What do executives in Australia want?

On Monday my colleague Philip Tusing, co-author of the Sources of Talent Report, released his latest report, Executive Monitor. An eye opening look at what 1,332 executives are thinking in Australia about all sorts of different topics from compensation, education, recruiters and personal branding.

Philip gives a great run down on the key findings on his site, so go read them there as I do not plan to reproduce them here. Instead I wanted to look at what the results mean to me.

I see the key issues from the report being how do employers keep their senior employees both engaged, motivated and working towards the goals of the organisation, instead of just their own personal goals.

Another message from the report I found was that Australian executives are motivated primarily by money and their own success. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, and nor is it limited just to the executive ranks, I think some of the key findings show us a fairly dangerous future.

The number one trigger for a change in job is not growth, development, experience, cultural fit or anything that a majority of HR interventions focus on it is money at 30%. With almost 80% of these employees expecting yearly pay rises between 6 – 10%, way above inflation, and almost 70% see salary as the primary reason to do a good job.

Further concerns are found in the expectations and intentions of these executives. Work life balance while a stated value by the survey respondents was not a primary driving factor when undertaking a job search, money was still number one. All is not good on the branding side either with 90% of executives felt that personal branding was more important than developing that of their employers.

So where do I think this leaves HR? With massive opportunity.

What are your thoughts?

Great places to work in Australia

The Great Place to Work Institute has launched their 2009 program partnering with BRW. They have over 20 years experience in measuring employee engagement from all over the globe, they define a great place to work as one where trust exists.

At the heart of our definition of a great place to work – a place where employees trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with – is the idea that a great workplace is measured by the quality of the three, interconnected relationships that exist there:

  • The relationship between employees and management.
  • The relationship between employees and their jobs/company.
  • The relationship between employees and other employees.

The 2008 Great Places to Work in Australia were:

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  2. Dow Corning
  3. Google
  4. McDonald’s
  5. Morgan Stanley
  6. NetApp
  7. Russell Investments
  8. SEEK Limited

Nominations are open now, so if you feel your workplace is a great place to work head over and nominate it!

Great places to work in Australia

I missed the launch last year by the Great Place to Work Institute opened their doors downunder. Spearheading by Chris Taylor and Trish Dagg two organisational development types out of Western Australian university.

In mid-August they release their first list for Australia called “Best Companies to Work for in Australia“, no real surprise there. Although the top 8 in the list might surprise you:

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
  2. Dow Corning
  3. Google
  4. McDonald’s
  5. Morgan Stanley
  6. NetApp
  7. Russell Investments
  8. SEEK Limited

There is no reference on the site as to how a company gets selected to participate in the process other than they “work with a respected Media Partner”, I guess is it was News Corp’s The Australian as the results were published there. However to make it on the list selection is primarily based on employees’ responses to a survey and then an evaluation of submitted content by the company.

I am trying to get further information on the complete list.

Thoughts of Australia university graduates

At the beginning of July Graduate Careers Australia released a series of reports on what university graduates are thinking and how these thoughts match those of employers. The survey had 32,000 responses over a 9 week period in mid 2007.

The highlights of the report are available in the press release however I have reproduced some of the findings below.

Firstly graduates want what all generations have wanted “good training and development and interesting, challenging work”, also students are presenting to employers very well and indicate that they plan to remain in their ‘ideal’ job. However the question of if their graduate job was their ‘ideal’ job was not clearly answered, and I suspect not. Over 75% want a job the gives the work life balance over with a higher salary. A third of graduates said they would remain in their ‘ideal’ job for 5 or more years, while over 50% of employers felt graduates would leave within the first 3 years.

However there are also some differences in perception between the graduates and employers:-

  • ‘Opportunities for advancement’ was ranked first by employers, but fifth by students;
  • job security was ranked important by over 80 per cent of students, relative to just over 20 per cent of employers;
  • ‘Making a contribution to society’ was important to over 80 per cent of students compared with just under 50 per cent of employers believing this was important;
  • students were more willing to work additional unpaid hours to progress their careers than employers believed they would be;
  • company-paid training and development was clearly the most attractive non-cash benefit to students, followed by additional leave and performance-related bonuses

There are some other very interesting results in the survey. For example Generation Y was lower than both Generation X and Baby Boomers when is came to “Working for an ethically responsible, or
environmentally sound company”. Further employer and graduate expectations around benefits were slightly different. While both agreed that training and development was important, graduates rated superannuation as important, whereas employers felt this was the least attractive benefit they could offer. The least attractive non-cash benefit a mobile phone, and the least expected benefit was a car allowance.

The mobile phone item is interesting as the Microsoft sponsored survey I refered to last week had 48% of students wanting company paid for mobile or smart phones.

5 Ways to Engage Employees

Over the last few days there has been a really stir over Jason Calacanis‘s “Fire non Workaholics” statement. While he has updated the words in his post (completely I disagree with his first version) I feel the bottom line message is still there. Jason wants his employees to be engaged and committed with him on the journey of his company, what CEO wouldn’t? But a large majority of employees will not be fully engaged or committed to a company without a reason. As a CEO, manager or leader you need to provide the right environment.

So here are five ways to engage your employees:-

  1. Show you care about them as a person, take 5 minutes each day to get to know one of your employees. You need to understand them, their struggles, frustrations and desires both professionally and personally.
  2. Invite them to join you and your organisation in doing something meaningful.
  3. Once you have invited them to something meaningful make sure you provide individuals goals. But not just any goals, sexy goals! They need be a driving force, give your employees chills down their spine when they talk or think about them. Your employees need to be able to deeply connect to their goals.
  4. Ensure timely recognition of performance, not just at an annual performance review. Send a quick handwritten note to someone who has delivered, not just above & beyond, or who has had a hard day.
  5. Provide your employees with extra responsibilities, allow them to grow and explore new areas of personal and professional growth. This is easy if you have completed step 1.

Once you have engaged employees then they will be fired up about your organisation and its goals. They might even act as workaholics for a period of time. But ensure this is balanced so they do not burn out, otherwise they will then disengage. By the way if you have completed step 1 above you won’t let them burn out because you will see and treat them as people, not machines.

Finally to quote Sir Richard Branson:-

“Loyal employees in a company create loyal customers, who in turn create happy shareholders. The process sounds easy but it’s not, and it has defeated some of the bigger organisations of the twentieth century.”

Satisfaction does equal higher returns

A fairly common statement heard these days in organisations is “high employee satisfaction translates to higher earnings”. Gautam Gosh pointed me to a recent paper by Alex Edmans, a Finance Professor at Wharton which compares;

stock returns of companies with high employee satisfaction and compares them to various benchmarks — the broader market, peer firms in the same industry, and companies with similar characteristics. His research indicates that firms cited as good places to work earn returns that are more than double those of the overall market.

What I found interesting is the investment market seems to ignore public available report, such as the Fortune “Best Places to Work” when there is statistical evidence of companies with higher employee satisfaction have higher returns, 14%. This just seems so obvious to me, or am I missing something?

The abstract is below:-

This paper analyzes the relationship between employee satisfaction and long-run stock performance. An annually rebalanced portfolio of Fortune magazine’s “Best Companies to Work For in America” earned 14% per year from 1998-2005, over double the market return. The portfolio also outperformed industry- and characteristics-matched benchmarks; controlling for risk, it yielded a four-factor alpha of 0.64%. These findings have three main implications. First, employee satisfaction may improve corporate performance rather than representing inefficiently excessive non-pecuniary compensation. Second, the stock market does not fully value intangibles, even when independently verified by a publicly available survey. This suggests that intangible investment generally may not be incorporated into short-term prices, providing support for managerial myopia theories. Third, socially responsible investing (“SRI”) screens need not reduce investment returns.

The paper is heavy reading but there is a good summary available on Knowledge @Whartons, How Investing in Intangibles — Like Employee Satisfaction — Translates into Financial Returns.

Too busy for balance?

Work life balance seems to be one of those things everyone is always searching for but no one really has, ok except for Markus Frind. There are never enough hours in my day to do everything I want or need to.

Today I read a great post from Kenny Moore, who got me hooked with a great first line:

Work-Life balance is, at best, a fabrication. At worst, a cruel hoax.

Even though I personally don’t agree with some of the points but I do agree with one of his main points, you can’t have it all and expect work life balance, instead you will have stress.

  • Want a high-flying business career? Go for it.
  • Might you desire to get married, raise a family and live in conjugal bliss? Good for you.
  • Maybe you’d prefer to use your artistic talents and create a world of new possibilities? God bless.
  • Perhaps you’d want to be independent and care free? I’m envious.

But if you expect to have it all, get ready to play center stage in your own exciting Greek Tragedy.

Another interesting point that really resonated with me was around making choices and requiring a focus on “being” rather than “doing.”

A final though Kenny mentions “The Good Samaritan Experiment” from Princeton Theological Seminary, where even “men of the cloth” were not a good Samaritan when they were in a rush.

In the Princeton experiment, when the seminarians had their homily prepared, they were asked to walk to another part of the campus and deliver their sermon to waiting students. Half were told to hurry, because they were running late. The others were informed there was no rush, they had plenty of time.

As they journeyed across campus, the experimenters arranged to have an actor slumped as a “victim” strategically positioned along their route so that the seminarians were forced to step over or around the man.

So, who stopped to help … and who didn’t? They were all budding “men of the cloth” on their way to deliver a sermon on just such a situation.

What the experiment revealed was that those who were in a hurry passed the “victim” by. Those with time to spare, stopped and helped. It seems altruism and our commitment to our fellow man is less connected to our religious beliefs and more closely aligned with having some free time.

The life of being small

We all know that work life balance is important, so much as been written about it in all forms of media that I suspect we have almost become immune to the message. As a reminder Lee Lefever (CommonCraft) posted about a story we have all heard before.

Small town fisherman gets told by a Harvard MBA to work hard for 25 years to build a business, move to the big city, sell for millions, so he can have the life he already has. D’oh!!

Lee then summarises:-

It’s all about lifestyle and doing what you love on a day-to-day basis. We will continue to work hard and push for success, but at the same time, build a business that supports the life that we want right now, not in 30 years.