Leverage engaged employees to compete more successfully

Rob van Es | Acting CEO | REFFIND

This article appears in the Sep/Oct 2016 issue of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand

Across every industry, most businesses rely on the quality of their employees to compete with their counterparts. Every business needs its employees to be focused, committed, competent, and energetic. These are the characteristics that see employees deliver their best performance, which contributes to productivity, efficiency, and low injury or error rates.

The key to all of this is to ensure that your employees are engaged. A recent Harvard Business Review survey revealed that 71 per cent of organisations rank a high level of employee engagement as a top-three factor most likely to bring success.

While this may sound simple, finding ways to engage employees has its challenges. Gallup has revealed that 84 per cent of Australian workers are either not engaged, or are actively disengaged. For employers, this can be a recipe for disaster.

Disengaged staff members tend to be poor performers, have a high level of absenteeism, and, eventually, they move on in search of a more fulfilling role.

High staff turnover translates to high operating costs and can be detrimental to the success of a business. Particularly considering the time and cost involved to find, interview, and hire new staff, then train them to the franchise’s standards. Sometimes, however, keeping disengaged staff members can be even worse for business.

These employees display behaviours that, left unchecked, can damage your business in various ways. For example, disengaged staff members can often be found complaining or gossiping. This can potentially damage the morale of other staff members, who can begin to emulate those behaviours.

Disengaged staff members may also be less likely to put their hand up for projects, leaving the hard work to other employees. At their worst, disengaged employees may be dishonest or even steal from the company. They may be distracted while at work, and are more likely to take unreasonable amounts of unplanned leave.

All of these behaviours can cost the business in terms of real money, productivity, and staff morale. It can turn into a vicious cycle where a single disengaged employee can have a negative impact on the experience of other team members.

It’s important to identify disengaged employees and decide whether their potential to make a positive contribution is such that it’s worth taking steps to engage them, or if it makes more sense to terminate their employment and concentrate engagement efforts on staff with more potential.

By contrast, engaged employees tend to work harder, take less unplanned leave, be more productive, contribute to a positive culture, and remain in their role longer. For franchisees, a deeply-engaged employee can help make your business stand out, delivering superior customer service and thus gaining more repeat business.

The Harvard Business Review survey identified key employee engagement drivers as: recognition for high performers; individuals having a clear understanding of how their role contributes to overall strategy; senior leadership continually updating and communicating strategy; and business goals communicated company-wide and understood.

Since engaged employees are more likely to deliver great customer service, they can drive increased profits and make your business more competitive. Given that engaged employees tend to be twice as productive as disengaged employees, it’s no surprise that employee engagement has become a high priority for businesses.

For most organisations, the question is how to engage employees effectively. There is no single, correct answer: the right engagement strategy will vary depending on the business and its employees.

For example, simply throwing more communications at employees will not necessarily increase engagement; in fact, it can make employees feel more isolated than ever, since it can indicate that the company doesn’t care about them as individuals. It’s critical for organisations to take a more personalised, strategic approach to increasing engagement.

As workforce demographics skew younger and younger, communicating via mobile devices becomes more important. This can be particularly useful for franchisees with casual or remote workers who might not have access to a computer. Communicating via a mobile device keeps these employees connected by leveraging their natural reliance on smartphones and tablets.

Millennial workers want to feel engaged by their work. Without engagement, they’re less likely to feel motivated by their work or offer their best performance. By contrast, when they do feel engaged and appreciated, they’re more likely to offer outstanding experiences to customers.

A key way to engage these workers is to inform and educate them in ways that are fast, fun, and memorable.

Neil Perry’s Burger Project achieved this by developing short videos to train its employees on topics ranging from food-handling skills to customer service. The company also runs a program to introduce roles in hospitality and offer a pathway for young people with minimal experience. Burger Project chose REFFIND’s Educate mobile education platform, which is available to employees at any time, from any location.

The platform sends messages to employees and delivers training in a fun, innovative way. Staff complete all their training via smartphone, then complete a follow-up survey to ensure they understood the content.

In addition to providing comprehensive training in a fun and accessible way, there are eight steps to keeping people more engaged at work and reducing turnover:

1. Promote fairness and equal opportunity, creating a culture where engaged employees want to work on challenging projects.

2. Consider the company and the employee when designing engagement initiatives.

3. Recognise everybody’s achievements publicly.

4. Ensure employees know the real value of their contribution.

5. Reward and incentivise excellence in ways beyond simple remuneration.

6. Make sure employees understand the business and its brand.

7. As managers, be engaged, passionate, and energetic, then watch your employees do the same.

8. Genuinely seek new opinions and ideas from employees, then follow up with actions to leverage employees’ ideas and ensure they feel heard and understood.

Rob van Es is Acting CEO at REFFIND. Rob has more than two decades of experience managing sales for high-tech start-up and later-stage companies.

REFFIND Limited is a mobile employee experience platform targeted for use by medium-large corporations to facilitate more efficient and effective communication with their employees.