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how to be a best employer

How To Be A Best Employer

RedBalloon was acknowledged by Hewitt as one of only five employers to be accredited best places to work in 2009.

I have had interesting discussions with the people from Hewitt. They have shared much of the research outcomes of employee engagement and good workplaces we’ve done with us. I like hearing about the theory about why we have achieved such a high engagement score.

The reality is we tried a lot of things – some worked some did not. We have made mistakes on this journey for which we have paid dearly. It is only now, as we mature as a business, that we have more things that are working than not working.

So when people ask the question – “tell me the ‘one thing’ that has caused engagement in your business”, really the answer is ‘never giving up’… that we keep doing new things, investing in our people and making sure that we know what makes our people tick.

There is no doubt that leadership is a big part of this. In fact, Hewitt says that organisations that have a clearly defined purpose that people believe in and want to be a part of.

When I speak about engagement, one of the first questions is usually ‘But you are a smaller organisation with less the 100 people, you can still get in a huddle, and people have easy access to you… this is much tougher in a big business?’  Well, of course, being the person I am my instant reaction is ‘Don’t give in’, just because it is hard, doesn’t mean that it is impossible. There are massive global businesses that have amazing engagement scores – think Google or Apple.

Engagement comes back to a shared belief in ‘why’… that is the single minded purpose.

I met Martin Nally from HRAnywhere at a lunch today where I spoke on employee engagement. He came up to me afterwards and shared a delightful story about engagement.

Some years ago he was in an HR role for Pasminco in Tasmania. He was tasked with increasing engagement (not sure if that exact language was used). The zinc produced was 99.4% pure and this is something that everyone could be very proud of… however it really didn’t mean that much to the average employee on the shop floor.

800 of the Pasminco workers were brought together in one room… his job to engage them. A cynical bunch, he started by asking them all to stand up. Then he asked them to each look down and see the zip in their overalls. He asked ‘what does it have written on it?’ one employee yelled out ‘YKK’. Martin beamed, ‘exactly’ he announced – ‘YKK means that the manufacturer uses our zinc in every zip they make… how does it feel knowing that we are in the front of every pair of Levi’s?’ The group cheered… they got it, they could see the difference they were making.

Martin went on to produce a massive global map that had sample products from all around the world of what the zinc was used for. The team got it… it was no longer the best zinc they were producing, they were helping people everywhere on the planet live their lives.

When trying to understand their purpose, I often keep asking the question ‘why?’ to get back to the difference we are really making to people. I want to improve employee engagement in Australia (even by just 1%) which is what ‘Changing gifting in Australia forever’ means to me.

Thanks Martin for such a vivid story.

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