This week Wayne Visser considers the importance of businesses creating an environment that supports employees’ families and quality of life:
Only 14% of employees in the UK (compared with a 21% global average) are fully engaged in their work and one in four (24%) are not satisfied with their job, according to a Towers Watson global workforce survey. Furthermore, nearly one in three (30%) do not feel engaged by their employer.
This is no trivial matter. Gallup estimates the cost of employee disengagement to the UK economy to be somewhere between £59.4bn and £64.7bn. Part of this cost is sickness-related absence; engaged employees in the UK take an average of 2.7 sick days per year, compared with 6.2 for those who could be described as disengaged.
The Centre for Mental Health estimates that employers lose around £8.4bn a year this way. However, nearly double this amount (£15.1bn a year) is due to productivity loss from people not feeling well in the workplace: so-called “presenteeism”.
Employees believe they work for great organisations when they trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do and enjoy the people they work with”
Turn the trend around, however, and there are big upsides to having an engaged workforce. Research by the Corporate Leadership Council suggests that engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their organisation. According to the IES/Work Foundation, if companies increased investment in workplace engagement by 10%, they would increase profits by £1,500 per employee per year. That is because engaged employees generate 43% more revenue than disengaged ones and highly engaged organisations have the potential to reduce staff turnover by 87% and improve performance by 20%.
Given these statistics, it is hardly surprising that issues of wellbeing in the workplace are on the rise. In the UK, Business in the Community (BITC) promotes this agenda through their Workwell campaign, while globally the Great Place to Work Institute partners with more than 5,500 organisations with around 10 million employees to conduct the largest annual set of workplace culture studies in the world. According to their research, employees believe they work for great organisations when they trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do and enjoy the people they work with.
Great Place to Work’s annual surveys and awards give kudos and some PR-driven reputational payback for companies that are investing in workplace wellbeing. For example, Microsoft topped the leader board in 2011 for the best multinational to work for globally, as well as in Europe.
“For us that means greater creativity, greater productivity and, ultimately, continued success as a market leader,” says Michel Van der Bel, managing director for Microsoft UK. Kimberly-Clark scored top in Latin America and the Admiral Group leads in the UK. Importantly, Great Place to Work also recognises large national companies and small and medium-sized enterprises.
Top management start to think of employees as partners and a long term investment, rather than just another cost”
Awards are one way to recognise best practice. Another is certification of management systems, which tends to encourage greater embedding of the values in the organisation. One place where this is happening is Slovenia, where the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, in partnership with auditing firm The Ekvilib Institute, has run a family friendly enterprise certification scheme since 2007. To date, more than 130 companies, employing around 50,000 workers (7% of the Slovenian workforce) have been certified.
The certification scheme is based on the European family audit system developed by the German organisation Berufundfamilie and currently used in Germany, Austria, Hungary and Italy.
In Slovenia, the certification focuses on employer practices that support work-life balance, especially creating a work environment that supports women with young children who do not want to make a trade-off between career aspirations and family commitments.
For example, employees with children are given flexible working hours and additional leave days, various stress relief programmes are offered and a special team is established to introduce better methods of work, which co-ordinate professional and family life, including services such as counselling, child care, babysitters, vacation offers and spaces for children in the company.
Some leading role models in these practises in Slovenia include Dejan Turk, the relatively young chief executive of Si.mobil, the country’s second biggest mobile operator, as well as Matjaz Cadez, founder and former chief executive of the IT company Halcom, and the Ursic brothers, who own a small manufacturing company called IMAS.
But family friendly enterprise goes beyond the good reputations of a few. The results across all the Slovenian certified companies are impressive. Research shows that these businesses benefit commercially in a number of other ways – in particular they achieve a reduction in staff turnover and sick leave, along with higher employee productivity, motivation, satisfaction and commitment.
Apart from these quantifiable business case benefits, family friendly enterprise is also about a shift in leadership perceptions and organisational culture. According to Ales Kranjc Kuslan, director of Ekvilib Institute, in their certified companies “top management start to think of employees as partners and a long term investment, rather than just another cost”.
Petra Hartman, project officer at Ekvilib Institute, believes this is even more critical in a recessionary environment: “In times of economic crisis, companies will have to be creative in rewarding their employees in non-financial ways”.
And what better way than by creating a work environment that supports not only you and your job, but also your family and your quality of life.
This article is adapted from Wayne Visser’s Guardian series “International Sustainable Business with Wayne Visser”. You can view the original here.
Dr Wayne Visser is the founder and director of the think-tank CSR International. He is Senior Associate at the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership as well as a Professor of Sustainability at Birmingham Graduate School and Adjunct Professor in CSR at the La Trobe Graduate School of Management.
He is the author of The Quest for Sustainable Business, the fruit of his 2010 “CSR world tour” to share best practice on sustainability and responsibility. The path begins in Africa and winds its way through Asia, North America, Europe, Australasia and Latin America. The author shares what he has learned in encounters with mega-corporations and small farmers, and conversations with CEOs and social entrepreneurs. The Quest for Sustainable Business is available direct from Greenleaf Publishing. Buy online and receive a 30% discount. Just use code QUEST321 at the checkout.
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