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Five keys to success: Employee Engagement and Purpose

Aligning leadership, strategy, workforce, communications and purpose is a tricky business. Yarra Valley Water is one business who seems to have cracked it.

You know the meeting: the leadership team reviews the staff engagement survey, the results are less than positive, people aren’t feeling good, they’re not connected to the mission and vision, and communication is identified as the key ingredient to making things better. I’ve spent quite a few moments in my career watching all eyes turn to me at this point and receiving the predictable instruction to create an internal newsletter.

Because that’ll fix it.

It will help, and it is one tool, but it won’t fix it. There are organisations investing in employee engagement seriously. They know a newsletter won’t fix it. They know that a connection to purpose and values is also about leadership, connections, behaviours and culture. They definitely know culture is something you feel in the bones of an organisation, not something you say you do.

I’ve been seeking out the paragons of employee engagement and communication for a while, and I found a great case study of exemplary practice from Yarra Valley Water at the Humanity in Business Purposeful CEO Summit. The Yarra Valley Water way.

Yarra Valley Water has outlined five critical success factors to embedding purpose in their employee engagement, culture and values:

  1. It starts at the top: Leadership needs to embrace the whole program for embedding purpose across the organisation. They need to be the visible and vocal champions, and they need to impart the importance of this on team leaders and supervisors so the trickle down happens. They need to allow the time and space for this to happen around BAU work.

  2. Involve everyone: Ask, question, explore and engage to build the program. Co-design with your stakeholders and refine in consultation regularly.

  3. Align purpose and culture across all recruitment and alliance policies and practices: The People and Culture team has veto over recruitment decisions at Yarra Valley Water if the candidates aren’t a culture match. Purpose is also aligned across supply chain management and partnerships. Obviously, it takes great leadership to empower and listen to this direction. The Managing Director, Pat McCafferty, openly acknowledged at the Purposeful CEO Summit that there had been occasions when that advice was ignored – and the People and Culture team had been right every time.

  4. Keep your finger on the pulse: Measure, evaluate and sense check. Always. But stay the course with your tools so you maintain a long term perspective on how you’re tracking. Don’t shake up the measures if you don’t like what they’re telling you – shift your thinking and approach. It’s harder work, but it’s worth it in the end.

  5. Continuously improve: Review, reflect and co-design with stakeholders, not just for them. Staff at Yarra Valley Water are integral to this process. They have journals for purpose that guide professional development and ‘Hamish and Andy’ style storytelling programs to share employees’ experiences.

If you want to be as impressed as I was, watch the Yarra Valley Water video on how they aligned their purpose with their strategy, and their journey to get there.

Good2Give’s Head of Marketing Communications, Lyndal Stuart, attended the Humanity in Business Purposeful CEO Summit on 27 February 2018. This blog is a reflection of learning gained at this event.

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