Replacing employee commissions with team bonuses and implementing "Ten Commandments" has pushed employee engagement through the roof at online learning company Learning Seat, says its chief executive officer.
Employee engagement, according to a Hewitt survey, jumped from 40 per cent to 88 per cent in a matter of months, Michael Solomon told delegates at a Tonkin conference in Sydney this week. Ditching sales commissions, he says, was the critical change.
"Commissions drive really, really bad behaviour, because they're all about the individual rather than the overall outcome."
Solomon opted to eliminate sales commissions in favour of workplace-wide team bonuses distributed on a scale (depending on the individual's role), which sparked a growing awareness among staff of the import and impact of each position within the firm.
"All of a sudden," he says, "[employees] were starting to interact."
The initiative was part of a broader sustainable employee engagement plan which was implemented after Learning Seat's "pitiable" performance in a 2007 Hewitt survey, Solomon says.
The "paltry" employee engagement score drove home that only two in every five workers believed that Learning Seat was an inspiring place to work.
Employees' perceptions and opinions of leaders were also particularly low, he says.
In response, the company completely stripped and restructured its management framework and introduced a new values-based structure, with the hope of creating an environment in which people could engage not "just at work, but in their work".
The plan included establishing an engagement committee, he says, through which employees and management alike sought to determine and interpret the company's core values, such as creative energy and integrity.
"What comes first are our values, and what goes against the grain of our values we walk away from," Solomon says.
Learning Seat's overhaul also included a commitment to adhere to a specially designed set of "Ten Commandments", which, he says, requires far more devotion than merely posting a list.
"Do you just have posters on the wall or are you trying to live them?" Solomon says.
The Commandments are:
Let go of negative opinions of others;
Make sure everyone has everything they need to do their job, including the most up-to-date or appropriate communications technology you can afford to offer;
Clearly communicate what is expected of each individual, whether through formal or informal channels;
Create an environment where people can get to know each other.
Learning Seat established a "lunch crew", Solomon says, in which staff contributed a nominal sum of money to a grocery pot, then came together in the company kitchen at meal breaks to make sandwiches. Before the initiative, he says, Learning Seat was a "ghost town" at lunchtime;
Ensure people are trained and retrained in problem solving and conflict resolution skills;
Ask constantly how everyone is doing in relation to engagement.
"Employers should actually genuinely care how and what people are doing," Solomon says;
Pay attention to company stories and rituals.
Finding five minutes to relay the organisation's history is not an inconvenience, but an investment, he says;
Recognise and reward people in ways that are meaningful to them;
Be consistent for the long haul, particularly in regard to emotional-intelligence issues and appropriate managerial behaviour; and
Remember, people are a company's greatest asset.
The first nine Commandments are all meaningless, Solomon says, if you fail to recognise that the people who drive the product are more important than the product itself.
Implementing the various strategies resulted in a rapid turnaround in staff morale and engagement, Solomon says.
A subsequent Hewitt survey revealed that employees felt that Learning Seat:
was a great place to work (88%, up from 40%);
could be recommended to job seekers (92%, up from 40%);
was a place that you would rarely think of leaving (85%, up from 40%);
was an inspiring environment (92%, up from 45%); and
motivated workers to undertake tasks beyond their normal duty (92%, up from 40%).