As the economy improves and the job market becomes more competitive, it is increasingly crucial that the leaders of today strive to involve their staff in business practices to avoid losing them. In fact, better market conditions and confidence in the jobs market were a contributing factor in almost half of workers thinking about leaving their jobs in 2014, according to research carried out at the end of last year.

Making sure your people get heard is absolutely vital to employee satisfaction, as it brings about a sense of joint responsibility and ownership in the team. Organisations that encourage input at all levels demonstrate that they respect their employee’s opinions and are therefore more likely to engage and retain critical talent. By employing such people-focused strategies, you are likely to improve discretionary effort levels and employee performance, resulting in the overall success of your business.

But it’s not just about retaining talented staff and engaging with staff for its own sake, important though that is. Many businesses could benefit on the bottom line from actively involving their employees, rather than just talking about it. Recent research by Investors in People (IIP) found that staff who trust and get on with their bosses are often more productive, with 53% of those who said they get on with their manager saying they are happier in their job, and a quarter (24%) saying it makes them work harder as a result. Almost one in four workers (23%) believe they will stay longer at their current company due to having a good relationship with their manager.

One example of people practice delivering for the business overall is Belfast business Allstate Northern Ireland, which was named amongst the top organisations for people management practice in the UK at this year’s Investors in People Awards. Allstate Northern Ireland has been working with IIP since 2000 to bring about a strong foundation of employee engagement and transform itself into a company that is well known for its people focused approach.

Allstate NI relies less on its leadership team to formulate policies, and instead encourages greater employee empowerment through 47 different non-hierarchical work groups, whereby staff work alongside leaders in the business to develop strategies and shape policies for health, wellbeing, social responsibility, and the environment. This has put Allstate NI in the lead when it comes to employee satisfaction as the policy goes much broader than just thinking about what employees need during working hours – the company offers specialist financial advice and flexible working too. Having worked with Investors in People throughout this process to assess where its people management needed to change, and using the IIP Framework to implement and measure the impact of employee-formulated policies, the company has seen marked changes, including:

  • The lowest ever attrition rates at 7.5% at the end of 2013 (the highest staff retention in the Irish IT sector)
  • 99% return to work after maternity leave
  • Year on year improvement in business performance
  • 91% of participants of an engagement survey state that they are proud to work for Allstate NI and 90% stated that they would recommend the company to others as a workplace

Allstate Northern Ireland found that the IIP Framework helped to identify where they could be doing better, as well as providing suggestions of ways they could improve. Investors in People helps thousands of businesses in this way through its Framework. Rather than staff just filling out an online survey, a number of one-to-one interviews take place, held by a Specialist with extensive experience, and encompassing all areas of the business. Many IIP companies find this invaluable in terms of a feedback tool which can be the start of moving towards an established people management policy. It can be the first step in shifting your business mentality to an inclusive, people-focused approach.

Consider implementing the following techniques in your business and you’ll soon reap the rewards:

  • Conduct an annual survey in order to gather vital employee feedback on what is working well and what can be improved
  • Facilitate regular feedback channels to encourage employee involvement and leverage the ‘more the merrier’ culture when it comes to making business decisions.  Use regular all-staff meetings or social media tools such as Yammer to make it clear that communication in business is a two-way street.
  • Create a two-way dialogue on the most important issues on your people’s minds. Ensuring that there is an opportunity for employees to speak to managers, and vice versa, is a very important part of business operations.
  • Start an active conversation with your employees and be prepared to answer any questions they may have, ranging from new business and external news, to internal people-related policies and decisions. The notes from these meetings should be distributed across the company.
  • Consider going one step further by undertaking a process such as IIP which can help cement these policies, and get you an accreditation to prove it.

It’s easy to think that people management needn’t be a priority unless there’s something wrong – that if your staff retention rate is around average for its sector and your business is doing well, that nothing needs to change.  But people management is about so much more than just keeping your staff and ensuring they can do the job. Handled correctly, an effective people management policy can deliver better results for a business. Don’t risk your competitors getting ahead of you simply because they’re mining their reserves of talent better – use  your people to send your business to the next level.

Article by Paul Devoy, Head of Investors in People. Investors in People is the UK’s leading accreditation for people management practices.