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Employee Engagement Investment

This week I was presenting at the Marcus Evans HR Summit on the Gold Coast – and I shared some of what I believe has created an engaged team at RedBalloon. I was very quick to let the audience know that I am not an HR professional, but a marketer passionate about a brand… who knows that people and relationships make a brand. So employee engagement investment is an obvious priority for me.
I also said that ‘we tried a lot of stuff at RedBalloon, we got lot’s wrong, but other things worked.’ So, really, what I was sharing was the theory of what we did, after we did it. We did not start with a white board and design and engagement program, it just evolved over time, knowing that if we always think of employees as customers something will happen.
I got a great question after my presentation: ‘well that is alright for you – with your 50+ employees, but what about massive organisations?’
Of course, I mentioned the Zappo’s, Apple and Google – examples of strong vision and leadership. The question remains, where are the cases of Australian large businesses doing this, however? Dimension Data & Express Data were fellow Hewitt Best Employers for 2009, but who else?
The other observation is that we built RedBalloon from the ground up always believing in our people – so it is just ‘the way we do things around here’, we didn’t try to change. We are also a professional, mostly young, un-unionised workforce.
So let me digress for a moment. At Redballoon we have used TNT as our courier company for many years. Every day at the same time, the same courier Mic cheerfully arrived at our office and picked up the parcels, having a little hello to everyone, patting Dexter the dog. Then, off he goes with a skip in his step. Quite the jolly fellow. I have never really thought about this, but he represents TNT so well. I just thought we had a ‘good one.’ And he has been with us for years.
So back to the Marcus Evans event. The speaker after me was Susan Davies, Director – HR, Administration & Customer Service, TNT Express. Unlike all the other presentation’s, which are full of power point and lots of theory, Susan let her people tell the story of engagement. She had taken video of people out in the field, in the depots, and asked them about what engagement meant to them.
This is a very impressive story because when she arrived at the role, the company had just announced a loss of $79million. She (and the other leaders) believed that only through employees could they turn this number around. She said ‘we simply got out of our offices, went to the depots around the country and got to know our people. We listened to what was important to them… we learned that instead of providing them with fruit boxes as part of a well-being program, what they really wanted was pies and coke. It was all about being in their world.’
TNT employs 1000s of people in Australia and has an 87% employee engagement score. Not only that, in just one year they turned the business around to a $10million profit. She said ‘We are all in this together,’ proving that employee engagement is a profitable pursuit.
The TNT story is not an internet start up on a crusade or an IT business, it is an old established business, with a ‘blue collar’ unionised workforce, which reinforces the idea that ‘as the leadership team goes – so goes the rest of the organisation.’
Congratulations to Susan and her team… it was refreshing and a delight to hear the story. And I know from first-hand experience – knowing Mic – that it was absolutely authentic.

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