An engaged workforce makes an incredible difference in your ability to attract & retain top talent!

Hi5 Industry Thought Leader Interview: Nikki, HR Associate Director (SA), Ipreo

Nikki, tell us what you do & how you got started in your HR career?

I’m the Human Resources Associate Director for Ipreo, at their Cape Town offices, in South Africa. I started my career in HR straight out of university, after finishing my studies in Industrial Psychology at Stellenbosch University, when I ventured over to the UK and got onto a graduate HR programme there.

How important is it for employees to understand how their work and job contributes to the company’s goals and targets? And does it help with employee engagement?

Absolutely. I think that this is 100% pivotal to an organisation’s success and for its employees’ engagement within it. Unless, as an employee, you see the bigger picture and how your work contributes to what the wider organisation is striving to achieve, then you won’t necessarily be feeling that you’re able to contribute or that you’re valued in what you do. I think helping all employees understand how their work contributes in this way is a key aspect of engaging your workforce and it’s critical for driving high performance across the organisation.

What are some of the tools and methodologies that help HR ensure employees understand and make this connection, between their work and the organisation’s goals?

Communication, communication, communication! Ultimately, it’s about establishing and being clear on what the goals of the organisation are: what is its vision and what is it aiming to achieve? Then, once this is established, it’s about communicating it across the entire organisation in such a way that every employee has clear goals in their own work and how these goals connect with what the wider organisation is striving for. The ownership of communicating this message is wide and spread across the organisation, including with the line managers in various departments (as well as with HR). The means of ensuring that this communication happens needs to be done continuously through various modes and channels, including in: conversations, performance management and feedback, as well as other formal and informal means.

When it comes to getting feedback from employees about the organisation, what approaches do you think work well?

Most organisations traditionally adopt an Annual Employee Survey approach for gathering employee feedback. These surveys tend to ask questions about the usual ‘Big Ticket’ items that, as an employer, you want to hear about. In terms of my personal preference and where I think best practice is now moving towards, it tends instead to be about asking for more frequent and regular feedback from employees, both formally and informally: ‘Pulse Check’ Surveys. This is where instead of doing one BIG annual survey once per year (and where the information collected is for one point in time and pretty much out of date the moment the annual survey is filled in), rather you move into more of an operating rhythm where feedback from employees is part of ongoing conversations. So you, as a manager, will check in with your team perhaps on a quarterly basis to do a pulse-check survey — after which the manager then uses the input from employees to sit down and open-up a conversation with them. These ‘pulse check surveys’ need to be short and concise (and quick and easy for employees to complete), which means they need to focus on a few key metrics that you as an organisation value the most. These short surveys, combined with managers having related follow-up conversations with employees, brings to light the key strengths and weaknesses in the organisation. They lead to problem-solving as well as moves to action in order to resolve and fix any issues immediately and frequently. I feel that this ongoing rhythm of checking in with employees and creating a conversation with them (and listening to them) is a more natural and proactive way of getting employee feedback. Also, it becomes more a part of the organisation’s culture and way of operating.

In today’s workplace, what are the key elements of creating a successful employee survey or feedback initiative?

We’re in an age right now where people don’t have time for lots of different requests for participating in surveys or related administration. There’s just so much information coming at us from everywhere, so what seems to work well for employees (and managers) is stuff that’s quick and easy to digest, as well as quick and easy to action on!

What’s the link between employee engagement and an organisation’s culture for its staff retention?

It’s directly related! Without an engaged workforce, your employees won’t be loyal. They may be looking for other employment options (at your competitors). If they’re dis-engaged, then their commitment won’t be there. They won’t put in that extra effort, which may affect your productivity and results. They won’t be advocating for the organisation, which will affect their interactions with clients, suppliers and potential candidates (who might be your future employees). An engaged workforce can make an incredible difference in terms of your organisation’s ability to attract and retain top talent!

Thanks for sharing, Nikki!

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