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Volvo: Tough times call for employee engagement

Marko Simic explains why employee engagement is vital when times are tough

All areas of the UK economy are experiencing some level of financial strain, and the construction equipment industry was particularly badly hit when Britain faced its worst-ever financial crisis. Employee engagement plays a significant role in ensuring that employees give their best, even when times are tough, and helps develop strong, positive attitudes among people towards their work and their organisation.

When demand for construction equipment in the UK slumped we knew that we had to have people’s full engagement to maintain customer satisfaction whilst managing our cost base and performance. When we shared our plans for achieving these goals with our staff, we found ourselves knocking on an open door. A huge effort went into making sure there was clear communication; not just that staff understood what we were doing, but equally important, that we listened to and addressed people’s concerns.

You cannot underestimate the impact change can have on people, particularly when tough decisions had to be made about redundancy. We worked with respect for each employee, and supported them through the transitional period. The result kept staff morale high. Even those that were leaving the organisation showed the utmost commitment to the last day.

Engagement is not just a buzz-word; we measure engagement in our attitude survey and discuss the results with staff to make sure we are constantly striving to improve the working climate. This year we wanted to take this one step further and test ourselves against an external benchmark. We were looking not for affirmation but more for information and to see if there were opportunities to improve. The Sunday Times publishes an annual Top 100 list of the best companies to work for in the UK. It seemed the perfect answer.

In February we took a number of staff to London for the awards and were delighted to be ranked 46th. You cannot imagine how proud we were of the organisation and the staff. After the celebrations we began reviewing the results, and identified two key areas where we could do more: “well-being” and “giving back to the community”. We are now actively working on plans to improve in these areas. 

  • Marko Simic is human resources director at Volvo Construction Equipment

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