Why a great workplace won’t stop your employees leaving (and that’s ok)

 

Facebook and Google are both rated in the top 10 best places to work in 2018, according to a new Glassdoor list.

Counterintuitively, earlier this year, a Business Insider report found that employees stay just 2.02 years on average at Facebook and 1.90 years at Google.

So why are all these employees leaving so quickly? Shouldn’t a great place to work encourage people to stay? Does that ‘great place to work’ accolade really mean anything at all?

Determining a ‘great place to work’

First, let’s look at some of the factors which contribute to a ‘great place to work’. According to Glassdoor, the winning companies have four things in common:

A mission to believe in:

  • Employees have a sense of purpose and understanding of how they make an impact
  • A motivating mission that inspires quality work

Strong culture:

  • Clearly defined and shared set of values that fosters community
  • Engaged leaders that view positive culture as part of a good business strategy

People focus:

  • Employees are engaged and empowered to do their best work
  • Emphasis on employee growth and development

Transparency:

  • Open and clear communication, from the top down
  • Honest feedback is valued and encouraged

Sounds great right? So, why would anyone want to leave somewhere like this.

Your employees are in demand

What if your employees leave because you provide a great place to work?

What if your mission, culture, focus on people and transparency create the conditions needed for your employees to thrive?

Take a look at the list again. You enable your people to excel, deliver quality work, develop and grow.

Chances are, by doing that you help them become more in demand from other companies just like you.

And that’s also ok, because now that you’re such a great place to work, you’ll continue to attract the best and the brightest. They will in turn help your company to progress and succeed even moreso, with their new ideas and expertise.

Great places to work help create great employees

I think we need to change our attitude towards job tenure and retention. The best employees may not stay for long, but that’s ok.

Instead, we need to help people to reach their greatest potential, during their time that they are with us, in order for them to make the greatest contribution.

A focus on mission, culture, people and transparency isn’t just the right thing to do by your people – it makes business sense too. And that’s a great place to work in anyone’s book.

 

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Are the robots coming for us too?

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It was William Gibson who said: ‘The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.’

So, consider this about the future of jobs and the automation of the workforce:

What does this all mean? More than likely, it means that the World Economic Forum prediction that more than five million jobs could be lost to automation by 2020 will become a fast reality. And that is surely just the beginning.

As an internal communicator, predictions on the future of work fascinate me because they provide a glimpse into our how industry will need to evolve and adapt too.

We’ll need to consider:

  • The increasing demand for a change management skillset as part of the internal communicators role
  • How we engage a workforce that is rapidly moving to automation
  • How we support the ‘survivors’ of such change as they move into the new world of work
  • Whether our own roles might disappear, as teams are wholesale replaced by automation and there are minimal employees left to engage. (I think the answer to this is quite likely to be ‘yes’ for some industries)
  • And finally, is it even thinkable that the role of internal communicator could be automated? Is there an algorithm for that?!

Automation is just one of the key themes emerging from the World Economic Forum report on the future of work, released in January this year. It’s definitely worth a scan through in full if you’ve not seen it yet. Check out the full WEF report – the future of jobs.

 

 

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in a high-vis vest

wearing a high-vis vest in London on NYE
Me in a high-vis vest at Tottenham Court Road on NYE

As Big Ben chimed the start of 2015 I stood by a bus stop in the centre of the city, London’s skyline obscuring all but a glimpse of the fireworks.

Dressed in an oversized high-vis vest, with an assault alarm in my pocket, I got hugs and high-fives from dozens of merry revellers celebrating the New Year.

I’d volunteered to support Transport for London’s bus events team on its busiest night of the year. I was one of hundreds of employees from our head office locations who took the opportunity to support frontline operations. After a short briefing we worked in teams of three at various bus stops around the capital. Our mission: to help the public get to where they wanted to go.

Yes it was cold, yes it was a very long night, but as I made my way home at 4.30am I made my New Year resolution to find more time to get out and about in the organisation that I work.

fireworks just visible over the top of buildings in london
London fireworks just visible from Tottenham Court Road

Why? For me, the night was a reminder of some important principles for internal communications:

  • The importance of knowing your audience. Make the time to learn about the work that people in your organisation do – especially if it’s in different locations and hours of the day to what you do. It’ll help you be a more effective and authentic communicator.
  • Even if you’ve worked in a similar organisation before, every audience is different. In an effort to get to know my audiences, I’ve spent time with car rental franchise owners in the outback of Australia, with paramedics on a Friday night in London and with teams of staff at retirement homes. While all are in operational and service-based industries (and do have some commonalities), they are also very different. Only time spent with your audiences in the role you are now in will help you understand the nuances.
  • The influence held by your customer-facing employees. Every interaction between a customer and an employee can build or damage the reputation of your organisation. Know this, and work out how to use this influence.
  • ‘Purpose’ is your strongest tool for engagement. Find out why people do what they do – what’s their ‘purpose’? I’m lucky to work in an organisation that has such a strong purpose. I felt satisfied after my shift that I’d helped hundreds of people get home quickly and safely. Purpose is the most powerful motivator you have – so use it.

In defence of the annual staff survey

CC image courtesy of Michael Coghlan on Flickr
CC image courtesy of Michael Coghlan on Flickr

Is there still a place for the traditional annual employee survey?

I think there is.

I’ve been hearing a lot of backlash recently about annual surveys: that a yearly check isn’t enough; that employers should know how their people feel without surveying them; or that senior managers just pay lip-service to the results.

All of this can be true. But it doesn’t mean that the annual staff survey in itself is flawed.

Done right, the all-staff survey should be the piece that gives you the powerful set of data about your people that you can benchmark year on year.

But if that’s all you do, then no wonder you’re not seeing the benefit.

The survey should always form part of a continual cycle of seeking employee feedback. A programme of activity that includes smaller pulse checks, focus groups and discussion about employee issues in as many of your internal channels as possible. And it shouldn’t replace regular check-ins between managers and individuals.

Most importantly, is what happens afterwards. Does feedback get actioned? Does the business improve? Do employees see a genuine intention by the business to show that their feedback matters?

Unless you take action as a result of employee feedback it really doesn’t matter if you survey your people once a year or every single day.

So. If you can’t sustain that, don’t do it.

All surveys need to start with the will of the business to improve and to be a better place to work. They need to be supported by clear processes for acting on the results, and the resources to back this up. ‘We’re too busy to look into this right now’ cannot be an option.

Better still, you develop a culture where everyone feels accountable for business improvements and where everyone is empowered to make those improvements.

It shouldn’t just be the responsibility of leadership; that just isn’t sustainable.

As internal communicators, we need to continue to press our organisations to look beyond the annual employee survey. To build continual improvement into the way we work and as something that everyone is truly responsibly for.

Australian Edelman Trust Barometer results revealed….how does Oz stack up?

Employees – not leaders – are now the most trusted source of information about business in Australia across four key areas: customer service, innovation, business practices and leadership information.

These are the findings of the Australian Edelman Trust Barometer 2014.

The research also shows trust in ‘regular employees’ has risen from 33 per cent in 2009 through to 53 per cent in 2014. I think the large increase should send a clear message to businesses of the importance of treating employees as the most powerful brand advocates and the value of internal communications in driving this for organisations.

Australian Edelman Trust Barometer findings

You can read the full slide deck of the Australian Edelman Trust Barometer. Some of the key takeaways I took note of for Australia include:

  • Trust in Australia has increased across the board – in NGOs, business, Government (up 13 per cent!) and in media. Trust in every institution is now at its highest point since 2009
  • Trust is six points higher than the UK and nine points higher than the US. Trust in Australia now stands at 58 points on the Trust barometer.
  • Australians are calling for more regulation from Government to protect individuals from business.
  • There is low trust in China – despite China being Australia’s main trading partner.

What are the takeaways for internal communications pros?

I covered the findings of the global Barometer results on a recent blog post here, exploring what internal comms pros could do about the findings.

So what about specifically for Australia?

I return again to the findings that focus on the high level of trust in ‘regular employees’. Slide 20 from the pack demonstrates just how staggering these figures are:

edelman trust barometer

Internal comms pros need to work hand-in-hand with external comms and marketing teams to build-up employees as the greatest asset for the company. The slide pack also lists some of the other ways business can build trust, including: treating employees well, acts responsibly in a crisis, is transparent and open.

Trust in CEOs has also increased since 2009 from 19 per cent to 39 percent. There is still more to do! Slide 23 in the pack highlights the ways leaders can take action. These are all areas internal comms can and should be supporting:

edelman trust barometer australia

 Want to find out more?

How important is technology to employee engagement?

Can the latest technologies increase employee engagement?
Can the latest technologies increase employee engagement?

I’m lucky enough to have a workplace-provided iPhone, iPad and latest model laptop. I can BYO my own iPhone or iPad to the office if I choose. I can work flexibly on wi-fi around the building and my manager supports me to work from home if I need to. Collaboration through technology is easy – via video conference or on our award-winning social intranet.

Does this all add up to making me more engaged as an employee?

Well, a new(ish) report suggests that it might.

Google recently commissioned Deloitte to prepare a report on the workplace impacts of digital technologies.

Issued late last year in Australia, the report – entitled ‘The Connected Workplace’ – suggests that increasing the availability of digital technologies in the workplace could help to improve employee satisfaction.

It states:

“This report is founded on the hypothesis that greater access to digital technologies would increase productivity and build employee engagement and improve satisfaction. In turn, this should reduce employee turnover and help businesses retain the best talent at a time when human resources managers need more ammunition to win the war for talent in the digital economy.”

The sorts of things the survey found important to employees were:

  • Fast internet speed
  • Flexible policies (social media, BYOD, telework)
  • Comparative home and workplace technology
  • Adequate help from the IT department
  • Access to online collaborative tools

What strikes me is that these aren’t the sorts of findings that are likely to be discovered in the typical staff satisfaction survey. When do we ever ask if people like using the laptop they’ve been allocated by IT? Or check if they are satisfied with the speed of the internet? More importantly – do we ask how the technology we offer in the workplace makes them feel about the company they work for?

No. Instead, our staff satisfaction surveys tend to focus on traditional workplace culture and management. So how can we discover these findings for ourselves and act on them?

The Deloitte report is well worth reading and also worth considering some of the findings for your own business. Look around – is there open access to facebook? Can employees work from home? Is the internet fast? If you answered yes to all three, then great, there may not be a problem. But if it’s a no, you might find that underpar technology and technology policies are damaging your employee engagement. Does your business have a digital strategy to improve this?

Maybe it’s time to revamp your staff survey this year to find out how technology is impacting engagement and productivity.

A final word from the report:

“Handing out tablets to employees will not necessarily increase their engagement and productivity at work. However, a clearly planned and strategic approach to rolling out digital technologies is likely to make employees feel more involved, inspired and ultimately more engaged with the business.”

 Read the full report here.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Look who’s talking: how social media brought our meeting room etiquette reminders to life

1look who's talking

It’s a typical day in the office. A colleague visits your desk. People are continually running overtime in meetings, he says, and it’s impacting meetings that follow. He says he’d like to make people aware that they need to keep to set meeting times.

On auto-pilot, you suggest an email to the PA network, a reminder message on the intranet  and perhaps some notices on meeting room doors. Job done.

But how about trying something different? How often do we look at a common comms situation – something as seemingly mundane as meeting room etiquette – and think of ways to actively engage our audiences, involve them in the issue and encourage positive action?

Here’s an example of how I took the challenge above and tried something new……

Case study: ineffective meetings campaign

  • The objective of this campaign was to change behaviour, so the approach needed to involve employees and prompt action. With a colleague I created the idea of a designated day when we would encourage employees to ‘take the pledge’ to finish their meetings on time.
  • Rather than launching the campaign through a news article or email, we looked first to social media.
  • We used the collaboration area of the intranet (ours is combined, yours might be yammer, chatter etc) to start a conversation, creating a hashtag #itakethepledge to ensure the conversation was searchable and collected in one place. The post went something like this: “Fed up of meetings not finishing on time? Why not do something about it this Friday by taking a pledge to finish all your meetings on time? Show your support by commenting on this post and include #itakethepledge.”
  • We emailed a network of supporters asking them to comment on the post, ensuring it got off to a good start. (This was VITAL to the success of the campaign).
  • Momentum then took over – before long dozens of people were posting #itakethepledge to show their support and ‘liking’ the post. The more people who commented, the longer the post stayed as the top post on the activity feed – meaning more people were likely to see it.
  • By now, we’d got ourselves something newsworthy. Now it was time for the news story. I created an intranet news article about all the employees who had signed up for the day of action. I linked back to the activity post, encouraging even more people to take the pledge.
  • Finally, we took the campaign offline, displaying some posters around the office too.
  • On the day of action – ‘pledge day’ – we continued the conversation on the intranet, reminding all participants of the pledge and asking them to spread the word about the campaign.

It’s worth mentioning that the entirety of the above campaign comprised no more than a few hours work. Yet it generated more conversation, more interest and more genuine engagement than any standalone news article could have ever hoped to do. While it started off as an experiment, with little planning, it’s given us so many ideas for future comms challenges. We plan to repeat the campaign in the new year.

Top tips for how you can use an enterprise social network campaign in your business:

  • make it an issue people care about (late running meetings frustrate everyone).
  • make use of your networks: you need a network of people to help join the conversation to get the momentum going. So pre-existing relationships across the business are a must.
  • monitor what’s happening: keep a close eye on the conversation, if you start to see signs it’s fizzling out, then spice it up with a new angle or ask a few co-workers to write a post.
  • use the traditional channels too: once the conversation went crazy, we knew we were onto something exciting and followed it up with a news story on the intranet and slides on the plasma screens in the common areas of the building.

Have you tried anything like this campaign? Please let me know in the comments field!