Achieving Exceptional Productivity and Talent Retention by Boosting Your Employee Engagement

October 10, 2019 - 03:29:00 PM
Achieving Exceptional Productivity and Talent Retention by Boosting Your Employee Engagement

It is now 3 months into Mandy’s new job as a senior manager. Mandy now reports directly to her General Manager, and is responsible to achieve very ambitious business and production targets. The company has got strong financial backing and governmental connections. On top of that, Mandy gets a fantastic pay package that is the envy of her peers.

In the initial 3 months, Mandy went into her job with tremendous drive and enthusiasm, making as much effort as possible to learn the business and devising plans on how those ambitious targets can be achieved. She went down to the frontlines to be with her team to work on weekends and after office hours during the peak season. She took the initiative to bounce her ideas with her General Manager to get feedback and suggestions on how best to implement her plans to achieve those targets. In short, Mandy was enthused and energised to contribute as much as she possibly could to her company. After all, Mandy is hired based on her track record to deliver results, especially results that are very challenging to achieve.

At the end of the 3 months, Mandy decides it’s time to put her plans into action. She assembled her team and gave them an outline of what to expect in the forthcoming months, and how those ambitious targets can be achieved, although it will require a lot of hardwork and commitment from her team. Surprisingly, she found the newer members of her team more receptive to her ideas than the more experienced ones.

Mandy’s next step is to organise some training for her staff so as to equip them with the skills to improve their performance. Mandy has mentioned the training plans and budget to her General Manager not too long ago, and her General Manager had verbally agreed and supported her plan.

However, when Mandy went about doing the paperwork to get her training approved, she was met with some unpleasant surprises:
• The company policy states that if employees were to attend training programmes paid by the company, the employees would be contractually bound by the company. If the employee leaves before the time is up, he will have to pay the full costs of the training;
• Due to the above clause, the more experienced employees in Mandy’s team refused to signed the agreement and opted out of the training, without which they will not have the skills to reach their targets;
• In addition, Mandy got a last minute call from her Finance department stating that the budget has been “put on hold” as there wasn’t 2 other quotations from “approved” vendors. The fee quoted was also markedly higher than previous vendors engaged who were professors from reputable universities.

As Mandy had spent a lot of time and effort selecting and evaluating suitable programmes, she felt that the programme she selected fits the needs of her team most, and although the costs are higher, it can be repaid if the business and production targets are achieved. Conversely, Mandy is convinced that if she engaged the “cheaper” professor, the training contents will be too academic and will not help her team in achieving their goals.

On a broader scale, Mandy is feeling rather disengaged at the moment. She feels that her authority has been undermined by her company, and more importantly, she has been denied the opportunity to utilise her talents. She now understands why the experienced employees in her team are disengaged and resisting her plans because they know from experience that her plans are likely to be interfered and even shot down by management. Mandy suspects that if her training plan could be interfered in such a manner, so could be her other action plans to achieve targets. She might be held responsible for not achieving the targets despite being denied her action plans to achieve targets. Her new employees are demoralised too, as they found the training that will help them being “put on hold” indefinitely. Most of all, Mandy is frustrated by the inability of her General Manager to support and defend her.

In the meantime, Mandy’s employer is very concerned about motivating their employees and retaining good talent. The company is now working out plans to convert a portion of their staff’s salaries and bonuses as stock options, so that they will get more when the stock prices increase. Somehow, Mandy isn’t very excited or enthused by this. In fact, Mandy would like to opt out of this stock option plan, but fears that peer pressure within the organisation will make it difficult to do so. Hence, Mandy is now looking for other career options, just 3 months into her new job.

Just How Engaged are Your Employees?

Taking China’s data from BlessingWhite’s Employee Engagement Survey in 2011, it is found that:
• China has got the world’s lowest percentage of engaged employees as only 17% of employees surveyed are engaged. The good news, though is this is an improvement over 2008, where engaged employees make up only 10% of those surveyed.
• Even worse, China also has the world’s highest proportion of disengaged employees at 29%, or almost one in three employees disengaged. By disengaged employees, these are people who are contributing the least to their organisantional’ goals and results, AND are very dissatisfied with their jobs too!
• 16% of Chinese employees will leave their employers in the next 12 months. More importantly though, of those that will stay, the engaged employees will stay for what they can contribute to their organisations, while the disengaged ones will stay because of what they get (such as pay increases, stock options, fancy job titles etc.) The disengaged are not necessarily productive when they stay.

How do We Engage Our Employees?

Some companies perceive Employee Engagement to be “getting employees to work harder without increasing their pay”. While money may not be the primary factor in improving engagement, employees will definitely be disengaged if they feel manipulated. According to the BlessingWhite Employee Engagement survey, the Top 3 drivers of Employee Satisfaction are:
• Career development opportunities and training
• More opportunities to do what I do best
• More challenging work

At the same time, the Top 3 drivers to make employees contribute more towards organisational goals are:
• Regular, specific feedback about how I’m doing
• Development opportunities and training
• Greater clarity about what the organization needs me to do – and why.

In addition, the top 2 reasons why employees will stay on in the next 12 despite the presence of other opportunities elsewhere are:
1. My work. I like the work that I do (30%)
2. My career. I have significant development or advancement opportunities here (24%)
Come to think of it, if we spend most of our waking hours at work, we would logically want it to be a place where we are happy, and where we can achieve personal and career growth. Conversely, few people would want to stay long in a job where the pay is great, but the job sucks and there’s no future.

The top 5 reasons why employees intend to leave their companies in the next 12 months are:
1. My career. I don’t have opportunities to grow or advance here (28%)
2. My work. I don’t like what I do or it doesn’t make the most of my talents (16%)
3. My finances. I want to earn more money (14%)
4. My desire for change. I want to try something new (12%)
5. My manager. I don’t like working for him or her (10%)

While the money factor ranks high at No. 3, employees still consider the lack of career advancement and the inability to make use of one’s talent as bigger reasons why they are leaving. In fact, some employees may feel that the reason that they are not making enough money now is because their boss does not give them the opportunity to do what they are good at, and advance their careers!

The Challenge for Executives, Managers and the Individual

If you are a manager or executive hiring younger employees, there are several things in the new hiree’s mind which may come as a shock to those used to managing older employees. Younger employees will like to find out:
• When can I replace you in your position?;
• How can my talents be utilised fully, and what level of autonomy can I get?; or
• If I can come up with better ways to get the job done, I expect you to listen to me.

To most managers, younger Gen Y employees seem to be just impossible to manage. And that’s true. Gen Y employees CANNOT be managed. They must be inspired and excited instead. They need leaders who can develop their talents and make them grow, and only then will they be enthused and “in gear” with you. And only when they can take over your current position, can you then move to greater heights.

Having said that though, Employee Engagement is a 2-way street, and individuals will have to bear part of the responsibility too. Many a time, an individual is being enticed by big pay packages to join a company, only to find that it’s NOT the job they like, career development is limited, and they could not get along with their boss and colleagues. Individuals will need to think what they would like to do in 3-5 years’ time, and then work backwards to determine what they need to do now, so as to realise their career development plans in the future. They will also need to do more research on prospective employers to make sure there’s a good fit between what the employer wants, and what could make them happy.

by c.j. Ng
Business Development Associate, BlessingWhite Asia Pacific

c.j. is the world-class sales force effectiveness (SFE) expert who have helped international companies achieve quantum improvements in sales profits in China and beyond. So far, c.j. Is the 1st and ONLY Asian sales force effectiveness expert to have been invited to speak at the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) International Convention. c.j. has helped:
• International hospitality chains such as InterContinental Hotels Group, Sofitel and the Ascott Group to onboard their newly promoted Directors of Sales to make the transition from sales people to high-performing sales team leaders
• Leading pharmaceutical companies such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche and Merck to improve their senior managers’ leadership skills so as to excite their people to exceptional performance
• World-wide leaders in the construction market such as Philips Lighting, Saint-Gobain, Ingersoll Rand to develop competencies in their sales force so as to achieve quantum leaps in their sales results.

Prior to this, c.j. was Asia Marketing Manager for a Fortune 500 logistics company, as well as Corporate Training Manager for Ringier AG, Switzerland’s largest media group, in China, where he was responsible for sales team development, and helped increase the percentage of new hires to close their first sales within 2 months by 30%, as well as increase overall sales targets by more than 50%. Visit for more details.

c.j. is also a certified facilitator of Six Thinking Hats® and Why Should Anyone be Led by YOU TM training programmes