Putting people first gets results

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2007, 12:00am

Corporations that value their employees and that live by those values end up with highly engaged staff who, in turn, contribute positively towards improving the company's bottom line, the results of a study suggest.

According to the latest study by human resources consulting and outsourcing company, Hewitt Associates, organisations that it named among the best employers in Hong Kong reported an average profit growth of 38 per cent in 2005, compared with 17 per cent for firms that participated in the study but did not make the top 10 list.

'People issues are business issues,' said Ji-Ye Hwang, senior consultant in Hewitt's Talent and Organisation Consulting team based in Hong Kong, and project manager for the company's Best Employers in Hong Kong 2007 study.

'Customers are a lot happier when served by highly engaged staff. This leads to customer loyalty and contributes positively to the business result of the company,' agreed Aaron Yim, managing director of Ricoh Hong Kong and chairman of the judging panel.

While almost all companies claim that they treat employees as valuable assets, not all actually deliver on it. Best employers, as their name implies, back up their words with actions.

'Best employers do not disappoint. They set clear expectations and deliver on that,' observed Ms Hwang. 'What you see is what you get.'

In the case of best employers, company practices are aligned with what is verbally communicated. More chief executives of companies that made the best employer list than those that did not said they valued quality of leadership and attraction of talent as the most important factors affecting their organisation's ability to succeed.

Thirty per cent of CEOs from the best employer list consider employee engagement as a top priority for the year ahead, compared to a miniscule 6 per cent of CEOs from 'the rest' list. Employee engagement was the most frequently cited priority for CEOs on the best employer list.

Hewitt's latest Best Employers in Hong Kong study is part of the fourth Best Employers in Asia study. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel topped the Hong Kong top 10 list this year for the third time.

Other winners in Hong

Kong include Sun Hung Kai Properties, Jones Lang LaSalle Management Services, Nokia, Convoy Financial Services, Langham Place Hotel in Mong Kok, UBS AG, Pret A Manger, McDonald's Restaurants and American Express.

'I found that there are new companies in the top 10 this year. This is a good phenomenon for Hong Kong,' Mr Yim said. 'There are certain local companies that put emphasis on their HR strategy as part of their business strategy. They will be very successful if they do so.'

Figures from the Hewitt report show that while 'the best' have an average employee engagement score of 76 per cent, 'the rest' returned an engagement score of only 49 per cent. Hewitt defines engagement as the level of intellectual and emotional commitment an employee has for their company.

It measures three aspects of employee behaviour to determine their level of engagement: whether employees say great things about the company, whether they want to stay with the company and whether they are inspired and motivated to do their best for the company.

The best employers also tended to view human resources as a strategic business partner. Ninety per cent of CEOs from firms that made the list acknowledged that their HR departments identified and implemented human resource strategies and solutions that were critical to meeting business needs, compared to 71 per cent of CEOs from 'the rest'.

And contrary to popular opinion, paying more does not necessarily make one a best employer. Companies that made the list gave salary increases similar to those that did not.