Business success depends on having an engaged and enabled workforce. Our research shows that organisations rated highest for engagement and enablement achieve four-and-a-half times the revenue growth of those that score lowest. It’s a prize worth fighting for.
The engagement game is changing. Major forces are reshaping what employees want and need from their employers to perform at their best. And this is especially true in the Middle East where change happens at an even more rapid pace. In this environment, the winners will be organisations that can manage, motivate and retain the best people.
It’s worrying, then, when we see some organisations in the GCC failing to put the right people strategies in place to meet critical business challenges. We analysed data from more than 5 million employees globally; 1 million of those from the Middle East. Five key challenges arose that we expect will have a vast impact on businesses over the coming 15 years; collaboration, agility, transparency, innovation and productivity. Overcoming these challenges will depend on an engaged and enabled workforce.
To overcome these challenges I believe that you need to break them down and deal with them individually, but at the same time.
Keeping up with change and making the right decisions will require new levels of collaboration. ‘Big collaboration’ will mean bringing people together to reach solutions. But despite 80% of organisations globally placing team-working among their strengths, our research reveals that close to half of employees (44%) say their teams are not adequately supported by counterparts elsewhere in the business.
Organisations need to make sure they have the right platforms, processes, practices and skills in place to ensure that employees aren’t left frustrated and disengaged.
Jiten Puri, head of talent and organisational development at Aujan Coca-Cola, explains: “Aujan employees work across multiple functions in 15 countries, making disconnection between different areas of the business a real danger. To combat this, we’ve launched Aujan’s ‘day in the life’ programme, which sees employees spend a day working in a different role before sharing their thoughts and suggestions. The feedback on the programme has been incredibly positive, with people telling us they feel more able to empathise with other teams and understand their challenges.”
In a fluid and complex business environment, different ways of thinking and behaving can give you that competitive edge. Exactly half of employees say that they are given enough
time for training, and 43% don’t believe that their company communicates openly and honestly about change.
In changing times, with evolving demands, clear and regular communication – together with continuous training – is required. It is an area that is easy to influence even without business transformation.
Working in an agile way also requires a different way of thinking and behaving. We need to be able to react to change with quick decision-making at the right level. Hay Group data indicates that this is something many organisations struggle with, as more than a third of employees (36%) feel that decisions are not generally made at the right level and close to half (46%) are concerned about the speed of decision-making at their firm.
To promote agility, HR can influence leaders to see decisionmaking as an opportunity for development rather than a burden. Delegating certain levels of decision-making – and helping people feel comfortable with that is one of the first steps to a more agile organisation.
Digital technology has fostered a climate of transparency. Not only can businesses be held to account more easily – as we saw in May when a major GCC telecom instigated a social-media campaign that quickly backfired – digitisation has made it easier for people to promote their skills and find new jobs. Organisations therefore need to be open and honest about how they reward, manage and develop their people.
However, the research shows a dangerous lack of clarity around reward and development. Less than half of employees (45%) feel that there is a clear and transparent connection between their performance and their pay, and 43% feel that better performance won’t lead to opportunities to progress.
Meanwhile, more than half (52%) believe they are not paid fairly for the work they do and 41% lack clarity on the possible career paths available to them.
Innovation is key to responding to new business challenges,but while outwardly, many companies are keen for employees to innovate, more than a third (37%) of staff don’t believe that they’re encouraged to take reasonable risks to try new ideas and ways of working, and 47% feel that their ideas aren’t put into practice.
There is a dangerous risk for organisations that see responsibility for innovation sitting solely with the R&D department. Speaking with Mohammad Hassoobah, from the Saudi Stock Exchange, it’s clear that their people are driving innovation from all areas of the business. He explained that “great ideas come from people, we succeed because we listen to them”.
Businesses that engage their people to be innovative will earn themselves a real advantage. To foster a culture of innovation, you can focus on enabling employees to get involved in cross-functional projects and empowering them to come up with, and voice, their ideas to improve the business.
While improvement depends on innovation, there is a fine balance for companies to strike between this and keeping people focused on their day-to-day business operations. Helping employees get their tasks done to high quality, quickly, is vital to the efficient running of any business. That’s why having the right enablement policies in place is so important. We saw in this study that almost half (44%) of employees believe their organisation does not operate efficiently and is not effectively organised and structured (45%).
Improvements to productivity can come in many forms – from making sure staff are adequately trained and ensuring wellbeing is prioritised, to introducing digital technology to make employees’ lives easier.
You can also help a great deal by introducing clarity; define authority and draw the lines of responsibility. Once people know exactly what they’re responsible for and how far their authority reaches, they can move on, tackling the work at hand with confidence.
There are many challenges facing businesses that attempt to engage and enable their employees as we move toward the future of work. However, the rewards for getting it right are bigger and better than ever before. A highly engaged and enabled workforce can help their business improve performance and meet the challenges that lie ahead.
About Jan Marsli
Jan is the head of insight consulting, MENA Region at Hay Group Middle East. He specialises in employee engagement and effectiveness, linking HR to business performance.