to us waiting for someone else to raise the issue and fight the good fight.
While we can and should continue to push for more advances for women in terms of pay parity, paid leave, subsidised childcare, increased representation at the board level as well as in P&L roles, we also need to better address the reasons for women opting out as they get into more senior positions and as they begin to raise their family. These issues are often seen as women issues when in reality, these are issues which affect us as a family unit, a society and community.
Women in senior roles opting out of the workforce to take care of their families should be addressed as family and societal issues, rather than women’s issues alone.
The change starts with us – in our thoughts and actions – because within our own circles, we are aware of and experience the discrepancies, biases and patterns that keep creeping up. While we cannot solve these issues alone and often, in our lifetime, we can each take a stand to lead, inspire and advocate, pushing back where we see fit so that we get others more mindful about questionable behaviours and decisions.
This, like many other issues worth fighting, is an unrelenting battle, in many ways.
Why is true gender equality still so far away?
We know that greater equality is not a zero sum game and that it presents a win-win to both sides. The status quo often remains the way it is less because others want to keep things unfair or because they fail to understand the issues at play but far more to preserve the vested interests of those who feel they stand to lose if things were to change. Often, it is less what they understand and more what they feel about the issue.
Michael Kimmel says that making gender visible to men is the first step to engaging men to support gender equality. That and addressing entitlement.
Ursula Mead, CEO and founder of InHerSight, a website that allows users to rate how female-friendly companies are, says that the business case for gender diversity in the workplace has been made. “Studies show companies are more successful with more women in the ranks. They have higher average returns, fewer incidences of fraud, better decision-making, lower turnover and higher productivity.”
What’s it like to constantly be playing catch-up? It means you’re not leading the pack, you’re not a game changer in the domain you operate in and more than anything else, you’re not at the cutting edge. It’s not a pretty place to be because you are one among the crowds, treading a path very much like everyone else alongside you. It also makes you largely invisible.
Don’t be left behind in the corporate wilderness!
Consider this instead.
A new dawn
The thrill of the chase. The idea that you’re out there, experimenting, trying new things and making things happen. People watch to see what you have to say and wait with bated breath. You’re seen as an influencer and leader, changing the game in more ways than one, not just for yourself but for those around you.
It’s a dizzying possibility to soak up but there’s no reason why it cannot happen.
No reason at all.
The truth though is that there are bound to be many failures along this path to success. And it is a path to success because change does not come from doing what’s been done over and over. It comes from trying something new, drawing outside the lines and most importantly, from a strong desire to solve a problem and bring something unique to your game.
Organisational collaboration champion
This is the new role being called for HR as it stands tall, looking forward at the corporate landscape that is is not just a part of but one it has helped to create.
The role of HR has changed, from the previous “organisational police”, to frontrunners in driving collaboration and change.
Because people make up the organisation and HR works to support the talent equation in any organisation. So many negative things have been said about the role of HR and the perception out there of what is lacking in tackling this new world of work.
Just as there is sustained and mounting pressure on CEOs and leadership teams to deliver the numbers, there is equal pressure for HR to step up and step forward and embrace their role.
Because within every crazy or painful difficulty faced, lies the bud of opportunity… if you seek it. And seeking it brings its own reward.
“Within every hardship, there is opportunity.”
However, for HR, there is also untold reward from the recognition and acceptance that will come when HR is seen to be truly contributing, adding value, being strategic and solving problems that relate to people and the organisations they serve. How can that not be?
Every solution starts with ownership of the issue. HR will do well to ensure that their role is driven less by the people around them and more by HR’s own assessment of where it stands in the overall equation and how it sees itself being part of the game in a significant way.
How shall HR do this?
Question everything. Be driven by your questions, not the answers because the right question makes the critical difference.
Focus on getting as much of your transactional tasks automated, outsourced or delegated in some way.
Dive into all aspects of your business – how it’s run, what customers you serve, what problems you solve, what challenges you face organisationally and what the organisation’s strategic objectives are.
Have a baseline understanding of the various domains within the business – getting to grips with the financials would be a top priority. Follow this up with data management – having processes and a system for managing the volume of data you’re consuming, driving a data culture internally and analytics.
To quote Seth Godin, “Someone’s driving. It’s either you, going where you choose, or someone else, pushing you.”
The top two challenges in engaging employees are: working with multiple different generations under one roof, and employees wanting fast-tracked career progression. Employee engagement leads organizations towards higher productivity, business success and numbers of delighted customers. But how many of us hit this right to the core?
Engaging employees is definitely a topic of concern among talents, which strongly ties to talent retention. Engaged employees have a great sense of ownership towards the organization, are most likely to stay longer than the rest, and contribute immensely to the organization, laying the path to high customer satisfaction as well as repetitive new businesses. Failure to fulfill this dissatisfies talents to certain extents, and leads them to the company exit door. Establishing a stronger brand name, combined with employee engagement initiatives obviously helps in retention.
Engaged employees have the added benefit of becoming your brand ambassadors. Invest in them.
Engagement also determines to what extent employees are willing to go beyond at their work, and what drives them to do so. Being a rationally committed employee to the organization makes one feel connected, and an employee will strongly believe in staying only if this is in their self-interest. I wouldn’t want to rule out emotional commitment in which employees believe in, and loves to be part of the organization for various reasons with a stronger “Sense of Belonging” to the organization. In your organization, is there an emotional attachment or detachment among employees and the organization?
Categorizing the engagement efforts and linking it with organization strategy and vision can be a first step to success of engaging employees. To start off, it is good to consider both long term and quick wins as well as key objectives of engagement initiatives followed by structuring the talent engagement pillars. Do not let the engagement efforts hang separately.
Align your long, and short-term goals for engagement.
Bringing employees together by sharing information and being transparent removes communication barriers in the organization. Engagement efforts within this pillar aims to create crystal-clear information flows, be it top-down or bottom-up. I have personally experienced major communication breakdowns that stems with a vacuum at the mid-level management – key information does not reach all employees.
This is also closely linked with the core values of the organization on how communication is being practiced and managed. Combining both the traditional and modern ways of communicating, the core objective is to emphasize on the transparency and openness of the organization with the employees.
As a leader, your ability to instill trust is directly correlated with your willingness to be transparent with your employees.
Putting the right message across to all employees determines the success of this pillar. Information sharing is essential, and it has to be initiated by the superiors in the organization as a culture. Who should be spearheading and championing this, the communication department, management team, or managers?
Pillar 2: Motivation
Highly motivated employees are likely to perform better and stay more engaged than the rest. Whose role is it to motivate employees? Motivation can be fueled intrinsically or extrinsically. This pillar emphasizes on being a role model and creating positive sparks, along with engaging thoughts among employees. Exploring and understanding employees‘ motivating factors, and customizing it to their needs significantly supports the framework of the engagement model. How can we identify what motivates talents as it differs by cultures and countries? I was once asked by the General Manager to reward the best attendee to eliminate tardiness, yet how many of us agree on this? Is there one formula to motivate, or are multiple channels and efforts required? Go beyond monetary.
Having a comprehensive benefits plan serves to motivate employees beyond simple monetary terms.
Pillar 3: Recreation & Bonding
“Bond” is the magic word that brings employees and teams closer. An easy way of getting this done is to organize recreational and bonding activities such as team building, and integrating a simple mobile application that can be engaging and rewarding for them. An engaging activity strengthens relationships among the workforce, and indirectly helps in managing teams and performance. How much emphasis should an organization place on this? Is there a strong belief and awareness to champion this? How do we know that existing recreational and bonding activities are sufficient, or if a more innovative approach is required – especially to cater to the new generation’s needs at the workplace?
Team building – encourage bonding among colleagues in fun and engaging ways!
In a nutshell – identify, classify, and build upon these 3 pillars, and ensure you have success measures on every engagement initiative, alongside ensuring they are being tied up with the team and organizational KPIs.
Prakash Santhanam is an experienced Talent Management practitioner specializing in Learning & Capability Management, Executive Coaching, Talent Engagement and Performance Management. He has remarkableinternational track record, aligning business strategy with talent strategy in reshaping organization leading towards regional and global success. He possesses 15 years of professional experience predominantly in the automotive, information technology and telecommunication industries across Asia Pacific and Africa. He is also the author to the book “101 Ways to Engage Your Talents“.
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