When businesses suffer during difficult times or economic uncertainty, usually their first approach is to cut costs, outsource and downsize operations. The state of Australia’s manufacturing sector means that many businesses have no easily recognisable fat to cut from their spending. Now is the time for businesses to look deeper and bring about holistic organisational change to evolve into high-performing businesses. The change needs to come from the top and become embedded into the corporate DNA.

I was interested to review a few studies that support my thinking. The company Towers Watson recently conducted a global survey of 32,000 employees in 26 countries. They found that only 44 per cent of Australian employees said their leaders were effective compared with 52 per cent of their international counterparts.

How does employee engagement affect profitability?

When employees are engaged, their productivity increases and absenteeism decreases. The impact on a company’s bottom-line performance can be breathtaking. Survey results show that, for the first time, effective leadership has emerged as a key factor in employee retention and engagement. It’s vital that we don’t undervalue the impact of strong leadership on business growth and performance.

“What Australians want their leaders to do is be very good at clarifying direction, vision and making good decisions about where the organisation is going, and sticking to that as a long-term strategy. So if you want to have some job security – a career – then this is what the future will look like”, said Adam Hall from Towers Watson.

The other study of interest is the Insync Alignment and Engagement Survey. Insync surveyed over 100,000 employees from 200 organisations and interviewed 10 CEOs from 10 of the highest performing organisations. Based on this data, Insync put together a list of seven habits of high-performing businesses. What are the seven habits?

The seven organisational habits according to the Insync survey are:

Habit 1: Live an inspiring vision

Habit 2: Communicate clear strategies and goals

Habit 3: Develop your people

Habit 4: Go out of your way to recognise your people

Habit 5: Genuinely care for your people

Habit 6: Listen and adapt to your customers’ needs

Habit 7: Continually improve your systems.

Many of these habits relate to an organisation’s people. I believe that when an organisation can align its people with its corporate goals and vision, it is well placed to evolve into a world-class, high-performing business. That is the first step, and it all starts with strong leadership.

Ray Edwards

Corporate Partners