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Six ways to boost employee engagement and productivity: by treating your staff as well as your customers

Lauren Di Ventura - 12/05/2016
Engaged and productive employees
Global Head of Learning and Talent Development Lauren Di Ventura shares six ways to boost employee engagement and productivity by treating your staff as you would your customers.

Companies offer lucrative pay packets, exciting projects and flexible working practices to attract "the best and the brightest". However, after the thrill of this chase, what is your retention strategy? Will talent simply move on to the next company that woos them with bigger and better pay packets, benefits, responsibilities?

According to Gallup.com, just 30% of the workforce feel engaged in their jobs. Gallup estimates that this costs $500 billion in the US alone.  

Should this have employers quaking in their boots? Yes – if you’re not doing anything about it. However, there is huge opportunity to drastically improve retention rates if you commit to effective employee engagement strategies.

Why make sure employees feel as valued as customers? 

What if they go? Employee turnover has a cost

If talent leaves the company, they may go to the competition, and can also take clients. You have to cover the period when you’re between employees, advertise the role, screen applicants, interview, train and on-board. Research published in the Academy of Management Executive journal estimates direct replacement costs can be as high as 50%-60% of an employee’s annual salary, with total costs associated with turnover ranging from 90% to 200% of annual salary. This cost Australia $83billion AUD in 2012 alone. 

It makes a lot of business sense to work at keeping good people after you work at finding them.

What if they stay? Disengaged employees cost even more

There is an anecdote: "CFO asks CEO: "What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?" CEO: 'What happens if we don't, and they stay?" Presenteeism, when staff are in the building but aren’t productive, is just as big a problem as turnover.

Presenteeism, when staff are in the building but aren’t productive, is just as big a problem as turnover. Employees are doing a job with little effectiveness because they’re not trained appropriately or don't have the resources they need. They don’t enjoy it and are doing the minimum – or worse, they’re actively seeking out new employment on the job, and you are in fact paying them to do so. 

Recent research by Global Corporate Challenge finds that presenteeism costs ten times more than absenteeism. Employees confessed to being unproductive on the job for 57.5 days – almost three working months.

Your retention strategy shouldn’t just try to hold on to good people, but ensure they’re bringing their talents to the role.

The secret to an engaged workforce: feeling valued

According to the Psychology Healthy Workplace Programme, employees who report feeling valued by their employer are 60% more likely to report they are motivated to do their very best for their employer. Employees who report feeling valued by their employer are 60% more likely to report they are motivated to do their very best 

The answer: treat coworkers at least as well as you treat customers. Adapt your client retention strategy to coworkers and collaborators.

1. Start by being genuinely interested in who they are, beyond what they can do for you.

Customers are not just wallets – and employees are not just an “asset”, they’re human beings.

2. Offer a great product experience: give employees the means to do good work.

You make sure your product or service truly solves a pressing problem for your customers and that it delivers on its promise; also that it’s easy and intuitive to use, not frustrating. You make sure customer reps and salespeople or store clerks welcome customers like the important people they are. 

Make the same effort for your employees.

The great product experience you offer a co-worker is the company itself: great company culture, a great place to work, the feeling that one can do good work without frustrating obstacles standing in the way. A key element of engagement is doing what you love in a meaningful context. 

A key element of engagement is doing what you love in a meaningful context. If people are spending time learning more about a subject they enjoy and find ways to apply that in the workplace, it can dramatically help their views about their job, boosting engagement and hence retention.

Actively devise a professional development plan with your employees and support them on this educational journey. From online e-learning modules to investing in a professional qualification, education is not just for employees who are new in their role.

3. React to issues quickly

Employees won’t savage the company on social media in the way an irate customer might...but reacting to issues quickly shows people they are valued.Employees won’t savage the company on social media in the way an irate customer might, (although forums like Glassdoor.com give them a platform to do so now) but reacting to issues quickly shows people they are valued. 

Listen to them and solve their problems, as you would with customer complaints. People want to do excellent work that has meaning, they want to move the needle and get results for their company: giving them what they need is a huge win-win.

4. Demonstrate that you appreciate their work in a meaningful way

Do you offer perks and gifts to customers? Do you do the same for co-workers? Do you offer perks and gifts to customers? Do you do the same for co-workers? 

Small gifts, parties, celebrating results and milestones, even small ones, cement good feelings. Acknowledge personal events (a birthday, a wedding, etc.) as well as team events (a big sale, a new client, a completed project).

According to the Global Wellness Institute, just 9% of the workforce have access to corporate wellness programs and sadly, only 25% believe their employer offers workplace wellness services because it actually cares about their personal wellness. This means there is immense opportunity to show your employees you truly care with a genuine wellness programme.

Company-wide initiatives like offering healthy food options and opening a gym or offering exercise classes as a way to release tension have been proven to boost wellness, morale and productivity for two reasons: employees are in better health and less stressed, and they are grateful because they feel valued.

5. Reward positive ambassadors

Who among your co-workers makes your company a great place to be? Who is kind? Who is a lot of fun? Who is the problem solver who will run to the rescue? Who inspires colleagues to higher standards? Who has a positive influence on the place? 

Who inspires colleagues to higher standards? Who has a positive influence on the place?Find out who these people are, look for the ‘positive deviant’, and give them a position or engineer their existing position so that their positive influence can be felt far and wide. Don’t lock them up in the corner office but make them part of a team working on a strategic project.

6. Find meaning in the bigger picture

Just like customers are increasingly concerned about companies' impact on the human and natural environment, employees want to make a positive difference in the world and not just push paper all day. It is crucial to highlight how their contribution is making the company, local community and the world better places. In addition, enable them to bring their personalized value system to work. Employees want to make a positive difference in the world and not just push paper all day.Is there a budget you can give to each employee to donate to a charity of their choosing? Can the company donate a certain number of days of that person’s time to volunteer? Alternatively, could your staff offer their own sick leave that they may not use to another staff member who is going through a time of hardship?

Finally, as you take these steps within your company, ensure that the world knows about it by applying for “Great Place to Work” awards and the Investors in People Quality Standard, so that you are recognized internally and externally for your efforts.