Employees need to feel fulfilled

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 January, 2007, 12:00am

Companies should take a common sense approach when it comes to motivating and engaging their staff

ENGAGEMENT SURVEYS help companies to assess staff needs and discover whether they are happy at work or not. But if employees are not really motivated, they will show a clean pair of heels.

A high staff turnover almost inevitably affects a company's productivity. It is simply not enough to recruit and train employees if, in the long term, the company cannot keep them on board or is unwilling to do what it takes to nurture their commitment to the business.

Developing a strong sense of fulfilment among staff is crucial because their happiness can directly affect the company's levels of productivity.

Wang Jing, Shell Hong Kong's general manager for human resources, said committed employees generated far better business results.

'I have come across research by [worldwide HR pioneer] Hewitt that reveals a very close correlation between general employee satisfaction levels and a company's overall profit level,' said Ms Wang.

Head of corporate HR for The Hong Kong and China Gas Co, Margaret Cheng, said higher productivity could not be achieved without proper processes and systems. HR professionals trying to keep the workforce motivated and engaged should remember that motivating factors vary from person to person.

'Some greatly desire authority or status. Some treasure congenial working relations, while others may be motivated by comfort and security,' Ms Cheng said. 'It is essential that we understand individual differences and engage people with the right motivation.'

Ms Wang said other factors that kept people in their jobs ranged from tough or fresh job challenges to international exposure, a strong brand and reputation, competitive compensation and benefits and a specific work environment or location.

'One of the most critical factors is a company's corporate value,' Ms Wang said.

'Employees are more likely to stay when their personal value gels well with [this].'

Ms Wang said that there was no easy answer to the challenge of motivation because of the diversity of today's workforce.

'Companies [should] use multiple channels of motivation to capture the majority of their employees' interests,' she said. 'Most importantly, they must show a genuine concern and respect [for] their people.' Allowing employees some freedom of choice through the company's systems and processes is advisable, but this must not jeopardise the firm's core values. Diversity in a company encompasses the challenges of motivating and engaging workforces from different parts of the world.

Asian and western workforces, with their different cultural backgrounds, value judgments and world views, might be thought to attract contrasting approaches from HR professionals armed with this goal.

However, Ms Wang said workforces from different cultures or geographies had a lot in common when motivating staff.

'Regardless of where they are from, at the end of the day everybody wants to be respected, valued, recognised and rewarded for what they do,' she said.

'Although surface behaviour may differ due to the cultural diversity, the essence is the same - sometimes one finds bigger cultural differences between employees from different organisations than between different national cultures.'

Syed Ali Abbas, Asia-Pacific human resources director for AT&T, said that motivation and engagement were driven by the cultural context and how senior management viewed the workforce and, ultimately, the company culture.

'A very important role is played by the manager, [who is the] conduit through whom the company works with the employee in terms of motivating, engaging, coaching and supporting,' Mr Abbas said.

Other variables that had an impact on the cultural context ranged from the nature of the company's business - whether multinational or small to medium-sized enterprises - to its field of industry.

Mr Abbas said that despite the large number of variables, companies should take the common sense approach to motivation and engagement, regardless of their location, size, industry or status.

'Don'ts [include] ensuring that, when you define a culture, that culture is looked after and protected and that top management does not break out of the culture when [management deems it] convenient,' he said.

'For example, don't ask employees to do 15 different things, but give them the facilities, equipment, time and resources to only do 10, as this is very demotivating and the way to lose engagement.'