From consistently low productivity, to equally low workplace morale, UK employers are struggling to connect and engage with their employees. Universum’s Global Workforce Happiness Index for 2016 ranked the UK in just 30th place in terms of employee happiness. Results were based on employee job satisfaction, the likelihood of recommending their current employer and the sense of job loyalty.
It’s widely acknowledged that the UK faces a talent crisis in 2016 and beyond. Our seven strategies suggest a way forward for HR to re-connect and re-engage with its unhappy and disengaged employees.
Understand and improve behavioural economics
According to Deloitte, our existing ideas of human psychology and organisational design are outdated yet underpin HR practice. Up-to-date research provides more context for HR to understand behavioural health and happiness in the workplace. To achieve this, Deloitte highlights the need for two principal pillars of ‘behavioural insights’:-
- Design HR practices, policies and programmes to reflect the best understanding of human psychology available.
- HR practices should be tested and validated to enable HR to learn which methods are the most effective.
Invest in training
Investment in training will feed through to all elements of the business, enabling employees to understand the purpose of their work and help them to fulfil their role and performance objectives. Happier employees make for a more positive and motivated workforce. It is an area that UK employers are responding to positively. Deloitte’s UK Corporate Learning Factbook for 2016 revealed that the number of training hours per employees rose 12% between 2012 and 2015. This compares to the period 2009 to 2012 when training hours were reduced by nearly half due to the economic recession. In addition, spending on learning and development initiatives rose by 11% between 2014 and 2015 (an increase of 15% compared to the recession). The rise was notably higher among SMEs, who increased their employee spending by 16% during the same time. Investment in learning and development is a cost-effective, long term strategy to improve employee engagement.
The engagement and retention of new employees begins with the onboarding process which should incorporate fast paced initial training and equip your new hires to perform effectively. Any elements identified during the hiring process regarding additional training requirements must be quickly implemented and resolved.
Look beyond the technology
To maximise the benefits of modern HR technology, employers must strike a balance with one-to-one communication. Furthermore, the external voice (or employer brand) of an organisation must align with that of the internal voice, ie, the day to day reality experience by its employees.
Facebook’s head of HR recently carried out an assessment to identify common traits of outstanding managers, which revealed the following insight. Successful managers:-
- Care about their team members
- Provide opportunities for growth.
- Set clear expectations and goals.
- Provide frequent feedback with actionable steps.
- Offer helpful resources.
- Encourage all teams to be accountable for their success.
- Recognise and celebrate outstanding work and achievements.
These results reiterate the findings of Investors in People’s employer survey for companies which emphasises the importance of prioritising employee engagement. As a simple starting point, clarify the individual purpose of each individual, providing them with context within your company objectives.
Trust your people
Trusting your employees not only empowers them but feeds into all aspects of your business, from customer service to collaboration, attention to detail and more confidence in giving feedback. Allow your high achievers some room to manouevre. Requests for flexible working shouldn’t be ruled out of hand. One third of workers would prefer the option of flexible working to a payrise. Offer your team more control in the workforce. If your top performers can direct their own career progression your business will benefit from happier, more engaged employees.
Work through challenging times
Trusting your people also means working through tough situations. An interview with the ex CEO of Tesco, Sir Terry Leahy emphasised the need for engaging with employees even in challenging times, providing goals are achievable. Setting impossible goals for demotivated employees in a difficult working environment will only increase their levels of de-motivation.
Become ‘champions of the people’
Similarly, Eddie Short, senior partner of Aon Hewitt urges HR to ‘create’ the future rather than predict it, by becoming ‘champions of the people’ while at the same time embracing technology. This comes with the caveat that analytics and data should not be used for the sake of it, but in order to create ‘successful scenarios’ for business leaders. Sophisticated HR technology provides the means to achieve that.
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