Customer second, employees first. That is the adage of Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of the Virgin Group.
A Gallup report says employees who are engaged are more likely to improve customer service and can boost sales by 20 per cent.
This is even more important now as companies face the onslaught of enabling flexible working arrangements, and a younger and more demanding base of employees who prioritise purpose, meaning and mental health above position and salaries.
And as I’m writing this, the world of artificial intelligence continues to chip away at the human creator and find new ways to replace more and more of our work.
With all these in play, it is more important than ever for companies to look at how to not just engage and retain their people but also to upskill them, whether for a different job scope or simply to increase their output.
There is usually a standard pushback about investing in employees – what if they end up leaving?
But on the flip side, what if you don’t and they stay?
With a highly fluid world, talent is required across all levels to support the agility of their companies.
And securing them starts by putting in the right investments.
Here are three of them:
1. Mental wellness
With the blurring of work and home for many employees, the level of stress they are experiencing is going through the roof.
The 24/7 National Care Hotline received close to 28,000 calls within the first five months after it was set up last year, shortly after the circuit breaker began in April.
One of the most tangible benefits of addressing mental health issues in the workplace is the reduction in costs associated with healthcare and lost productivity.
The World Health Organisation estimates that for every dollar put into treatment for common mental disorders, there is a return on investment of four dollars in improved health and productivity.
One way to start is to have an employee wellness assistance programme to support every possible aspect of an employee’s well-being, be it family, finances, and so on.
E-commerce platform Zalora is one of many that launched such initiatives aimed at supporting employees in the light of the challenges brought about by the ever-evolving Covid-19 situation in the region.
Full-time staff members have access to benefits such as weekly guided journalling exercises, a Zoom-free half-day every week, two mental health days as part of medical leave and access to an online mental health platform, which provides free and confidential access to counselling sessions run by psychologists.
If companies are unsure of how to do this, they can turn to experts such as Safe Space, which offer live support and online resources that anyone seeking to enhance their mental wellness can use.
Coaching is a professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses or organisations, helping them to bridge the gap between where they are now and where they want to be.
Coaches partner with their clients to design the life they want and bring out their clients’ own brilliance and resources.
Before you think it can be expensive and hence limited to just your C-suite, coaching has become democratised with digital coaching platforms such as CoachHub, BestOfMe and Innade.
Providing a marketplace to match coaches and coachees takes away the administrative aspect of being a coach (the sales, marketing and so on) and allows for a lower rate that makes it affordable for companies to acquire the service for every level of their employees.
Coach Steven Lock says he is getting more engagements to coach non-executive employees. His most recent coachee is a data analyst who wants to better acclimatise to a new environment and to better engage with his new boss and colleagues.
Coaching not only boosts productivity by helping your employees work smarter, but also improves retention and ensures you have a growing talent pool on your bench for new deployments or successions.
3. Team training
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This is a famous African proverb that has a lot of relevance in real life. It is like a team working together to reach the same goal.
Training has always been focused on the individual but many employees work in teams. Applying approaches from team sports makes more sense than the ones from singles.
In Netflix’s docu-series The Playbook, football manager Jose Mourinho emphasised that he does not coach football players. He coaches football teams. He is well aware of their special individual talents but “without the team, they cannot succeed”.
It is not just coming from a single successful football coach. Multiple studies have shown that people work better in teams.
For group training to be effective in the new normal, it not only has to deliver high results and credible ROI (returns on investment) but also be delivered in a fun and engaging manner for all the learners.
A platform like aeqlia combines experiential learning and gaming to cater specifically for team training.
A good rule of thumb is that companies should spend anywhere from 1 per cent to 5 per cent of their total salary cost on training.
You will upgrade to the latest hardware or operating system to do things faster and better.
The same principle of upgrading can apply to your people, who are often the most valuable asset in your business.