7 Winning Investments in Your People

By Brian Carlsen

Contact: 847-313-0736, brian@carlsenworklifeconsulting.com

"When people go to work, they shouldn't have to leave their hearts at home.” --Betty Bender

"So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work." --Peter Drucker

Look around the conference table at your next leadership team meeting.  Who is really excited and pushing for ways to contribute their best?  Who may be on their way out the door?  Many leaders in Thailand and beyond are concerned about getting business results when it is so hard to recruit great talent, or to replace talented individuals when they move on. One principle that will remain true for organizations is that the best way to build a solid foundation of people who drive optimal business results is to hire the right people, and KEEP them once they have proven their potential. This article is about keeping your top talent. It is about executing leadership actions that create loyalty and commitment, person-by-person and process-by-process.

In a recent conversation with a CEO I was asked, “Why should I provide a non-required employee benefit when it doesn’t seem to link to any of my P&L?”  A good question—one that has a good answer. And there is a growing body of human capital research that shows a clear link between engaged and employees, pleased customers and financial results.

First, here is a little information about employee engagement. Engaged and committed employees are proud to work for their employer, are dedicated to the organization and willing to give the extra effort necessary to achieve the goals of the enterprise. Engagement is a leading indicator of financial performance.  Companies that increase their engagement levels can expect to significantly improve their subsequent financial performance. Recent studies by a Human Resources research firm found these results:

·          A 52 percent difference in one-year performance improvement in operating income between companies with high vs. low employee engagement.  (Organizations with highly engaged employees improved 19.3 percent; those with low engagement declined 32.7 percent.)

·          A 13.2 percent improvement in net income growth over a one-year period for companies with higher employee engagement.

·          A 5.75 percent positive difference in operating margin and 3.44 percent positive difference in net profit margin in companies with higher employee engagement levels.

AXA’s CFO, Denis Duverne believes he spends half of his time these days on human resource initiatives.  In a recent CFO Europe Magazine article he states, “We know that in our companies where employee engagement is high we have better customer satisfaction indices than in our companies where employee engagement is low.”  Studies within AXA-France and AXA-Equitable show that satisfied customers have a two to four times higher cross-sell rate and a two to three times lower cancellation rate than dissatisfied customers. 

So what can leaders do to increase the quality of their talent and the level of engagement in their people?  From a wide range of possible leadership actions, here are seven to consider and related questions to ask of your organization:

1. Get a Baseline of Your Human Capital.  In a CFO.com article from TNT’s Henk Van Dalen entitled A CFO preaches the importance of “employee engagement,” traditionally a subject left to HR, TNT recognizes the need to adequately address employee engagement by having “indicators available that enable management to target actions to get the best possible engagement.”  Many organizations do this by establishing a baseline through initial employee data-gathering, and doing annual surveys measuring employee engagement and commitment levels. 

2. Attract and Select the Best Talent.  Become a preferred employer. Is your organization known as one of the best places to work in Thailand?  What true and positive messages can you provide prospective employees about your work environment and culture, your values, your socially responsible contributions or other things that attract talented candidates to your door?  And remember, good people like to work with good people. By selecting and retaining the people that fit your business, you establish a self-reinforcing, virtuous cycle.

3. Communicate Your Vision and Strategy.  Leaders create vision and direction and they clarify values. Talented people love to work for a compelling, shared cause. When communicated well, visions create cohesion and commitment within the hearts and minds of talented employees. 

4. Identify and Bolster Mission Critical Positions.  Mission critical positions are disproportionately important to the organization’s ability to execute its strategy. Invest resources in these positions through focused selection, de-selection, promotion, development and communication.

5. Manage Retention and Turnover.  Here are some ideas to enhance your retention practices for key talent:

·          Give awards for service and contribution

·          Provide health benefits that compete with your competitors for talent

·          Provide access to on-site fitness and wellness programs

·          Make life a little easier through concierge and other on-site services

·          Make it easier for employees to give back to the community

·          Create programs for fruitful time off

6. Conduct Stay Interviews Instead of Exit Interviews.  Don’t wait for high-contributing talented people to announce their imminent departure. Take them under your wing. Find out what the like, and what they want. Tell them how much you appreciate their contributions and how much you want them to stay. Ask them what they would like to see happen to enrich their career. When people know they are valued and supported, they will almost always stay with that organization than leap to a new, unknown one.

Those employees who are engaged and committed are less likely to feel negative about the company and more likely to look for ways to continue to improve it, to support others in doing great work, and aid the organization to service its customers and realize its financial goals. 


About the Author

Brian Carlsen is the Owner of Carlsen Worklife Consulting and co-author of Attract, Engage and Retain Top Talent: 50 Plus One Strategies Used by the Best.