RAAF base Pearce, late January 1997. I put the 5 safety pins into the ejection seat and climb out of the cockpit 3kg lighter than when I strapped in 80 minutes earlier.
The Macchi MB326H was an Italian jet trainer with an air conditioning system designed for a European climate. To say it underperformed in the 45 degree Australian summer was a gross understatement; during my time at the squadron, a Canadian exchange pilot took his Canadian thermometer flying with him. It exploded; it was only rated to 55 degrees Celsius.
After a summer flight, you would exit the cockpit utterly drenched in sweat. Not ‘clammy’, drenched; looking as though you had stood in the shower with your flying kit on.
In my 15 years in the Royal Australian Air Force, my employer put me into workplaces which were unbelievably hostile. Yet, for many of the early years, I can honestly say I would have worked for free.
Because of how I FELT to be part of that ‘tribe’.
Employee engagement is very closely linked to how we feel at work. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the power of this relationship to decimate your bottom line.
By definition, your turnover rate is directly related to your employee engagement. (Your employees are ‘engaged’ to your organisation: they stay. Your employees are disengaged: they go)
So, by logical extension, they way you make your employees feel is directly related to your turnover costs!
Any flaws in this argument so far?
So, look at your data. What is your turnover rate? How much is this costing you each year in head hunting, onboarding, HR, payouts, training, loss of IP etc?
The cost of replacing a single staff member ranges from 20% of annual income for a junior un-trained labourer to more than 200% for a C-Suite manager.
OK…HOW do we ‘make our employees feel better’?
Build high performance team characteristics into your business:
Culture. Start with culture as the foundation. Give your team an exciting vision (the ’why’), and a clear set of values which support this vision. Give them a lofty standard to uphold. Then introduce ‘customs, totems and language’ to remind them of this standard.
People. Train your leaders. Research clearly shows the BIGGEST single factor influencing employee engagement is the personal relationship with the direct supervisor. Those people leading your teams almost certainly haven’t been trained. I say it again; train your leaders. (BTW: management training is NOT leadership training)
Processes. Document every core process you have. Respond to workplace errors by feeding lessons back into those processes. Give your staff clear objectives, but relate these to behaviour, not outcomes. Give them responsibility. Delegate freely.
My employer repeatedly sent me to work in hostile and dangerous environments, but because of the way they made me feel, I would have died for them.