10/06/2010 - 00:00

Positive work environment and effective communication vital for satisfied staff

10/06/2010 - 00:00


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Western Australia’s top employers realise happy workers are productive workers.

Positive work environment and effective communication vital for satisfied staff

IT’S common for children to daydream of one day becoming a successful movie or sports star, high-flying fighter pilot, doctor or heroic fire fighter.

No matter what the career choice, childhood dreams of future employment seemed to always centre on a belief in how happy one could be at work every day.

Fast forward to adulthood, and most of us have bought into the notion that work is, well, work.

But even though most ordinary people don’t kick a Sherrin, recite lines in the spotlight or fly multi-million dollar machines for a living, work should still be satisfying and make people happy.

Much of that is the responsibility of employers, who are charged with the task of keeping their workers happy, and in turn, productive, or risk losing them to greener pastures.

And according to the results of the WA Business News 2010 Best Employers Awards, some companies are better than others at keeping their charges happy.

Construction and engineering firm Georgiou Group capped off a successful year by notching a second consecutive win in the large business category, Stainless Pipes and Fittings won the medium sized category, while recruitment firm CPE Group was successful in the small business category.

The fourth category, won by Northerly Group and Snap Franchising, is judged on employee advocacy, or how likely an employee is to ‘talk-up’ or recommend their workplace to friends or colleagues.

Insync’s survey measures employee engagement over key areas, including rewards and recognition, performance feedback and appraisal, leadership, career development, communication and teamwork.

While the winners rated highly, the survey identified some worrying trends for many employers. This year’s survey showed employee advocacy levels have fallen across the board, from senior management to team members, with the largest shift at the bottom of the food chain.

Comparing this year’s survey to last, employee advocacy among team members dropped 81.25 per cent, meaning just 3 per cent of team members (below middle management) surveyed are willing to go in to bat for their boss.

And the survey results show senior management may not realise the trend is occurring.

Examining organisational performance over the key engagement areas, senior managers believe they are doing a good job.

Middle management and team members do not share this belief, however.

Most senior managers believe they are doing well, with 66 per cent reporting favourably on the survey. But just 56 per cent of middle management and 48 per cent of team members reported that their leadership group was performing adequately.

In terms of communication, 51 per cent of managers believed their efforts are good, while just 37 per cent of middle management and 36 per cent of team members agreed.

Insync Surveys chief executive James Garriock said the findings showed that some company leaders were either out of touch with their employees, or exaggerating performance rather than putting in place initiatives to boost engagement.

“While senior management often have grand plans and a clear vision on why different business directions are pursued, they are constantly challenged to maintain this clarity and level of motivation among all levels of employees,” Mr Garriock said.

“Both senior and middle management need to reconnect with their people

“By focusing on areas that encourage higher levels of engagement, such as strong leadership, rewards and recognition and career development opportunities, WA employers are more likely to attract and retain great people.”

Mr Garriock said companies could glean positive results by committing to engaging employees through reward initiatives, feedback and communication.

“By putting effort into improving employee engagement, organisations will find that their people are deeply committed and will feel they have personally invested in the success of their employer,” Mr Garriock said.

“Such employees will enjoy their jobs and look forward to coming to work each day, and this will positively impact their customer interactions.

“This sort of employee commitment is what pays dividends in terms of increased company performance.”

Advocacy Award

Employee advocacy, or how willing workers are to talk-up an organisation, is a key measure of the survey. So key, in fact, it warrants its own award category.

For the winners and finalists, a commitment to employee engagement generally resulted in increased scores in employee advocacy.

Northerly Group and Snap Printing, joint winners of the advocacy award with 60 per cent employee net promoter scores (ENPS), scored 44 per cent and 40 per cent on engagement, respectively.

Third placegetter Land Surveys, which scored 52 per cent on ENPS, recorded 48 per cent employee engagement.

According to Northerly Group director Michael Lawson, the firm’s success is thanks to its commitment to providing a quality working environment and providing employees with autonomy.

Northerly recently moved into a new headquarters in Subiaco, which Mr Lawson said was central to boosting employee satisfaction.

“One thing that we looked at, along with the design being open plan and having fantastic exposure to outside viewing, the breakout area we’ve got is about 45 square metres with a fully stocked wine bar,” Mr Lawson said.

“Secondly, we’re not just clock watchers, people have flexibility; we all have to do things during the day and sometimes people say they have to get away so we give them that flexibility.It’s the old give-and-take mentality; everyone’s got to give a little, and I think they certainly appreciate that.”

Among other initiatives put in place by Northerly this year are: twilight sailing at Royal Perth Yacht Club for all employees; monthly staff barbeques; and regular rewards such as gold class cinema tickets for top-performing employees.

Sharing the 2010 Insync Surveys Advocacy Award with Northerly was Snap Franchising.

Snap Franchising is the parent company of the Snap Printing franchise, which has a network of franchises across the country.

“We want Snap to be a great place to work, and that’s something that I’ve always said since I’ve been here, which is nine years now,’’ Snap Franchising chief executive Grant Vernon said.

“So when we found out about the survey we thought it was a great opportunity to find out whether people really did think it was a great place to work.”

Key engagement initiatives instituted by Snap include a ‘fun-in-the-workplace’ program to encourage a happy environment, monthly remedial massages and launching a vision statement and core values and communication sessions.

Under the program, Snap participated in Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea last week, but incorporated a cooking competition to better engage its workers.

Mr Vernon said other initiatives included regular pizza lunches, and staff awards, including not only employee of the month, but non-work related recognition for deeds done well.

“If people aren’t enjoying being here then they are not motivated to put in the effort that will give the best result,” Mr Vernon said.

“We also have a thing called the Snap Academy, which runs our training programs, and the Snap Academy runs specific fun-in-the-workplace type programs.

“There is a program called Fish, there is a book and a DVD that supports it, and we’ve run a whole training program based on it.

“It’s about the fish markets in Seattle, which you would think, Seattle being a pretty cold wet place, that the fish markets would be a pretty horrible place to work.

“There is a whole program around how they have made that a fun environment, so we have built a whole training program out of that and we’ve implemented it right across the country. We’ve really tried hard to give franchise owners the tools to make it fun and push that culture right across the group.”



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