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Employee engagement at its best
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Building blocks behind compelling employee engagement

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Despite employee turnover being one of the biggest challenges faced by HR practitioners today, a majority of companies still do not have a solid employee engagement policy in place. To get to the bottom of this, Human Resources has gathered research that points to the direct effect of successful employee engagement and performance, such as:

With that, we spoke to PizzaExpress, Ademco Security Group and Telenor to find out how they’re getting their employees’ goals aligned to the organisation’s. Whether it’s engaging them right from the start as new team members, improving HR strategies for their current employees, or staying engaged across a multi-market organisation, discover what it takes to build a united team.

CASE 1: Welcoming new team members as part of a family

PizzaExpress, originally from the United Kingdom, has recently opened its doors in Singapore in July with an arsenal of 39 employees. Each member of the PizzaExpress family has been handpicked through a series of interviews, where it seeks to find the best fit for the brand.

Before its opening, PizzaExpress had flown its chefs all the way to the UAE where they spent two weeks learning about the brand, and perfecting the art of the chain’s dough – which is the recipe for its success.

However, the chain is a firm believer that people are what make its brand a success. An environment that nurtures and allows any employee to grow will reap returns in the long run, and even with the training, PizzaExpress constantly seeks to improve its employees in all aspects. The brand is undeterred by the decline in the service industry, despite sluggish growth in the past two years.

As a new restaurant opening in a new market (Singapore), it wanted to welcome new team members that would consciously feel like they were joining a family; and an institution that they would want to protect, be part of now and in the future. Th is is further supported by research that has shown 75% of employees who were satisfied with their organisation’s onboarding were more loyal to their employer.

The solution: A market-specific employee induction programme

With the mantra of “happy staff equals happy customers” in mind, it launched its employee induction programme to encourage long-term retention of the team.

When asked about the driving factor behind the programme, Robert Stubbing, general manager of PizzaExpress Singapore, said: “Ultimately, we want to aim for the long term retention of the team, as every member is equally valuable to us.”

While it is aligned with the PizzaExpress UK training and development strategy, the induction programme is specific to its Singapore staff . Every member of the team, including management, head chefs, line cooks and servers, full-time or part-time employees, have all attended the company induction as a preliminary welcome to PizzaExpress.

Applicable to all newcomers regardless of the position, the programme focuses on introducing them to the company, its heritage, mission and also to warmly welcome them to the family. It enables an understanding on the importance of the brand, as well as investing in being brand ambassadors. After the initial introductory sessions, each department moves onto their role-specific on-the-job training.

For both “pizzaiolos” and the front-of-house waiting teams, training takes place over a 12-week period; allowing them to hone the skills necessary to create delicious pizzas and crafting the most enjoyable experiences for customers. In fact, its operational trainers from the UK and the UAE flew down to train on ground staff ensuring the same high standards they’re known for are maintained in all of its restaurants.

This measure not only allows the brand to translate the necessary skills, competencies and knowledge to the new team in Singapore, but it also supported the idea of the new team understanding and being exposed to the PizzaExpress’ DNA.

Ultimately, we want to aim for the long term retention of the team, as every member is equally valuable to us.
- Robert Stubbing, general manager of PizzaExpress Singapore

The original induction was delivered nine weeks before the restaurant opened in Singapore, sanctioned by the general manager of Singapore, and the people director in the UK. Th is was necessary to create an effective team.

The implementation for the first induction was over a period of five days, and included expanding areas of team building such as working together and understanding its competitors. Furthermore, the planning and preparation were held over three weeks prior to the opening.

Th is meant the team had to simulate different scenarios in the best ways possible since the physical store was not ready. It had the challenge of making it relatable to the Singapore market, and the managers, supervisors, front-of-house and back-of-house team members.

“The biggest barrier would have to be having to simulate scenarios without the actual outlet to show for. Other than that, there was a unanimous decision that this induction is necessary and vital to the brand,” Stubbing said.

The outcome: 84% staff retention since opening

Being new in the market, PizzaExpress Singapore makes it a priority to constantly monitor its progress to cater to its Singapore market. However, since the opening, PizzaExpress Singapore has had a 84% staff retention rate. Some of the ways it has measured employee engagement is through one-on-one meetings with all staff every three months to track performance and engagement. Additionally, it also uses a health check that monitors staff turnover, retention of the first 90 days and results of performance reviews.

Currently, it also has a manager on duty programme that fi ve employees are undertaking. Th is will produce the next managers of the future. Moving forward, it plans to introduce online surveys following the opening of new sites next year.

CASE 2: A team that plays together, stays together

When a company believes in “a team that plays together, stays together”, it is a work environment that places an emphasis on teamwork, and it acknowledges that everyone has a role to play for the continued success of the business.

Having offices in Shanghai, Jakarta, Indonesia, India and more, Ademco Security Group prides itself on cultivating a work environment where people of different nationalities and cultures come together, tapping into each others’ expertise and experiences to provide clients with the best possible security solutions in Asia.

It recently embarked on an exercise with Hay Group to review and revamp its human resources policies. It was looking into the different aspects of HR, while also re-evaluating its employee engagement initiatives as part of its ongoing enhancement efforts.

“We wanted to benchmark ourselves against current industry practices to check on our competitiveness. Our plan is also to align our HR strategies with our business to bring us to the next level,” said Toby Koh, group managing director of Ademco Security Group.

Having a deep understanding that a company’s long-term success revolves around team effort, (which correlates to team spirit), Ademco wanted to enhance its team spirit.

For this, it saw the need to rework its HR strategies in order to “grow” its people and provide staff with good career progression and opportunities – positioning itself as a company that is both fair to its people and treats them well.

We wanted to benchmark ourselves against current industry practices to check on our competitiveness.
- Toby Koh, group managing director of Ademco Security Group

The solution: A new employee engagement and culture-building programme

With the support of every member in the group, including the regional offices, all staff were involved in the project to create its new HR programme, led by Hay Group. Surveys were conducted on staff – online and in person, as well as through focus groups.

It was easy to convince employees when everyone had a common goal to always be better. Employees understood the need to stay ahead of the curve for continued success.

Furthermore, when everyone saw the need to re-look at the HR strategies for the long-term benefit of the organisation, the budget did not become a huge barrier. After all, many key benefits are intangible and will only manifest over the mid-term.

One of the bedrocks of the new HR programme is a new cloud-based HR management system which allows engagement with its teams on a timely basis and greater transparency. The HRMS system makes it easy for staff to track their own performance, coaching updates, upgrade themselves through the online training system and self serve on personal administration matters – all of which resulted in increased efficiency with on-demand access.

To further improve employee engagement, Ademco dropped its annual appraisal system and replaced it with a mentoring system. Through the mentorship, frequent monthly coaching is held which will not only build team spirit, but also allow for timely reviews of staff ’s performance and understanding.

The outcome: Participation increased from an average of about 100 to 300 employees

Naturally, no project is free of challenges and Ademco’s HR programme was no exception. Answering to the demands of the day-to-day business, it was also faced with the difficulty of following its strict timelines, leading to a delayed rollout.

Nonetheless, Ademco constantly reevaluates its engagement strategy to ensure it is employee-centric. The company gets to the core of what motivates and drives its staff by getting on the ground, maintaining transparency and consistency.

At Ademco, connecting with staff is paramount as it lets them know the company is behind them in grooming their talent.

“We are continuing with our company gatherings, social events, meals, departmental outings, family functions and sporting events. The level of participation is a key indicator of the health of employee engagement, which I am happy to say is rising from the average of more than 100 staff to more than 300 staff group-wide,” Koh said on the measurable results seen.

Although it is still in the midst of implementing the new programme, it has seen great progress in employee engagement, with staff getting excited about the new improvements. Having invested a huge sum on engaging a global HR consultant such as Hay Group is a testament of its dedication to bettering its HR strategy.

CASE 3: How to enhance employee engagement across 13 countries

It all started when Norway-based Telenor Group entered a “transformation journey” in January 2016 in which it wanted to move away from being just a traditional telco business to becoming a digital partner for people.

During this period, it found the need for a platform that not only could communicate the strategy launches across its 13 business units, but also to keep employee engagement high in its multi-offi ce, multi-market cross-cultural environment. While the company had all the right presentations, guides and an updated intranet, it was still floundering and looking for guidance.

Given how most launches are top-down messaging, it’s only natural that such situations evoke a lot of uncertainty within the organisation. Staff worry about what’s going to happen to them and their departments or if their jobs will even be there in 2020 (which is where the stretch of the strategy is).

Not only that, it also needed a way to engage employees that didn’t necessarily relate or respond well to such top-down messaging methods. During the discussions that led to its solution, Berit Andrea Framnes, Telenor Group’s vice-president and head of engagement, noticed one common denominator – they each had someone they looked up to in times of uncertainty.

“It may be a peer, a colleague, it may be someone in your team, maybe in another team, maybe in another country. It may be someone whom you’ve worked with, whom you’ve interacted with and that person … they are doing something cool. That person is someone you don’t want to be without on this transformation journey,” she said.

This is when #MySuperHero was born.

The solution: An employee engagement campaign called #MySuperHero

It started with the selling of the concept to the various business units. As most were on the same page, it worked well, especially with the information centre on the intranet, an updated strategy section and other standard pieces.

But at the same time, Telenor Group had also just launched Facebook@Work and saw this as a great opportunity to drive engagement to its new channel.

During the internal campaign, employees across the company’s 13 business units from Belgrade to Bangladesh used Facebook@Work to nominate their #MySuperHero.

That person is someone you don’t want to be without on this transformation journey.
- Berit Andrea Framnes, vice-president and head of engagement at Telenor Group

With the nominations gathered, judging panels from each business then considered the candidates before choosing one superhero each to represent their business unit.

Once chosen, the candidate was then digitally designed in their new superhero guise, complete with costume and even their own superhero playing card.

Due to its one-way messaging channel, its intranet did not have the capabilities to run such an interactive campaign. As a solution, Telenor Group co-ordinated with all business units for their endorsements and afterwards, presented tailored packages to the different units.

It was then up to the respective business units on how to drive their staff locally to the same central campaign. Telenor Group saw the different and creative ways that each market really favoured. For example, it saw Myanmar leaning towards tangible tactics such as physical posters, signs in the elevators, bathrooms and more. Conversely, in Norway, it was all done digitally with no paper trail through FB@ work and the intranet. Despite the varying implementations, it all successfully drove to the central campaign of #MySuperHero.

By using progressive platforms such as Facebook@Work, it also allowed the company to curate its content with the hashtag #MySuperHero. Together with a photo, a short explanation behind the nomination as well as the hashtag, Telenor Group was able to curate the nominations which were collected on the campaign page that was internally hosted (as the campaign required tighter security and privacy settings).

The outcome: Engagement levels with Telenor employees increased by 13%

The campaign was launched with a promotional video in July 2016 defi ning the campaign. But it was not without challenges. For instance, as with any public sharing platforms, the main concern was how people would behave on it. It undoubtedly was an invitation for people to complain, over share or leave confidential information. To resolve this, the organisation created Larry, an anti-hero character who did all the wrong things.

Through Larry, the group was able to communicate easily to employees from Thailand to Sweden a standard on how to act on the platform.

With this campaign, we were doing something as one Telenor.
- Berit Andrea Framnes, vice-president and head of engagement at Telenor Group

Following the launch, Telenor Group saw the potential impressions of Superhero associated with Telenor and its business units (markets) being over 89 million. Not only that, engagement levels with Telenor employees increased by 13% with the implementation of Facebook@Work. In fact, the campaign boosted employee engagement across Facebook@Work with the engagement rate improving by 6%. And, more impressively, the campaign drove visitors to Telenor’s “Passionate Employees” page from zero to nearly 6,000 visits.

“With this campaign, we were doing something as one Telenor,” Framnes said. “We were all feeding into the same global campaign and recognising individuals who are all working towards that same thing. It may be on the softer side, but it was most tangible for the employees.”

“We have some really talented people doing great things in the organisation, and this gives confidence to the organisation that we have the right people for the transformation.”

Photo / iStock

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