Hang on to your talent Samir Mardini, head of talent practice at Aon Hewitt

Written by
Changeboard Team

01 Apr 2014

01 Apr 2014 • by Changeboard Team

Retain your top talent

As the economy improves, there’s increased pressure to retain talent or risk losing your best people. Research shows that companies with high engagement levels are up to 78% more productive – and we have found that one disengaged employee can cost your organisation $10,000 a year. Once you understand how engaged your employees are, the next step is to focus on what drives the engagement.

Over five years, we researched over 100,000 employees across 250 organisations in the Middle East. We found those with highly engaged employees have trusted leaders, their employer branding is strong and people are rewarded and recognised.

What drives engagement?

We identified six categories of engagement drivers and measured how the Middle East is performing against the rest of the world. In companies where the following practices were present, employee engagement reached up to 82%:

  • Mission and vision statement
  • Regular performance appraisals
  • Regular feedback from customers
  • Feedback from employees
  • Focused training and development strategy
  • Clearly defined career paths and total rewards strategy

HR is still viewed as an admin-focused function, but has an active role to play in influencing engagement across the board. On a practical level, there’s a need for better tools for a transparent performance cycle so you can evaluate employees fairly, identify and recognise solid performers and incorporate career management into performance reviews. This will help build a high-performance culture. We found 57% of employees are satisfied with how performance evaluation is run.

Employee perceptions and opportunities

As work processes are less evolved than in the West, employees feel they are not productive. Although they strongly agree that they make a significant contribution to organisational success, they feel unable to influence issues outside their authority. Employees have a greater sense of accomplishment when personal goals are aligned with organisational goals.

Companies that invest time in shaping career opportunities by laying clear goals, building learning and development functions and developing career paths have the biggest impact on engagement.

Employees across the region are dissatisfied with the training available and 50% see no path for internal opportunities. There’s also a strong perception that the performance environment is not meritocracy based and organisations need to have more transparent practices around appraisal and performance evaluation.

Quality of life

More than 57% of employees are happy with their workload and work/life balance and 54% believe diversity practices in the Middle East are satisfactory. Surprisingly for such a multicultural region, this latter figure is the lowest in the world.

Employees have confidence in the integrity of senior leaders. They see trust and respect in the workplace and enjoy their relationships with colleagues. However, leaders must communicate more frequently with employees and create more accountable managers.

The workforce also seeks more autonomy in decision-making. In the organisations we identified as ‘best employers’, 81% of employees feel they are being heard and receive proper attention from their managers and leaders, while 82% of leaders consider their employees as one of their most valued assets. In other companies these figures were 59% and 60% respectively.

Total rewards

Of the employees surveyed, 54% said that if their business does well, they will be rewarded appropriately and 48% agree that performance significantly affects pay. While 45% agree that they’re paid fairly for the contributions they make to organisational success, only 39% agree that they’re paid fairly when compared with other employees in similar roles.

In the past, pay and benefits were considered ‘hygiene factors’, but our April 2013 global research showed that pay has climbed to being perceived as the third most powerful factor in terms of its impact on engagement. This is mainly due to the fact that young generations with higher reward expectations are entering the workforce.

The Middle East is also behind on implementing recognition practices. Only 47% of employees think that they receive enough recognition, beyond pay and benefits, for their contributions and accomplishments.

Role of HR

Simply measuring engagement levels in your organisation is of little value if you do not know what increases engagement. To truly add value, you need to measure what you’re doing and actively demonstrate this to senior leadership through measurable data and figures.

By examining employee engagement data, you can develop a sustainable engagement model to combat the crisis-led approach of recent years, find new ways to motivate employees and continue to adjust to the current environment.

Organisations that take on employees’ views can focus on the key drivers that matter most to their employees, ride out the storm and sustain business performance in the future.

Top tips:

Create a culture of engagement through leadership:

Engage many stakeholders in the process, include communication programs, ongoing engagement measurement and pulse checks. Hold people accountable .

  • Focus on opportunity for improvement: In a constrained environment, the highest ROI in engagement efforts comes from focusing on the drivers that have the highest impact. A one-size-fits-all strategy is unlikely to work, so focus on employee segments will also be critical.
  • Recognise effort & performance: Employees are motivated by recognition, such as simple feedback for doing a good job.
  • Connect with employees: Concentrate on strategies for success in the current environment. Link everyday activities to the strategic imperatives of your business, and to missions that give meaning and purpose (eg. a hospital that saves lives, a consulting firm that improves the workplace of the future).
  • Create growth opportunities: Help employees make lateral moves and partake in special assignments and cross-functional training.
  • Select employees predisposed to engagement: Traits such as positive effect and conscientiousness can be strong indicators of engagement. Managerial skills and competencies that promote team engagement can be assessed and used for selection during the recruitment process.