Let's talk about "employee engagement". In the corporate lexicon, it's tossed around as a buzzword, a strategy and a lofty ideal. Study after study on everything from productivity and turnover rates to customer satisfaction and client retention show that a talented, engaged employee base is the key to positive results. So why is it so hard to put a finger on what employee engagement strategies look like in actual practice, and why is it so easy to fall short of that goal?
Recently, Personiv had the honor of being named to Inc.'s Best Workplaces 2020, a recognition that followed closely on the heels of the announcement that we'd also been chosen as one of Comparably's Best Workplaces for Diversity at the end of 2019. And while the goal of creating workplaces that celebrate our differences and invest in our professional development has never been blue ribbons or recognition, we're excited to be included on both lists.
This doesn't mean that we'll pretend to be experts on the matter, but we can at least share what we've learned in over three decades of constantly striving to put our people first – and why we're so obsessed with finding better ways to do it.
Employee Engagement Has to be More Than a Strategy
Inc. singled out 389 finalists for this year’s list after collecting data on nearly four thousand nominees. Each nominated company was ranked using a composite score of survey results that measured variables like the benefits and perks afforded to team members – but more than that, the administered survey looked at the trust employees had in their employers, the effectiveness of each organization's management and leadership, and the outlook participants had in regards to the future of the company they work for. This year, 73.5 percent of surveyed employees were engaged by their work.
For Personiv, that number is markedly higher -- 100 percent of surveyed employees were engaged by the work they do for the company.
Our inclusion on both the Inc. Best Workplaces 2020 list and as a Best Workplace for Diversity with Comparably were both determined by what our employees had to say about us, not what we had to say about ourselves. It's easy to rattle off a list of perks and benefits like free lunch and ping pong or draft an impressive sounding "Why You'll Love Working for Us" jobs page. A lot of companies can do exactly that, in the best possible faith, but neither one will ever be more than a strategy.
Why? Because neither one of those things matters if the employees you're hoping to entice and retain are more interested in professional development than ping pong.
Limiting employee engagement to a strategy initiative makes it easy for the "human element" to be lost. It's really awesome that engaged employees and high morale lead to increased productivity, high discretionary effort and low turnover. It's just that those goals should be approached as a byproduct, not the end product. We know we hire intelligent, skilled team members, so we know they're smart enough to know the difference between an initiative that gets something from them instead of giving something to them.
We want to do things that reward, invest in and foster a work-life balance for our employees because these things are the right thing to do – that's "Being Human". When organizations place sincerity at the center of employee experience, the good stuff – happier customers, high productivity and an increase in quality – can fall into place.
Our People Make Everything Possible – So We Treat Them Like It
There's a lot of talk about how robotic process automation (RPA) will revolutionize the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. And while we agree that technology is a key tool in the toolbox we send our frontline agents out into the field with, we can't disagree more strongly with the idea that RPA will replace human beings that manage the back office processes that our clients entrust to our care – which includes everything from finance and accounting tasks to customer support and beyond – because we know that no matter your business, people are the beating heart at the center of it.
The truth is, no matter what business you're in, you're in the people business. You serve them, and you hire them, and without them there would be no business. We make a point of never forgetting that.
For us, that means treating our people like the invaluable asset they are. Whether that's creating a place that celebrates the things that make us different or coming together on weeklong Himalayan treks as #OnePersoniv, we're always looking for how we can place the human element above everything else and keep it there.
When won Comparably's Best Workplaces for Diversity in the fourth quarter of 2019 we were of course very proud to see Personiv rank first among other similarly sized companies with a score of 98/100 for Overall Culture. We were also proud to see Gender (88/100) and Diversity (89/100) scores that set us head and shoulders above other companies with participating survey respondents. But we were also a little surprised.
Why? Because not only did we see places where we could be better (more on that in a moment), we want to operate in an employment atmosphere that also does better – it shouldn't be a standout accomplishment to have a workplace where women and employees of color feel empowered and invested in. That should be the norm and making it unremarkable can only happen if it's treated as normal – when its approached as the human thing to do for human beings.
We know that our employees are at their best when they don't need to choose between quality childcare or a living wage -- because anyone would.
We understand that our customers benefit when our employees are equipped with industry-leading technology and the ongoing training that opens up better employment opportunities with stateside-comparable certifications– because our employees benefit first.
We don't need statistics in order to urge our employees to make their families, professional development and health their first priorities, because that's common sense – we all want that!
You Can't Have Engaged Employees Without Engaged Leadership
Having a leadership team that's actively engaged in keeping employees engaged and thriving simply can't be skipped. It can't be as simple as someone at the top signing off on a new initiative or benefits package and then retreating back up to the penthouse.
Leaders have to, well, lead! They have to put their boots to the ground and make sure that employees know that they're invested in those initiatives by participating in them. For Personiv, that looks like any number of things. Each of our sites is helmed by executive leadership that once manned the front lines.
In Manila, for instance, employee suggestions and concerns go directly to the big boss' email inbox – where Paulo Cheung -- the EVP and site head there – has 24 hours to respond.
In Gurugram, employees aren't the only ones asked to complete ongoing training. Our EVP and site head in that city – Vishal Bora – just completed Harvard Business School certification training.
In Coimbatore, EVP Fredericks John is the first to roll up his sleeves up when the Rotaract Club he founded delivers supplies to schools and coordinates blood drives.
There's a reason that our CEO, David Lesniak, has a 97/100 score from Comparably respondents. It's for the same reason that 100 percent of employees agreed that "The senior leaders [at Personiv] value people as their most important resource]."
That reason is simple: the directive to put people first, invest in their professional development, provide engagement opportunities and prioritize a work-life balance that facilitates holistic employee health comes directly from our CEO, who participates firsthand in the process and models his full support through that participation.
Everything Can Be Improved – Just Ask Your Employees
The directive to place people first isn't the only one coming from Personiv's CEO. "Everything can be improved" is something of an unofficial cultural pillar here, as well. Everyone – whether they're an entry-level graphic artist working out of Manila, or a VP halfway across the world – is responsible for identifying those areas ripe for improvement. Ensuring that those improvements are made – whether they're process- or people-oriented is an accountability undertaken at the very top.
While we're proud of what our employees have allowed us to accomplish by way of these two accolades, we know that it's not time to tick this particular box and move on. Employee engagement, like everything else, can be improved. It's a dynamic process that demands we continue to learn and requires us to perform the – sometimes humbling! – exercise of constantly asking our team what we could do better.
Everyone, even award-winning companies, can improve how employees relate to and engage with the work they do within the company that employs them. If you're not sure where to start – just ask!
Our employees know what they need. Often, it simply begins with listening.
Want to know exactly what the People of Personiv have to say about working for a company like ours? Download the infographic we made just to celebrate them and get the full story – straight from the humans at the heart of our organization!