Employees matter in sustainable success
During my recent flight from Frankfurt to Manila, I read in the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung of January 5 and 6, an interesting interview with Ulrich Weber, a member of the management board of Deutsche Bahn AG, responsible for human resources. Deutsche Bahn is the German national railway company, a private joint-stock company with the German federal government being its majority shareholder. It is the second-largest transport company in the world.
Weber mentioned that Deutsche Bahn carried out in October 2012 an employee satisfaction survey among 300,000 employees worldwide. The survey was done in 45 countries in 33 languages; 61.4 per cent of Deutsche Bahn employees participated in it. The results were due to be available by the middle of January. The survey is scheduled to be repeated every two years.
You might wonder why Deutsche Bahn is putting so much effort into finding out about the satisfaction level of its employees and what is going well and not so well at the company. Weber states that employee satisfaction is a strategic key success factor. He emphasises that strategies and plans can be implemented only with the help of satisfied employees. Therefore, Deutsche Bahn intends to conduct 7,500 workshops to improve the culture and the work processes at the company.
Deutsche Bahn has an ambitious goal. By 2020, it wants to be among the top 10 best companies to work for in Germany. That is on one side because of the future potential lack of qualified people, and on the other because the board is convinced that, long-term, only satisfied employees will do a good job.
The fact that the new compensation plan for its senior executives is based on the outcome of the company-wide employee satisfaction survey shows that Deutsche Bahn is serious about the topic.
For example, for members of the board of management, 50 per cent of their bonus is based on employee satisfaction and on customer satisfaction. That is quite a substantial amount of their income, since the bonus represents two-thirds of the total income of the members of the board. Only one-third of their income is fixed. Also from now on, in the management levels below the board, part of the annual bonus for leaders will depend on employee satisfaction.
Deutsche Bahn's approach of putting a strong strategic focus on employee satisfaction is fully in line with my own philosophy to put employees first. My own decades-long work experience has shown that it pays to take good care of your employees. They, in turn, will take good care of your customers. And happy customers that buy again and again will generate profits for your shareholders, who will return part of their profits to society.
That is the essence of the so-called "Four Stakeholders Approach" of which I am a strong advocate. Living it vigorously has brought me lots of success in my career and has led to outstanding sustainable results for all four stakeholders - employees, customers, shareholders and society.
And it all starts with "Employees First". So what about you and your company? Are you as advanced as Deutsche Bahn and do you have employee satisfaction as a strategic goal with all consequences (tying it even to the compensation of leaders)? It's surely worth a thought, if you want to achieve long-term success.
Heinz Landau is executive vice president, B.Grimm Group.