30/07/2009 - 00:00

Reputation enhanced, big employers short on training

30/07/2009 - 00:00


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LET'S start with the bad news, delicately described as "improvement opportunities" by the collators of the Best Employer survey.

Reputation enhanced, big employers short on training

LET'S start with the bad news, delicately described as "improvement opportunities" by the collators of the Best Employer survey.

The biggest issue for employees at large companies is that they don't like their pay, with few people satisfied with their level of financial remuneration.

No surprise there.

Issues around professional development and career progression were also at the top of grievances. Put bluntly, workers can feel like a small cog in a big machine, with little hope of progressing.

Robyn Ivankovich, of large engineering and construction project manager Georgiou Group, told WA Business News the company identified a need to up-skill its workers about two years ago.

"We had an HR general manager but there was no-one looking at the people development business," Ms Ivankovich said.

"There wasn't much focus on up-skilling or cross-skilling; just getting people qualified for a job."

Georgiou's 400-strong workforce - plus contracted employees - largely consists of construction staff. The introduction of professional development programs means machine operators, for example, have found opportunities to progress after being cross-trained in areas such as health and safety.

"It helps with retaining because people see opportunities," said Ms Ivankovich, who heads leadership development at Georgiou.

Georgiou has an annual staff turnover of around 20 per cent, compared to sector norms of upwards of 30 per cent.

Georgiou has an HR department of seven or eight people who are involved in coaching senior management. Ms Ivankovich said bosses noticed when HR departments reduced turnover, because of the size of recruitment agency fees, but other initiatives that weren't so easily measured were also important.

"The bane of any HR or training person's life is justifying your existence," she said.

Supervisors welcomed the introduction of clear action plans to manage staff, Ms Ivankovich said, because they wanted to be seen as acting professionally, and not in a vindictive manner, when dealing with performance issues.

The top five gaps identified by employees of large companies are, after pay, concerned with training and development, or lack thereof.

This appeared to be less of a problem at small companies (10 to 50 employees) and trended upwards for mid-size companies (51-200 employees) and peaked with large companies (more than 200 employees).

On the other hand, employees at large companies indicated they were proud of their employer's reputation, image and products and services; in other words, they are not embarrassed talking about their employer at a barbecue.

An employee at large Perth-based law firm, Lavan Legal, said: "It has established itself as an icon in the Western Australian legal industry, and this reputation is now providing it with national and international acclaim. I love coming to work each day; what more can I say?"

Insync Surveys WA state manager Tracie Dawson said the results showed employees had a great belief in their organisation's name and reputation, which suggested WA companies emphasise quality and were customer focused.

Overall, WA workers are more inclined to promote their employer than denounce them, which is a pretty good indication of employee satisfaction. Employee advocacy, however, is more prevalent in small companies.

Ms Dawson notes it is important for employees at large organisations to feel that their work is critical to overall performance, and for all employees to know they are a crucial cog in the larger machine.

"Organisations need to identify and address the wants and needs of employees and with increased size, these wants and needs cannot be assumed. They must be rigorously measured and actioned," Ms Dawson said.

An employee at Perth-based iiNet wrote: "I have never worked for an organisation that tries so hard to keep their employees happy. I enjoy coming to work and am proud to be contributing to iiNet's success."


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