Good communication, future-looking investment sets “Best Employers” apart

Wednesday 14th October 2020 Justin Cleveland

Higher levels of engagement based on clear communication and objectives are just a few of the keys that set the best employers apart from the pack, according to new research from Kincentric.

The sudden and significant changes experienced by global workers have given both employees and management the chance to reflect on what is truly important to supporting a thriving workplace.

The importance of engagement and confidence

For the last 20 years, Kincentric has been naming the best employers in the world. Winners come from a variety of industries, like hoteliers IHG and Marriott. In financial services and banks, last year regional winners included EISS Super, Summerland Credit Union, and Regional Australia Bank.

This year, of course, is a bit different than most. The companies that are listed among the best have a workforce that is more engaged. “Best Employers employee engagement levels have shown greater resilience through the Covid19 pandemic,” says Kincentric New Zealand Market Lead Hugh Hawthorne. More than 80% of employees report being engaged in their work at Best Employer winners, compared to 60% at other organisations.

How do you improve that level of engagement? Leadership and communication. “We interviewed 30 organisations during the first lockdown in Australia and New Zealand,” says Hawthorne. “Our clients told us they saw a swell of engaging leadership behaviours among their executives, senior leaders and managers.” There wasn’t a single thing that stood out, but a multitude of factors. Taking bold and decisive actions. Increasing empathy in responding to personal challenges. Honest, regular employee communication. And, self-awareness of the responsibilities of guiding an organisation and its employees through unprecedented times.

Of the groups who were listed as Best Employers, more than 75% of employees were confident about leadership. The rest saw just 55% confidence.

One measure that came out of the research was that organisations with better gender representation in leadership tended to perform better. Best Employers had 41% female executives, compared to 25% for most, according to the 2020 Chief Executive Women Senior Executive Census.

Better workplace, better customer results

There is a flow-on effect from having a positive workplace to having happy customers. The Kincentric research finds that the best employers are responsive to both customers and employee needs, which results in significantly better Net Promoter Score (NPS) results.

Open collaboration across different units of a business – breaking down silos – is another mark of a positive workplace. This goes for physical as well as operational divisions. “Organisations are asking tough questions about the purpose of their physical space portfolios as Covid19 has accelerated a shift towards more virtual and flexible work,” says Olivia Aviv, Kincentric employee experience consultant. “Consequently, the need to sustain and build collaboration has come into sharper focus.

“For Best Employers, they already have the advantage of an existing collaborative culture to shape and work with as they navigate the future.”

The tools and incentives to get the job done

The last units of measure Kincentric points to are often the first thing you think about when considering a new job: the technology and remuneration.

Best Employers have seen a significant investment in technology before the pandemic lockdown, which is paying dividends today. “As Australia and New Zealand went into lockdown, those organisations who had already invested into virtual working enablement (e.g. Office 365, laptops) fared better. Those without virtual working capability found themselves rationing available laptops and even network bandwidth to just the most business-critical roles and activities,” says Hawthorne.

Employees agree, with 75% of Best Employers staff agreeing that the technology they are provided helps them be as productive as possible. 55% of employees at other companies agreed with that statement.

Of course, we all have bills to pay. The satisfaction of the job and feeling that you are making a contribution may, in part, contribute to the feeling that you are being compensated fairly. 64% of employees at Best Employers felt they were paid fairly, while 50% at other organisations said the same.

By supporting the growing demand for remote and non-traditional working arrangements, breaking down barriers in business, and investing in future-looking technologies, Kincentric’s research finds that those few it categorises as the “best” set themselves up for success well before the pandemic threw everything into the air.

This does not mean that other organisations are unable to now compete. There are plenty of learnings for organisations and, it appears, plenty of time to adapt before things go back to whatever will be the “new normal.”

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