Organisations need to be flexible and adaptable, particularly during turbulent times, stability is important and holding on to staff is key to that. Maintaining employee engagement and motivation becomes more important than ever. Current employees have a good understanding of organisational processes and values. Recruiting new staff is an expensive and time-consuming process, during which the organisation is not firing on all cylinders. HR professionals can take a lead from the retail sector when it comes to engaging staff and improving workforce performance.
Retailer marketers tackle market uncertainty and competition head-on, by promoting ‘deals’ and ‘special offers’ to drive business and retain existing customers. HR can do the same when it comes to retaining its customers – the employees. Keeping these consumers engaged with the corporate brand, its values and culture has many parallels with retail marketing and HR can learn from retailers’ finely-tuned approach to winning and retaining consumers.
The workplace as a High Street
By re-imagining the workplace as a High Street, instead of special offers and sales, performance improvement programmes can persuade employees to buy into the organisation. Once the programme has created the desired level of employee engagement and retention, it can be tweaked to develop the behaviours the organisation wants to see as part of its strategy for success.
There are a number of steps that HR professionals can take to gain the deep understanding of their audience enjoyed by retail marketers:
1. Get a clear picture of where you are and where you are going. Make sure you understand the business’ strategy for development and how the HR function can influence employees to support that. This process is usually quite straightforward as it should be easy to access information about organisational strategy and HR resource planning.
2. Measure current levels of employee engagement. Most HR professionals carry out regular engagement surveys – if your organisation does not measure engagement regularly, it is time to ramp up this activity. With this data to hand, it is possible to set a benchmark of current engagement levels so that you can measure improvement. To help with this, P&MM has developed the freely available Employee Engagement Index1 which provides a starting point to measure the engagement of individual employees. The Employee Engagement Index, is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs2 – familiar to retail marketers – which outlines basic human needs and how these can be met on different levels. The Employee Engagement Index overlays this with a corporate filter. Aspects that HR should be working to get right, to meet employee needs at every level, comprise getting the working environment right, creating a solid company brand and vision, building and supporting successful teamwork and underpinning this with effective employee benefits, rewards and recognition.
3. Engage line of business managers. Work with middle management to define how corporate strategy translates to their department’s day-to-day workflow and objectives. Apply consumer marketing techniques to drive activity to meet specific targets from increased sales to improved levels of customer service. Peugeot was looking to encourage internal and dealership employees to consider the longer-term customer journey, rather than focusing on achieving a quick sale. It created the Sales Guild, a hub for all sales recognition and incentive activity, segmented by different job roles. As a result, email response speeds increased significantly and the quality of email responses improved measurably. At the same time, sales leads trebled.
4. Support behavioural change and engagement using consumer-style segmentation of the workforce. It may be possible to tap into internal marketing expertise to help with this. Tailor reward and recognition initiatives to the interests of your employees. Take a leaf out of the retail marketer’s book and create personas for groups of employees. Retailers are the experts at this and commonly create multiple detailed personas of their customers to target them with products and services that will appeal. HR professionals may need to start small, perhaps grouping millennial salespeople or Generation X line managers, then designing rewards and recognition that might work for these groups, within each line of business. Cater for exceptions such as skydiving 60-year-olds or young mums by enabling employees to opt in or out of different reward schemes.
5. Use the same consumer-style segmentation to communicate reward and recognition initiatives to employees. Determine the communications platforms most likely to reach each group of employees and the language most likely to engage to them. Draft in a representative of each group to help with that.
Emulate retail marketing responsiveness
Consumer marketing is characterised by its responsiveness. If stock is not selling, it is quickly discounted and marketed as a bargain to shoppers that are likely to be receptive, based on their previous purchases and responses to marketing campaigns. If shoppers buy an item online, they are soon offered an associated product. Similarly, HR professionals should continually review their reward and recognition efforts. What is the evidence that these are driving desired behaviours? How are groups of employees and individuals responding? What needs to be changed?
In a fast-moving marketplace, there is a risk that HR will find itself focused on fire fighting attrition. In fact, if HR professionals act to maximise productivity and engagement by making good use of employee data to drive real change, they will make a significant commercial impact on the business.