The Forum: Seen and heard

by |

It used to be that employees were seen and not heard. Not so anymore. Accredited best employers pride themselves on creating open cultures where all employees have a voice. How do they achieve that? Human Resources Daily talks to four experts about how they encourage staff to voice their opinions, and also what the outcome of that feedback is.

Tip 1 - Use employee engagement surveys as a guide
By Lindall West, head of people and performance, Asia, Westpac Institutional Bank

At Westpac, an important part of the employee calendar is when all staff participate in the Staff Perspectives Survey. This offers specific and formal feedback on how we are doing from the perspective of our employees. Last year, we had a participation rate of 87% in Asia, which means our employees value the opportunity feel that their feedback is acted upon.

Last year, we also included a cultural diagnostic tool, allowing us to understand the current culture of the organization as well as the desired culture from our employees. We had good alignment between the current and desired culture.

The key measurement is our Employee Engagement result, embedded in every people manager's performance scorecard. The result has an impact on each staff member's bonus payment at year-end. Westpac Asia scored 80%, 5% higher than in 2008 and only 1% behind the average for global high-performing companies. Off the back of the results, we also run focus groups to test our various programs and tools.

Tip 2 - Use online portals and forums
By Anshuman Ray, director, HR, Synopsys Inc.

At Synopsys, we encourage employees to reach out to the senior leadership team and communicate their views, opinions, questions and suggestions through the Exec-Connect Portal. The questions, along with answers from leaders, are published online and all employees can access this.

Another avenue to ask questions and offer suggestions to the CEO, COO and other senior executives is during the annual 'Kick-Off' ceremony. There is a live webcast across all regions and one can get instant responses from senior executives as well.

HR also facilitates the Global Employee Survey. Participation levels and a summary of responses are published through the company intranet. Action planning, based on this feedback, is then pursued diligently with the results of that action also published.
The outcome of our efforts is an open, participative, inclusive and productive culture that is reflected by very good employee engagement scores (against internal and external benchmarks).

Tip 3 - Use formal and informal knowledge sharing methods
By Roy Hammett, people and performance manager at Altis Consulting

We have a major focus on knowledge sharing, which is both informal and formal. One aspect is sharing client information. Every six weeks we hold a skills sharing session where an individual in the business will do a presentation and we'll get as many people as possible to attend. They often talk not just about experiences - their experience of X client and when we attempted to do Y we got this result. It gives other members of the team ideas on how they can use that experience in their own environment. We also have a very sophisticated knowledge sharing technical forum and our knowledge database.

We have a very lively and widely used tech forum, which allows individual team members, regardless of what project they're on, to post questions rather than grappling with technical problems by themselves for hours or days on end. It's a form of virtual teaming.

Tip 4 - Open CEO doors for real communication channels with employees
By Leow Yuen Fong, senior VP, Human Capital Management, NETS

At NETS, we believe there needs to be open and regular communication between management and staff. If you don't provide staff with avenues to express their views, this can lead to gossiping or, worse, an environment where employees feel frustrated and ineffectual.

Our annual Employee Engagement Survey allows staff to share their views anonymously without fear of recrimination. Ninety-four per cent of our staff have responded to the survey this year.

We also run an annual staff forum, where leaders share company directions and business goals with employees. Throughout the year, we conduct closed-door sessions with management which allow staff to seek clarifications on sensitive issues or be updated on current business issues.

Small groups of employees are also invited to dialogue sessions with our CEO. We believe these activities have created an open culture at NETS where employees can voice their opinions and, more importantly, know their opinions count.

HRM Online forum is the place for positive industry interaction and welcomes your professional and informed opinion.

Name (required)
Comment (required)
By submitting, I agree to the Terms & Conditions