Engagement by letting go
How to get the mainly introvert people in a tech company engaged? It’s a challenge that many companies face and engagement programs often fail to achieve this. In this interview with Ingeborg van Harten, the new Head of HR at Mollie payments, we learn that the key to engagement can be found in something simple, yet exiting; freedom for the employees.
Mollie payments is one of the fastest growing #fintech companies in Europe, providing payment solutions for more than 60.000 entrepreneurs. Before starting at Mollie Ingeborg was Head of Talent and Engagement at Irdeto, a digital security company. At Irdeto she led different initiatives in recruitment, learning and most recently in engagement. She will be presenting at UNLEASH in London on March 19-20th about the road to an engaged workforce and the surprising results from a one-off meditation exercise.
Recruitment versus HR
What changed when you moved from ‘mainly recruitment’ to a much broader HR role? “I was always interested in how the various HR aspects influence each other. By expanding my scope beyond recruitment a few years ago, I got the opportunity to connect these elements together. For example engagement with recruitment.” Ingeborg continues; “One major finding in the employee survey, using Culture Amp, was that the engagement levels under engineers was lower compared to for example finance or hr specialists. Most of our hiring managers and interviewers are engineers and they play a big role in attracting new talent. When these so called ‘hiring teams’ are not engaged, the recruitment team also has an issue, because no matter how engaged the recruiters are – they heavily rely on their hiring managers and interviewers for success. So an initiative to improve engagement, specifically targeting the broader engineering group, was started.”
The voice of the employee
What has been a key success factor to improve that engagement? “We decided to start with the employees and invited them to join us for something we called ‘The Engagement Project’. Joining was completely voluntary, but encouraged by management and HR. We found about 30 engineers happy to spend a day with us out of the office to focus on improving engagement. We guided this group of volunteers through a meditation exercise, where we asked them to dream about their ‘Best Working Day’ Ingeborg explains. “From this exercise many improvement ideas were generated, and the employees were encouraged to execute those ideas themselves as much as possible. There was budget to execute, but most of the ideas did not cost any money – they only needed someone to take ownership and a team of passionate contributors.”
HR facilitated the sessions and we helped the engineers to get started with implementing their ideas, but they tracked the actions themselves on scrum boards.
At the same time we encouraged our people to talk about their life at the company. “One key action was to open up the company’s social channels to all employees. For example everyone can request the company Instagram account and share pictures of work situations they liked themselves. Another action was to create a few unscripted video’s featuring the engineers themselves and use these on the recruitment site, like how to pronounce the company name.”
“These actions are part of what we call ‘the voice of the employee’. This voice is an important gear in the ‘Employee Experience Wheel’. Without one, all gears in the wheel stop turning around. This ‘voice’ goes far beyond the employee survey and can also be connected as a concept to feedback, between colleagues and upwards to management.”
The key to finding IT candidates?
What did all these initiatives and their costs deliver as a result? Ingeborg continues “We managed to improve the engagement levels in the engineering teams. The engagement survey scores improved, and there was a lot of appreciation for this initiative. What is most interesting is that the recruitment team especially benefitted from the improved engagement. As well as the online presence of our people. The videos and posts on Instagram added significantly to our employer brand and we have seen a steady increase in the number of applications which come in for technical roles. Our referrals numbers have gone up and last year we had the lowest number of agency hires we’ve had in years.
Giving your employees more freedom and autonomy – and a strong voice – works wonders for your engagement levels and subsequently for your employer brand. We also saw improvements in retention (now far below IT industry average) and more collaboration between colleagues who before this project did not know each other.
HR Tech innovation by trial and error
What’s your approach to the broad range of HRTech available today? Ingeborg; “New HR solutions constantly present themselves in the marketplace. We learnt not to spend too much times listening to the sales pitch of the suppliers, but as much time as possible on trialling the solution. We get references from the market, HR peers and other users. So we don’t do many long and complicated tenders to select one right party. We’ll look for software where you can have a trial or short-term subscription and use it for a few teams, for a few months. Only if it really works well for the end user, we’ll then roll it out to other users. And not necessarily to everybody to have a standard tool, because we often allow for different teams or even people to use the tools that work best for them.”
“One really interesting tool we used is de employee recognition app from O.C.Tanner. With this tool every employee can send appreciation/feedback and awards to colleagues in the form of e-cards or awards, which have points associated with them. These points can be used in on online shop environment. So you are giving each other something tangible when you say thank you. This tool really helped us creating a positive vibe around giving feedback to colleagues.’’
There’s no ‘one best solution’ in #HRTech
To end the interview we conclude that there’s no one best solution in HRTech. Ingeborg says “I believe that how tools meet the requirements is dependent on the situation, of the company, of the team or even of the individual. Therefore comparing tools on paper doesn’t work for me and I much prefer the trial and error approach.”