Employee Engagement Essential in Professional Services Firms

employee engagementThe importance of employee engagement has been discussed in previous posts. Recent research indicates that nowhere is employee engagement more important than in professional services firms. While these firms are necessarily primarily client focused, ultimately the success of professional services firms relies on the success of their employees’ work. And the most successful employees are engaged employees.

In fact, in professional services firms employee engagement is a strategic business initiative.

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Multitasking Ability and Intelligence

When dividing attention between two tasks (Multitasking), people need to find the most efficient ways of allocating their attentional or processing resources between the tasks. It is reasonable to presume that people with higher levels of intelligence will be better able to allocate their processing resources efficiently. This was investigated in a study by Ben-Shakhar and Sheffer. Read on to learn more about their findings and how RightPeople has used this information to help you make better choices during your recruitment process.

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Employee Retention Linked to Shared Values and Interests

employee retention is reliant on shared values & interests between the company & its employees Research by the American Psychological Association has found that workers are more likely to stay with employers when there is alignment between their values/interests and those of the organisation. They found that these factors were more important than remuneration and benefits.

The Workforce Retention Survey, conducted with American workers aged 18 years and above, examined a range of factors associated with employee retention. Even in the current economic climate, values and meaning were key drivers of employee satisfaction above financial considerations.

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Organisations are reaping the benefits of psychometric assessments

stand_out_assessmentOrganisations are continually looking for tools and techniques to help them make better hiring and promotion decisions, as well as for ways to set themselves apart in the search for talent. A 2011 survey by an organisational research company reveals the high prevalence and impressive benefits of psychometric assessments as part of a talent recruitment and development programs, particularly in an era when many organisations cannot afford to spend significant amounts of money hiring new staff.

The survey involved over 640 organisations, including more than 500 that used assessments as part of their hiring and talent development strategy. The researchers used several benchmarks of organisational HR success. These included: high rates of employees receiving outstanding performance reviews, sound succession plans and manager satisfaction rates. Read on to find out more about what these successful organisations did to set themselves apart…

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Job/person mismatch is a leading cause of underperformance

Underperforming employees can be very costly to organisations.  A 2009 article in the  Australian Financial Review  found that unproductive employees can cost Australian businesses up to approximately $33 billion a year!

A primary reason for underperformance is a poor fit between the employee’s skills and interests and the needs of the organisation. Another related reason is mangers not clearly specifying their expectations and the requirements of the role. Both of these can lead to an employee struggling to deliver on what is required. These issues are preventable however.

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The key advantages of well-designed skills tests

Skills tests assess skill levels of applicants or employees on a variety of topics and areas that are important in the workplace. These may include typing and data entry, Microsoft Office and other commonly used software tools, Web development and basic literacy and numeracy skills, to name just a few.

There are a number of key advantages to using well designed skills tests as part of a pre-employment selection process or employee development program. Read on to find out more about these advantages, and about what you should be looking for to ensure that you select the best skills tests for your organisation.. » Read more

Minimising the impact of disruptions in the workplace

Distractions such as telephone calls, emails, online notifications and colleagues stopping by for a chat, or even the time it takes to try to remove such distractions, are part and parcel of the modern workplace. We tend to take it for granted that long periods of uninterrupted work are few and far between.

Recent research has shown that this can have quite a damaging effect on productivity and work safety. A study conducted by Michigan State University found that interruptions as short as 3 seconds are enough to double the chance that an employee will make a mistake.

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Protecting your business against fraud and misconduct

As the business world becomes more diverse and expands across national boundaries, concerns about security and integrity in the workplace have never been higher. Stakeholder expectations for ethical business operations continue to rise, placing more responsibility on organisations to employ people who have high ethical standards.

To safeguard their organisations, many organisations incorporate background screening checks into their recruitment process. While the benefits of these are clear, there are legal ramifications which arise when a criminal record is revealed.  Refusing to employ an individual because they have a criminal record is against the law in Australia.

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Tips when hiring a casual workforce

Over 2 million Australians, or 1 in 4 workers, are classified as casual workers.  A spokesperson from the ACTU described the trend in the increase in casual workers, or ‘casualisation’ of the workforce as “one of the dominant trends in the Australian workplace during the past decade”.

Much has been written about the casualisation of the workforce and there are many opinions on the benefits and costs. Casual employment can facilitate flexibility in the organsiation and help achieve a better work-to-lifestyle balance for employees. It can be particularly attractive to those who have other commitments, be it study or family, and who cannot or prefer not to commit to full time work. However, there are some hurdles that organisations should be aware of in relation to hiring a casual workforce.

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Report reveals the benefits of skills testing

Skills are specific competencies (such as knowledge of MS Excel) that enable performance of job tasks or functions (such as accounting tasks). While often thought of as ‘less than’ a qualification such as a degree, skills are essential in the workforce.

While being intelligent and having a degree, diploma or the like provide the necessary foundation to perform well in many roles, it’s also important that employees have the necessary skills to perform the day-to-day tasks required by their job and which are often not taught as part of a formal qualification.

 

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Put your money where your mouth is when it comes to employee ethics

A recent study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has revealed that organisations may not be doing enough to promote and protect their values within the organisation. The study found that 40% of employees believe that their unethical colleagues not only go un-reprimanded, but are also frequently rewarded and promoted for their bad behaviour.  In addition, only 29% of respondents had a good understanding of their organisation’s values and 15% had no awareness of them.

It’s not all bad news, though, with almost three-quarters (73%) reporting that it is at least somewhat important to them that organisations to have well defined values which guide employee behaviour.

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Job performance in the global economy: how the meaning of job performance varies cross-culturally

In the Australian work context, together with other similar individualistic Western countries (such as the USA and UK), job performance is typically assessed in terms of task (in-role) behaviour – i.e., how well an employee performs their duties;  organisational citizenship behaviour – i.e., going ‘above and beyond’ role requirements such as helping other employees with their workload; and counterproductive work behaviours – i.e., absenteeism and poor work practices.

In this global economy it is important to be aware of how job performance is assessed in other cultures, particularly more collectivist culture such as many Asian and Latin American countries.

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Bribery and corruption – are organisations informed and prepared?

A recently released report outlining the findings of Deloitte’s 2012 Bribery and Corruption survey reveals that organisations in Australia and New Zealand may be ill-equipped to identify and manage corruption and bribery risk.

The survey was completed by 390 organisations from Australia and New Zealand, including publicly listed companies, Australian subsidiaries of foreign companies, public sector organisations and private companies.

Some key findings are:

 

 

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Surveys could be key to cutting staff turnover

Recent research has found that up to 80% of staff turnover can be better controlled by organisations by improving their understanding of employee needs, employee-organisational fit and workplace culture.  The research, which included over 11,000 employees from 40 Australian organisations, was based on exit survey responses from employees who left their organisations between January 2011 and April 2012.  It found that the main reason that employees cited for leaving the organisation was an unfulfilling job role.

It also found that one of the keys to trying to reduce staff turnover and retain top talent is to be aware of what is going on in the organisation: whether employees are well suited to their roles, and engaged in their jobs.

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Attention: employers of skilled migrants

Australia’s immigration policy had long focused largely on accepting highly-skilled migrants. Seeking workers with outstanding skills and qualifications that are lacking in Australia aims to address specific skill shortages and enhances the size and skill level of the Australian labour force.

In the 2012-13 period Australia accepted approximately 190,000 migrants. 68 percent of these, or almost 130,000 were skilled migrants.

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research has found that skilled migrants, particularly those for whom English is a second language, often have different training needs to Australian workers.

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Organisational growth requires understanding your people

A report by the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA), Talent pipeline draining growth: Connecting human capital to the growth agenda has found that failing to draw on the talent and expertise of employees can result in significant difficulties with growing the business and reaching financial targets.

CGMA surveyed over 300 CEO’s, CFO’s and HR Directors and found that almost half (43%) of respondents thought that ineffective people management had contributed to difficulties achieving financial goals in their organsiations, while two-fifths (40%) claimed it had reduced their ability to innovate.

In the context of the global financial crisis, the skills, experience, development and job satisfaction levels of employees are emerging as major sources of competitive advantage or disadvantage. Companies with highly skilled HR practices achieve up to 3.5 times the revenue growth and twice the profit margins of companies less skilled in talent management.

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R your employees OK?

Thursday 13 September is National R U OK? Day.

R U OK? Day is a national mental health day on the second Thursday of September to encourage Australians to connect with their colleagues/employees by asking them: Are you okay?

One in five people experience depression at some point in their lives. That means that approximately 4 million Australians will suffer from depression. More than 2,000 Australians suicide each year. Depression is the most common mental illness, followed closely by anxiety.   Approximately 7 percent of Australian employees in any organisation suffer from depression each year.

 

So chances are that at least one person at each workplace may be suffering from a mental health problem right now.

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Due diligence can avoid legal issues

When hiring senior executives, a lot of time and attention tends to be given to perfecting the remuneration package.  A leading workplace law and strategy firm warns that it is important to give equal attention to exit strategies, to avoid costly legal battles if the relationship sours.

One aspect of the exit/departure process that is often disputed when senior executives move on is the restriant of trade clause, which sets out which organisations the executive is prohibited from working for after they leave the organisation and how long this prohibition lasts.  For instance, some organisations prohibit executives from working for competitors for up to on year after moving on.

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Keeping employees happy

Research has shown that some of the ‘perks’ that keep employees happy in their jobs are not the stereotypical ‘big ticket’ items that only larger businesses are able to offer.

Boredom, lack of opportunity and poor work-life balance are within the top four reasons that people leave their jobs, according to The Australian Human Resources Institute, rather than lack of perks such as corporate cards, cars and fancy technology. The Institute also found in a 2009 survey that employees value good communication and training opportunities over and above higher pay.

Other important considerations for employees, that are particularly relevant to smaller businesses that are unable to compete with large businesses on remuneration and work conditions, according to research undertaken by Deloitte, are:

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‘GPS building’ for your organisation

A GPS for business?

No, we’re not talking about a Global Positioning System for your car. But it is a similar principle. Many organisations and business leaders are arranging their organisation around GPS, or Guidance and Positioning Statements. Like a GPS in your car, an organisational GPS will guide your organisation to a chosen destination, providing clear directions and guidance along the way to shape the culture of the organisation. These statements can also be referred to as mission statements, values statements or charters.

An effective GPS is a key tool in fostering employee engagement.

A number of successful and high profile organisations understand this. BHP Billiton refers to their GPS (called a charter on their website) as the “single most important means by which we communicate who we are, what we do, and what we stand for as an organisation, and it is the basis for our decision-making”. Their Charter has existed for over 10 years with only minor modifications being made over that time.

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The hidden costs of employee disengagement

A recent research poll of Australian workers has found that more than 80% of Australian employees feel disengaged and work, with more than 20% being actively disengaged, that is behaving in ways that are actively harmful to the organisation.  They estimated that disengagement costs Australian organisations at least $33.5 Billion a year in lost productivity.  It also has other negative social effects outside the workplace, with disengaged employees taking out their negative feelings on their families and having more health problems.

As discussed in our earlier blog How engaged are your employees, employee engagement refers to the extent to which  employees believe in the values and mission of the organisation, are committed to their work and will act in ways that further the organisation’s interests.  It integrates the well known constructs of job satisfaction and organisational commitment.

Engaged employees are focused and connected at work, supportive of organisational goals and are willing to “go the extra mile” at work.

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Baby boomers are booming at work!

One of the most important issues in the current labour market is the ageing of Australia’s workforce. There are not enough Generation X’s and Yers to replace the retiring baby boomers (BBs). However, this is not necessarily cause for concern as over the last decade we have seen a big increase in the number of BBs working past traditional retirement age (60-65 years).

In 2000 approximately 47% of men and 21% of women worked past the age of 60. In 2010 the figure for men had increased by 15% to 62% and the figure for women had more than doubled to 43%.

While this was partly due to the fall out from the Global Financial Crisis and the impact on superannuation, it is a positive step for organisations as it provides an opportunity both to benefit from the wealth of knowledge that more experienced workers possess and to capitalise on the changing workforce to introduce more flexibility in terms of part-time and casual work, mentoring, opportunities to combine work and further study and working from home arrangements.

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Changing face of the workplace

A large survey of Australian businesses conducted by the National Institute of Labour Studies at Flinders University and the National Centre for Vocational Education Research reveals some interesting findings about the significant ways in which employment patterns have changed in the last 20 years.

They found that since 1992:

-There has been a significant shift away from full-time, permanent jobs, particularly for men

  • Only 20% of all new jobs were for men employed full-time on a permanent basis
  • Growth in permanent jobs had been concentrated among individuals aged 45-59
  • Labour hire has been growing rapidly and now comprises over 3% of all employment

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How engaged are your employees?

 Employee engagement (EE) refers to the extent to which your employees believe in the values and mission of the organisation, are committed to their work and will act in ways that further the organisation’s interests.  It integrates the well known constructs of job satisfaction and organisational commitment.

It can also be thought of as an emotional or intellectual “attachment” (positive or negative) to their role and the company.

Engaged employees = intellectually focused and/or emotionally connected at work, actively supportive of organisational goals and willing to put more effort into their jobs (Khan, 1990).

Disengaged employees= distant and withdrawn emotionally or intellectually and perform their roles incompletely, without effort or automatically (Khan, 1990).

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Surveys profitable for businesses: a case study

Surveys as risk management tools

Well designed organisational surveys are profitable for your business.  They operate as risk management tools, helping organisations to prevent problems before they occur.   They can help identify/prevent inapproriate hires, inappropriate promotions, poor organisational culture, unsafe practices, misconduct, poor leadership and burnout.

Alternatively, not identifying these issues and having  unengaged, unsuitable, underskilled, risk-taking employees can prove very costly in terms of an organisation’s bottom line and reputation.

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