Leadership development programs the key to an engaged workforce in fluctuating market

This year’s recognition as an Aon Hewitt Best Employer has meant much more to Hilti Australia because in a soft construction market everyone had to work much harder to retain high employee engagement.

In 2011 when Hilti was recognised as the ‘Best of the Best’ Best Employer the company felt the impact immediately. Most notably, there was an instant boost in employee confidence and a 300 per cent spike in job applications.

In my experience, an engaged and motivated workforce is 95 per cent within the organisation’s power to control and our engaged employees drove double digit financial growth for Hilti in 2011.

However, working in the natural resources and construction sectors in Australia exposes Hilti to the benefits and challenges of the current two-speed economy and after receiving the ‘Best of the Best’ Best Employer accreditation last year, Hilti realised market conditions were changing - particularly in the construction sector which comprises 80 per cent of the company’s business.

This situation posed a risk to employee engagement, and our management team realised that Hilti needed to adapt to market conditions to ensure employee and financial success in 2012.

To steer the company through a difficult year, Hilti focused strongly on leadership development, starting with identifying and defining the leadership behaviours needed to achieve to secure sustainable profitable growth for the business.

The company enjoys high retention rates, so Hilti implemented a strategy for equipping existing managers with the skills to become better leaders. The program fed into managers’ own performance, and also their ability to drive performance and development within their teams.

Each manager was accountable for the development and individual growth of their team members, and meeting specific key performance indicators, including 20 per cent of the team being identified as having ‘high potential’ and matched to future roles, and at least one team member who could succeed their own role.

Hilti also increased transparency in how internal talent was identified, reviewed and nurtured, allowing the company to develop from within to retain knowledge and skills. In 2011, 15 per cent of employees progressed their careers through the Strategic Manpower Development program, with 84 per cent of management appointments filled internally.

During the year of being Australia’s Best Employer, Hilti invested a lot of energy on taking its employees on the journey toward achieving the company’s vision and strategy. Each employee understood that they played a key role in taking the business to the next level.

Despite the difference between the booming resources sector and flagging construction industry, both divisions across Hilti have remained equally engaged over the past 12 months and the company was accredited as an Aon Hewitt Best Employer for the second year running.

In many ways, being recognised as a Best Employer in 2012 is more meaningful than the ‘Best of the Best’ accreditation last year as the conditions have been tough and the company pulled together to adapt to keep engagement high. Now Hilti is strongly positioned for further success.

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