All-day pantry? Check. Personal career coach? Check. Rewards programme? Check. Some of the world’s most progressive companies are offering these and more to attract and retain talent, as part of their staff engagement initiatives. They know that amid a competitive global economy and shrinking labour market, staff engagement is pivotal to their success.

But why should companies care if employees are engaged? Consider a 2014 PwC study which revealed that employees most committed to their organisations put in 57 per cent more effort on the job — and are 87 per cent less likely to resign — than employees who consider themselves disengaged. Similarly, a 2018 Gallup study discovered that companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147 per cent in earnings per share. Unfortunately, that same Gallup study found that 87 per cent of employees worldwide are not engaged.

Rethinking engagement

HR practitioners agree that staff engagement leads to employees who are committed to their work and the goals and values of their companies. In other words, engaged workers show up and are involved because they are invested, emotionally or otherwise.

However, with the growing influence of millennials and increasing transparency catalysed by digitalisation, the concept of staff engagement has been rebooted to “employee experience”, an ecosystem that integrates engagement, culture and performance management. To get the best from their staff, business leaders now have to consider everything from work culture to well-being, purpose and meaning — and make it all come to life in a personalised way for employees, both in person and through digital channels.

For most companies, this starts with the design of their office space. Take Diageo, at One George Street. Its Singapore office has lots of open work spaces for collaboration and creativity, giving staff the flexibility to move throughout the day, following the flow of their meetings and the type of work required.

Diageo’s Singapore office boasts a stateof- the-art bar that doubles as a work space for staff. Photo: Diageo

As befitting an alcoholic beverage giant, Diageo’s piece de resistance is a state-of-the-art bar that is accessible as a work space for staff on workdays. It is here that the company hosts its “Brand Passion” sessions for staff, where they can not just learn, but also literally immerse themselves in their range of products. This bar also hosts weekly bar nights, as it transforms itself into a buzzy entertainment space for employees and their guests.

Ms Leesa Rawlings, Diageo’s Asia-Pacific head of talent engagement, said: “We build pride in our employees by sharing the work we do, and equip them with knowledge and skills so they can be advocates of our brands and the company as a whole.”

“When employees see that we express an interest in their professional and personal lives, they are naturally engaged.”

Creating a culture of participation

The key to successful employee engagement is to understand and design practices around staff needs, aspirations and motivations, instead of trying to fit employees into the existing workplace practices.

One organisation that is leading the way is global investment giant Schroders, CapitaGreen, which believes the key success factor to engagement is when employees feel the firm looks after their career by offering development and internal mobility opportunities.

“We believe in building long-term relationships with our employees,” said Mr Daniel Tam, Schroders’ head of HR. “When employees see that they have a future with the firm and that we express an interest in their professional and personal lives, they are naturally engaged.”

The company recently launched a resource platform that enables its employees to take charge and create their own career development plans. “Through these plans, we encourage employees to identify the steps required in order to develop their career, and we facilitate the execution of these steps by offering various resources through learning and development, coaching or mentoring,” Mr Tam added.

Schroders is also planning to take the bold step of offering a reverse mentoring programme, where seasoned executives are paired with and coached by millennial employees. The idea is to help promote a more cohesive intergenerational workforce and close the knowledge gap between the two groups of employees.

For companies that have yet to adequately engage their employees, it’s never too late to get on board. They could consider flexible work arrangements, family-friendly policies, work-life balance initiatives, good feedback channels and a strong reward-and recognition programme. Think of ways to create a positive work environment and build a culture of trust. This could run the gamut, from communicating clear expectations and helping employees develop their full potential, to promoting transparency and getting employees involved in decision-making.

Developing a culture that supports employee engagement takes time and effort, but its rewards have a positive effect on employees, clients and, ultimately, the bottom line.

Some fun ideas to promote engagement

  • Encourage personal projects. Give staff time off to pursue a company project outside of their job scope. This cultivates problem-solving and innovation.
  • Form groups to volunteer or exercise together. CCT organises events for tenants such as Gifts of Joy, an annual community outreach programme, and regular workout programmes in partnership with Health Promotion Board.
  • Organise after-work movie screenings for staff. The Big Picture theatre at Capital Tower screens films with inspirational content throughout the workweek.

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