Glen Korstrom, Business in Vancouver; issue 807
A new Watson Wyatt Canada survey indicates of a widening gulf between lofty corporate visions and practical means of showing workers how to achieve these goals.
“People are feeling disengaged at the nitty gritty level,” said Graham Dodd, Watson Wyatt’s human capital group’s national practice leader. “The messages that aren’t getting through are the face-to-face communications between managers or supervisors and employees about what steps an employee needs to take on a day-to-day basis.”
The human resources consulting firm’s study, called WorkCanada 2004/2005: Pursuing Productive Engagement (www.watsonwyatt.com/research; choose “research reports”), showed Canadian workers are less satisfied that their company is a good place to work than they were in 2002. Fewer employees recommend their company to friends than they did a few years ago, and fewer employees would choose to remain in their current jobs if comparable jobs arose elsewhere, according to the study.
Dodd said all three of those indicators point to worker alienation. He suggested a four-pillar approach to solve the problem.
Dodd’s first pillar is to let workers know what they have to do to make their organization successful. Pillar two is to ensure that workers have the knowledge, skills and ability to do their jobs. Pillar three refers to corporations giving workers the tools to do their jobs. Finally, pillar four is about motivating employees. Apathetic employees are not conducive to productivity or workplace morale, Dodd said.
Corporate executives who want to show workers how they can play a role in their business visions should spend time one-on-one with them, Dodd said.
Vancouver City Savings Credit Union did exactly that when it spent about $10,000 to create a humorous corporate video for its top executives to show at each branch during a month-long blitz.
“They visited every employee in every business unit of the company,” said VanCity’s vice-president of public affairs and corporate communications Paula Martin. “They played the video, talked about business themes and used the video as a communication piece.”
VanCity executives joined corporate comics Rock.Paper.Scissors in the 10-minute video that emulated a movie review TV show. Bigwigs such as VanCity senior vice-president of marketing George Scott appeared in full Star Trek finery in one of the video’s clips.
And VanCity CEO Dave Mowatt appeared at the end of the show as a movie director. Wearing a French beret and a checked sports jacket, Mowatt called himself a “banking artiste.”
Staff said the video helped them understand their place in the company: 94 per cent said they understood their role in fulfilling VanCity’s business objectives. About 98 per cent of VanCity staff said the company had clearly communicated its business plan and 95 per cent said they received enough information about business strategies and objectives.
Martin said another VanCity initiative also helped employees feel a connection to the company and a part of its development. Mowatt switched places with Lisa PaillÈ, the financial services co-ordinator at VanCity’s Port Coquitlam Branch, for four days last year.
Mowatt spent time behind a teller’s counter and distributing mail, while Paillè attended meetings and made publicity appearances.
All the while, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. cameras rolled and the experience was captured on an episode of the network’s Venture program.