By Katheryn Sillo
Sustainable engagement continues to be a high priority for Human Capital executives in 2013. As more and more studies have directly linked employee satisfaction to an organization’s financial performance, it has become increasingly more vital to heighten the engagement levels of top performers and high potentials. According to a recent study performed by Mercer, some countries have up to one-third of their employees looking to leave their organization in the next 12 months and another one-fifth uncertain about whether to stay or go. Consequently, HR leaders are expected to deliver a reduced turnover rate while simultaneously attracting employees.
Sally Vardy, senior vice president and head of Human Resources, North America at Aker Solutions, sheds light on employee engagement and her organization’s strategies.
In your opinion, how does employee engagement directly impact the bottom line?
[SVardy] Employee engagement has an impact on the employees’ retention as well as their discretionary effort. As a result, not only is there a cost to turnover (we estimate $135 thousand per departure) but also an impact on productivity and customer service (we estimate up to 20 percent improvement in performance). Therefore, highly engaged employees have a direct impact on the bottom line by decreasing the probability of departure and greater performance against expectations (higher revenue and greater margins).
What are the top 3 ways to ensure employees feel connected to the organization and understand how their efforts contribute to its success?
[SVardy] First, take the time to “explain the big picture” so the employees feel connected to the organization and see how their efforts contribute to our success. It’s communication, communication, communication. Second, create a clear career path and set goals with a potential for growth. And follow through with implementation of development plans with the resources and support necessary to show our commitment to their development. This is where the rubber meets the road. Third, create an environment for high performance by building strong relationships with employees, building strong team interactions and recognizing and rewarding employees for desired behavior and high performance.
Does your organization have a list of company values that employees are aware and reminded of? Do these values influence retention numbers?
[SVardy] Yes, absolutely. Our 6 values are everywhere – literally. Not only do we have the values on the walls and as our screensavers, we start our meetings with a values moment, recognize employees for living our values, and performance is measured by values-based competencies. We believe our values drive behavior, and our behaviors define our culture. And if an employee has personal values that are aligned with our company values, he/she will stay with the company. And, by living our values in everything we do, we achieve our vision – so when our company is profitable and successful, it provides us with a sustainable career opportunities.
What is your favorite Aker Solutions value and why?
[SVardy] I can’t say there is a favorite value – they are all interconnected. “Customer drive” ensures we know the reason for our existence, whether internal or external, and we strive to exceed our expectations by consistently “Delivering quality results”. We have a personal responsibility to have an “HSE mindset” because we care about our world, customers, our employees and our families. All our major achievements are team efforts, and Aker Solutions is comprised of “People & teams” – what distinguishes us from our competitors and provides us the competitive advantage are the people, our treatment of each other and how we perform together. And we believe in “Hands-on management” – we know our business and get things done, and our responsibilities as leaders is to remove the bottlenecks so our employees can perform at their best. Finally, without “Open and direct dialogue”, we can’t do the above . . . we have to openly communicate, communicate, communicate, and should be done early.
Sally has previously participated at Argyle’s 2012 Human Capital Leadership Forum (Dallas) on a panel discussion entitled "Keeping Employees Engaged with Sustainable Results.” The discussion was focused on building organization and managers’ capabilities to drive engagement. Sally will once again join Argyle at the 2013 Human Capital Leadership Forum in Houston on April 4th to further grapple with the top of mind challenge of engagement.
Click here for more information on Argyle’s Houston forum, including other upcoming perspectives.
Sally Vardy is sr. vice president of Human Resources for Aker Solutions and serves as head of HR with direct responsibility for all HR functions in North America. Vardy has over 20 years of experience as a strategic HR professional, and her expertise spans strategic human capital planning, cultural change management, talent management and leadership and organizational development.
Vardy joined Aker Solutions four years ago and has lead two transformational change initiatives with her HR team, elevating and anchoring the role of HR as a strategic partner. Currently, she is responsible for driving human resources strategy on human capital planning, high performance culture and organizational effectiveness for North America region. She and her HR team design and execute integrated talent management programs critical for organizational strategic success and maintaining a sustainable high performing organization.
Vardy’s prior experiences range from start-ups to multi-billion dollar global companies in diverse industries, including retail, automotive, waste management, engineering technology and oil and gas. She has held various HR and leadership positions at AAFES, Aspen Technology, Jefferson Wells, as well as a faculty position at the University of Maryland, European Division.
Vardy holds an MBA from Texas A&M University and Bachelor of Arts degrees in Math and Art from Southwestern University.