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Best Companies Live: The power of investing in your people

What does it take to create an environment where employees feel valued and motivated?

Our data shows to effectively invest in your people, you must create a culture of personal growth. Another key factor is to offer a fair deal for employees. This means providing them with a competitive salary, benefits, and opportunities for advancement. When employees feel like they are constantly developing and are fairly remunerated, they are more likely to be engaged in their work. They are also more likely to be loyal to their company and remain in their roles for the long term.

The focus of our session was to identify areas of personal growth for employees and how that then affects their perception of the pay they receive, in addition to the satisfaction and fulfilment they feel within their job role. When employees are inspired by their work and ensure there is room for growth from developmental and financial standpoints, they are more likely to be engaged and productive. They are also more likely to stay with the company for the long term.

Our Best Companies Live events are an opportunity for valued members of our community to come together and discuss how they are making the world a better workplace. Our event for Q3 was hosted by Dan Walker and the second panel discussion of the day was The power of investing in your people.

This article contains highlights for this insight session, to watch the session in full, please watch the video below.

This article contains highlights for this insight session, to watch the session in full, please watch the video.

Our Red Chair panellists: Mike Haley – CEO of CIFAS, Simon Wood – CEO of Eficode, Miranda Burgum – Group People Director of GAIL’s, and Robert Donaldson - CEO of RSM UK shared their insights on how to create a culture of investment and growth in an organisation, and how development opportunities affect a person’s feelings towards their salaries and job role overall.

To measure if our Best Companies community felt they were being invested in, we posed statements from our b-Heard employee engagement survey to our Red Chair panellists, Alumni guests, and studio and virtual audiences in the form of a vote. These would be compared to the bottom scoring 50% of organisations who use our survey. For our Personal Growth factor, we posed: My manager helps me to fulfil my potential., The training in the job is a great benefit to me personally., and: The experience I gain from this job is valuable for my future. For the Fair Deal factor, we posed: I am happy with the pay and benefits I receive in this job., and I feel I receive fair pay for the responsibilities I have in my job.

Discussion 1: Nurturing a culture of growth and development

According to our data, Personal Growth is one of the most important drivers of employee engagement, and it’s never been more important than it is now. If an organisation invests in the growth and development of its people, that will give them confidence in their future with that organisation. It will also make them feel better about their remuneration - their fair deal.

Our panellists discussed the initiatives and values their organisation’s leaders are practising every day to ensure they are investing in their people.

Encourage your staff to develop in their role

Our evidence shows that your manager and leaders have a responsibility to help you grow within your role. Employees who feel that their manager has their back and is encouraging them to grow will be more engaged than those who don’t. Robert Donaldson - CEO of RSM UK explained the company’s ‘Grow our Own’ initiative and how it encourages company-wide growth and development.

“Basically, it’s a commitment that wherever we can, we will try to grow and develop the people who are already in the business. We now train 700+ school leavers each year, when initially it was around 300. This shift has meant that by pushing in a lot more talent for people at the beginning of their journey. It forces the business to delegate, as suddenly, you’ve got a lot of people who need more stuff to do, and this trickles up. This means everybody within the business speaks to people in positions above their own to take on more responsibility and develop as they go. This gives them the time and capacity to do that.”

This top-down, manager-to-employee approach to growth and development gives people at RSM UK the autonomy and confidence to take on more skills and progress through their careers.

Ensure your staff have had bespoke and valuable training

When a new starter joins an organisation, it can be daunting for them to ask for help or guidance. Companies that train their employees to excel within their roles reap the rewards. Miranda Burgum - Group People Director at GAIL’s discussed why and what the business is doing to address this.

“We expect high quality and high standards from our teams. Three years ago, we met with all our staff and asked, ‘What are we doing well and not so well?’, ‘What do we need to do more of?’. From those discussions, we created this incredible training programme that sets our people up from day one. Our craft, our bakers, and our baristas spend two weeks learning their roles. We also buddy up all our ‘breadheads’ – we don’t call them team members – so they can feel comfortable and assured. Essentially, no matter how experienced somebody is, we introduce them to our world and our ways of working. We also hold four-week dedicated management inductions. This is quite unique, and it sets us up for success.”

Setting time aside to help nurture and cater your people to your business before their work truly begins will give them confidence in their abilities as well as trust that the organisation cares about their growth and job success.

Create a role for your employees that is rich with experience

Whenever people start a new role, there are expectations of what this will do to improve their life, whether it’s career trajectory, financial incentive, or experiences that will hugely help them later down the line. We’ve discussed training already, experience differs in the sense that is not just about improving your skills for your role, but also providing valuable knowledge and strengths to succeed in other areas too. Mike Haley - CEO of CIFAS (a cyber fraud prevention service) discussed the CIFAS Academy and how this grows its employees’ experience and skillsets.

“We wanted to have another arm to the business, as we’re mainly a data company. We were keen to provide extra value to our people by equipping them with professional skills and – for the first time – professionalisation for postgraduate certificates. When the lockdown was happening, we were just launching our face-to-face academy… We had a great new facility for all our staff and in the end, we had to send everyone home. We then repurposed all the investments we’d made into curriculum, training, and staff. We had to think about how it could become a real benefit to employees because it was – and is – a complex world. We developed programmes to increase the capability and personal growth of all our staff. The courses vary heavily, but we have had over 50% uptake on them. These include postgraduate certificates, while others have earned professional certificates, and some have achieved more data-focused accreditations.”

Providing professional and academic certifications through the CIFAS Academy has meant that its people are more knowledgeable and capable in a variety of areas, not just ones that aid their job role.

Simon Wood - CEO of Eficode expanded on this and discussed the company’s ‘Tour of Duty’ initiative. “It’s a structured and well-articulated career journey. Managers and leaders dread that feeling when a really good member of staff comes up to you and says, ‘can I have a private word?’ You walk into a meeting, they fumble in their pocket for a white envelope, and your heart sinks. Losing good people is one of the most painful things all of us experience. Our ‘Tour of Duty’ is designed to avoid this happening as much as possible… People leave for a lot of reasons, whether it’s money, values, or they don’t like their manager… We want to know what we’re working with so it can help smooth that process. More typically it is used when people want to step from one role into another or go for a promotion. It’s a methodically laid out plan, where the person will be invested in their knowledge, training, development, and skills… it almost always results in a change of role or promotion.”

Companies don’t want to lose good people; employee engagement is the measure of what staff are really feeling about their role. Gearing people up to thrive in their role will motivate them to not only stay at an organisation but to excel and grow within their positions and continue their careers there.

Personal Growth: Jonathan’s word

At the end of the Personal Growth discussion, Jonathan Austin provided his insight into the factor.

“What growth and development are we giving to an individual, so they feel like they’re progressing? There will be a want to understand new concepts, and new leadership management theories, whatever it might be. That’s the important thing. I’m always reminded of the story of the Finance Director and the CEO… The Finance Director said, ‘What happens if we grow and develop our people, spend a lot of money on them, and they leave?’ And the CEO replied, ‘What happens if we don’t, and they stay?’ You cannot grow an organisation if you’re not growing the people within it.”

Discussion 2: Why offering a fair deal is essential

What Fair Deal means is do you feel fairly remunerated for the work you do? This can come in the form of base salary, bonuses, benefits, and other financial incentives. But as we mentioned, this insight session is about investing in people. It’s not just about the remuneration, do feel people motivated and fulfilled by their role? Our data shows that people’s perception of their pay is affected by the career development opportunities they have available to them. In the second part of our session, our panellists talked about what their companies are doing to ensure this.

Ensure your employees are satisfied and motivated by their remuneration

Feeling as though your hard work has paid off is hugely rewarding. Employee engagement scores are affected greatly by fair pay, particularly negatively for people in jobs without growth opportunities. Sometimes, however, it isn’t just about the pay. Fair Deal does focus on financial remuneration, but sometimes a reward can be as simple as just feeling acknowledged for doing your job well. Robert Donaldson explained RSM’s ‘High Five’ scheme.

“I’m going to be honest; I was sceptical at first. It’s a micro-reward and recognition scheme; we offer non-monetary and monetary ‘thank you’ cards… It felt a bit of a gimmick, we already had substantial bonus schemes in place, and I wasn’t sure of its value. But what it offered was immediate recognition to people for doing something good. Anyone in the organisation can award a ‘high five’ – it’s actually very powerful.” Employee engagement is energy, and it will be continuously topped up by strong benefits, fair pay, opportunities for development, and colleagues acknowledging you for your good work.

Take all factors into consideration when determining what is fair pay for your employees

There are many reasons why people may feel their salary is not a fair representation of their work. Obviously, as the last 18 months has shown, the cost of living has increased heavily in the UK. Suddenly, what was perceived as fair pay may now feel unfair considering the increase in outgoings. Businesses that understand both internal and external factors when deciding the worth of their positions is essential for an employee to remain engaged in their role.

Mike Haley discussed how CIFAS relaunched its people committee a couple of years ago to improve communications between employees and the senior leaders. “We were told there wasn’t enough staff consultation within the business – particularly around grievances in different areas. We did have an employee representative board but, in all honesty, it was more of a lip service from the leadership team. We knew if we were going to address these grievances, we needed a rethink. We relaunched this board as the CIFAS People Committee. We provided infrastructure and training so there would be fair representation. We set up a forum so we could deal with genuine issues, restructures, pay and grading, and new ways of working. Through that process we’ve built up trust and showed our people that we want to have these genuine conversations with elected representatives. Regarding Fair Deal, it showed it was working when the energy prices began to rise.

“Our representatives asked what we were going to do… Firstly, we rolled out financial coaching app called ‘Bippit’ – which has had excellent feedback… Secondly, we found the money – there’s always choices in business – to give everyone in the business £400 in their December pay to help alleviate some of the costs.”

Transparency around pay is key. Having clear lines of communication around these topics alleviates employee tensions and offers more trust that the business acknowledges their concerns and has an action-plan to help. It’s a duty of care to your employees that you value their contributions and want them to continue at the company.

Fair Deal: Jonathan’s word

At the end of the Fair Deal discussion, Jonathan Austin returned to the main stage to provide this insight.

“Obviously, this is a very emotive subject… As far as Fair Deal is concerned, we can’t meet everybody’s expectations, but what we can do is be transparent and clear and do whatever we can.”

What next?

As our panellists discussed, ensuring that companies are effectively investing in their people is vital to employee engagement. Motivating and valuing people through growth opportunities and fair remuneration are vital, but it’s not just about achieving these things. It’s also about creating a culture where employees are confident that the company, they work for has their back, and wants to see them thrive and succeed outside of work as much as within their role.

Personal Growth and Fair Deal are just two of the factors that drive employee engagement, and it is important to recognise that focusing on just two factors alone is not enough to create a World Class workplace.

To find out more about how you can equip your company with the insights to become World Class, visit our b-Heard employee engagement survey page and start your engagement journey.

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