Friday, April 9, 2010

What it takes to be a top employer

TO be successful and be regarded as among the best employers, a company among other things should be able to strike a balance between business goals and employee needs.

Although earnings and cashflow are vital and a reflection of an organisation’s strength, human resource is equally important in determining its path to success. An organisation will cease to exist if it has no people.

"A work environment that encourages suggestions, feedback and openness, without fear of reprisal, is vital for employee success" RAHMAT HASHIM ROSLAN

Business and political leaders are increasingly aware that having good people who are skilled and motivated can make a significant difference to an organisation.

Large corporations that started as small and medium enterprises (SMEs), for example, in Japan, Europe and the US, have made it big because they had been successful in strategising their business operations and workforce for optimum results.

From various findings and, according to a consultancy’s website, some of the main criteria in determining whether a company is a top employer, is its ability to engage with employees, the capability to streamline its workforce in line with its business objectives, and the effectiveness of sustaining employee engagement in the long run.

Engagement will enable positive interaction between employers and employees, and minimise stumbling blocks popping up in the companies’ relations with potential employees and customers.

Sharing his views on the subject, Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd country head human resources for Malaysia, Brunei and Mekong region, Rahmat Hashim Roslan, says the ability to earn the best employer label is not solely based on the virtue of an organisation but also its workforce.

Human needs and desires in a workplace are different individually and, as such, the organisation that wants to be known as a good employer must be able to strike the right balance in catering to its needs and those of its workforce, he adds.

A balance that works

Identifying an ideal balance of needs is crucial, but equally important is how to then make it work.

“To see whether a company is considered to be a good employer or the opposite, much depends on how it delivers this balance of needs. A best employer is one that is able to identify and deliver in the most effective approach and apply the most accurate balance of needs for its organisation and its workforce,” says Rahmat.

“A ‘best employer’ has a holistic approach to building a work environment in which employees are fully engaged and committed to business success.”

An organisation that strives to be a best employer must be committed in determining the optimal balance of needs between itself and its workforce, as well as in delivering that effectively. Such commitment is necessary to ensure that both parties achieve progress.

Rahmat points out that an organisation that strives to become a good and efficient employer must at the same time understand that the most important element that drive commitment is its workforce.

“The workforce comprises human beings. Every human need and desire in a workplace is different individually, but there are some similarities when it comes to engagement and career development. Everybody wants a workplace that promotes a working environment that is conducive and has a culture that is comfortable to work in.

“A work environment that encourages suggestions, feedback and openness, without fear of reprisal, is vital for employee success,” he notes.

An organisation, he adds, should always ensure that the employees’ values and beliefs are aligned with the company’s culture and values so as to achieve a common goal for future success.

Developing talent

Apart from this, a company must be committed in the area of engagement with and career development of its staff.

To this end, he says, it must identify high-potential employees as well as nurture and groom them to help attain leadership skills and master the relevant technical skills, and eventually take them to the next level.

As talent development is crucial for a company to move forward and become more competitive with the right skill sets, many organisations are now investing in training and development.

The Government and the private sector in the country are more serious now compared with a decade ago and are increasing their investments in training and development to ensure there is sufficient skills, know-how and expertise to be competitive in the global arena.

Elaborating on the training programmes, Rahmat adds that there must be commitment and investment in well-established training and development channels and programmes. This, he says, include formal training (on leadership and technical skills, culture and values), job rotations, assignments, mentoring/coaching, self-learning (company library and online resources).

Each employee must have a clear set of objectives that are aligned to the organisation’s goals, with regular feedback on performance, he notes.

Besides this, organisations should provide competitive compensation and benefits, including long-term financial reward to employees as well as recognise high achievers with good rewards, while enforcing strict consequence management for low performers.

Making things clear

Communication is also essential in achieving such commitment from the workforce, Rahmat adds. “Leaders must be visible and accessible, and provide clear direction about the organisation’s business strategy, goals and progress.

“Communication should be both top-down and bottom-up and through various channels. Top-down communication channels include town-hall meetings, employee meetings, emails from CEOs, newsletters, memos, and via Intranet (top-down). Bottom-up communication channels can be via regular employee opinion surveys and focus groups.”

In a nutshell, he says, the steps or initiative which must be undertaken by a business concern to be labelled as a best employer are first, to identify the organisation and workforce needs accordingly. Second, find the right or most accurate balance that wll not put either party at a disadvantage.

Third, Rahmat says, communication and approach in the delivery of the needs to the workforce must be impactful with clear elaboration of objectives and how these can fuel the organisation’s progress.

Lastly, there must be continuous or regular communication with the workforce to ensure the employees recognise that they are an important part of the whole effort as well as important contributors in achieving the organisation’s needs.

Commenting on the challenges facing businesses in becoming the best employers, he says: “The challenge is always in the area of communication and the approach in the delivery of the workforce’s needs.

“In most large organisation, the managers are empowered to handle the communication and delivery. But there will be some managers who are not equipped with the right skills to handle such tasks. This will result in distorted messages and uncertainties among the workforce.”

These will indirectly impact the organisation’s productivity or performance in achieving these needs.”

Rahmat says another challenge is to balance expectations and needs of the different generations in the workforce.

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