By Jan Geldmacher CEO, Vodafone Global Enterprise
Every business wants its employees to be committed, passionate and engaged; the key ingredients to a satisfied, productive and profitable workforce.
Keeping workers captivated is a valuable business investment, with researchers IBM finding that organisations with engaged employees saw twice as much annual net income as those with a poorly engaged workforce.
However, in a fluid jobs market, engagement alone is not enough. This year millennials will become the dominant generation in the workplace, and millennials are more likely to job-hop if their existing company does not share their values or offer the right culture. This makes it increasingly important to create a working environment that not only engages employees, but gives them every reason to stay.
The way to achieve both is to make people feel valued, that they are contributing to the success of the company and that they are completely connected to colleagues across the organisation.
This starts with ensuring every individual understands the company’s vision, has a voice to share their wants and needs, and feels connected and included within the business. When those employees are spread across multiple locations, geographies and even continents this is no easy task.
Vodafone is made up of more than 4,000 employees, spread out globally across large regional HQs and smaller local offices, so we know, through our own experience just how difficult, but important this is.
Share the company vision
Your company might have one vision, but if your workforce is spread out across the globe, you may find it hard to keep sight of just how well that vision is understood by different local offices, let alone across continents.
Nevertheless, every employee, from the office operations manager to the chief finance officer, needs to understand the business’s goals and values, and this needs to come from the top down.
The best CEOs communicate, communicate and communicate more. It can be as simple as holding a company meeting, to which everyone is invited, when visiting a local office.
At Vodafone headquarters we use a mixture of virtual staff meetings, tele-presence, video conferences, audio and face to face communication. This enables employees to stay connected wherever, whenever and however best suits them and encourages employee collaboration. It is important to make time for every office, regardless of whether it is your HQ or a small sub-team in a remote location.
Listen to your employees
Business leaders must ensure that employees across the globe are involved in shaping the company. Senior leaders within Vodafone attend all of these meetings as they provide a chance for employees from across Europe to give insight into what they think would make Vodafone a better place to work.
This includes sharing opinions on the latest technologies they would like us to adopt in order to better support their day-to-day work, as well as suggesting ideas for motivational incentives and employee benefits. We can then use this information to enable our employees to work the way they want, which leads to higher levels of satisfaction and greater productivity.
Six years ago, we made the decision to move to flexible working because we wanted to get rid of the rigid nine-five mindset and free up our employees to take advantage of the benefits presented by mobile technology.
We changed the setup of our office to reflect the new culture, doing away with executive offices and personal desk space, and creating an open, collaborative environment for employees to come and go as needed. We actively promote creativity and flexibility, empowering employees to work beyond traditionally restrictive office walls.
We started with our HQ in the UK and similar schemes have been introduced to Vodafone offices around the world. In Italy, for instance, a Smart Working programme was launched in June 2014, providing more than 3,000 employees with greater autonomy over how, where and what devices they work on.
Employees can choose their preferred devices and use cloud applications and VPN tools to work productively from their preferred location. All participants receive training to ensure they fully understand how to get the most out of the technology, while minimising security risks. To date, more than 20,000 days of flexible working have been taken.
Our internal workforce survey results show that our flexible working approach has led to happier and more connected employees. Our offices in the UK and Italy have also seen cost savings and carbon reductions from reduced travel.
In addition, changing our office plan to hot desking in the UK has allowed us to accommodate almost 2,000 additional employees at our headquarters without having to invest in extra office space.
Keep people connected
No one wants to feel like a nameless, faceless cog in a global corporate wheel, which is why technological advancements have become so integral to making a business feel close, connected, inclusive and local for all the people working within it.
Using connected technologies, an employee working in Madrid can meet face-to-face with their counterpart in Singapore simply by jumping on a video call or by using unified communications. This helps to bring consistency by ensuring knowledge, ideas and best practice are continually shared across the business.
Senior leaders of multinational corporations must work hard to ensure that their employees feel that they have an open dialogue and that their input matters. Part of this is ensuring that everyone within the business – from the IT team, to the sales leads, to the leadership team – understands the corporate goals.
It is also vital that employees are aware of the pivotal business decisions that are being made, how these will affect the business and how individuals can contribute.
Create a great place to work
Your employees around the world will all work differently and all have different calls on their time. But by making sure every one of them has tools needed to work flexibly and remotely when they need or want to, you can help them feel connected.
The key to creating an engaged and committed workforce is to ensure that every single employee, regardless of location, feels part of the bigger picture; included, heard, valued… and engaged.