Improving Employee Engagement in IT Outsourcing
In this interview, we talked with Svitlana Gildebrandt, VP of People, Culture and Engagement at Innovecs. She is an experienced HR professional with a strong work ethic, and deep experience working in a multicultural environment in big corporations. With 12 years of HR generalist experience in IT industry in product and outsourcing companies, she boasts knowledge of development and enhancement of HR activities worldwide. Her recent experience prior joining Innovecs includes work in Wargaming Cyprus HQ for almost 3 years working closely with local and international teams so we asked Svitlana to share her thoughts on improving employee engagement in IT outsourcing.
Innovecs: In your opinion, what does it mean to be engaged at work?
SG: Engaged employees are the ones who know and feel that their work is appreciated and important for the company. This, in turn, makes them motivated to contribute to its success. They know that in case they have some comments and recommendations towards company’s operations (even outside their responsibility areas and concerning different departments), they will be heard, and the action will be taken respectively once the comments are found to be constructive and reasonable.
Highly engaged employees are great company ambassadors and help support innovations and changes within the company through their active involvement. However, once we look at statistics, we see that less than 1 employee out of 8 is feeling engaged and having more of such employees seems like a challenge. According to the 16 years of data gathered and analyzed by Gallup Research, employee engagement level has been flat in the US and is 32% average.
And the average level of engagement worldwide is more than 2 times lower at 13%.
Innovecs: How can IT outsourcing companies improve job satisfaction?
SG: IT outsourcing companies need to provide tools to their teams that help measure teams’ satisfaction levels and get feedback from employees on a regular basis. These tools can include regular surveys conduction: acting upon results of these surveys (through respective budgets and initiatives planning) can increase teams’ satisfaction. It is also important to ensure a constant dialogue between company management and their teams: having regular meetings to share company strategy, mission and recent important news, being open and approachable whenever employees have questions or comments about any company related issue or project. Specifically, for IT outsourcing companies, it is important to ensure that their employees are happy with their projects and have the opportunity to grow: this can be clarified during performance review meetings and personal development plan implementation.
Innovecs: Do you use employee surveys? If yes, what is the main reason for them?
SG: In Innovecs we have different ways to get feedback from our teams, and one of them is a quarterly survey on satisfaction with company services: HR, Finance, IT, Office Management. They are a great source of information for us when it comes to budget planning for each of these departments: we know where to invest more in the upcoming quarter. With their help, we see how happy the teams are with the quality of services or initiatives. Therefore, we can tweak the way we do things in a specific department based on the feedback. Survey results also impact bonus plans for service teams so that they are committed to delivering top-quality work.
Innovecs: Unfortunately, in IT outsourcing people may not feel well-connected to the product they develop and can be moved between projects quite often. How can you improve engagement in this case?
SG: There are some conditions that can enhance the induction of employees to new projects. We need a clear-cut purpose of the project, product, and employee’s role as well as a proper introduction into the team role and activities. All the necessary tools and equipment should be provided from the start to help them deliver their work. For every employee (a new one or transferred within the company) there should be a contact point in a delivery team with the direct manager and in HR with the People Partner, who will support this new employee during the transition. In order to support employee’s engagement during induction, it is important to double-check their thoughts on the process through a specific survey that will help address the first ideas and concerns. Closer to the end of the first 3 months on the project, we set up a meeting between the given employee, People Partner, and direct manager to ensure that the induction process is finalized. Usually, 3 months is an optimum period that is required to get a deep dive into a project and start contributing to it so I wouldn’t recommend switching projects more often as the employee’s productivity might drop.
Innovecs: What should a company do to ensure the success of engagement initiatives?
SG: Engagement related initiatives are long-term in most of the cases and time-wise need to take no less than 4 months before they start showing positive trends. One of the most critical conditions to ensure initiative success is the connection between employees and senior management that is done with the help of the direct manager and People Partner. If the company struggles with engagement, it has to first invest time and resources in developing people who are in these jobs. Statistics prove that a successful manager is the one who leads by example, generates enthusiasm in his teams and inspires them to work harder. Dale Carnegie Institute study revealed the following: 49% of employees who were very satisfied with their direct manager have been highly engaged, while 80% of those who were very dissatisfied with their direct manager has been disengaged. And I think these numbers speak for themselves.
Innovecs: If employees truly are a company’s best asset, care for them should be a priority. You’ve worked in multinational IT companies: do you feel this statement is true for every culture you’ve worked with?
SG: There are some specific cases when cultural issues have to be considered: as for example in Cyprus where I’ve worked for more than 2 years, people have a tendency to appreciate work-life balance more than in Eastern Europe. They have a calmer and relaxed attitude towards work-related issues. In order to build trusting relations with your teams and show that you care for them, you need to respect their way of life and interests. But overall working in the IT industry reveals little to no borders when it comes to getting the best employee on your team (including geographical borders), and therefore engagement practices I used are pretty much international: be transparent with your teams, involve them in decision making and delegate more.