Connecting an engaged workforce

For companies with large global workforces, engaging all their people effectively presents a huge challenge, one that Pontoon Solutions, with its 1,700 employees in 40 different countries, is familiar with. However, the global workforce solutions specialist is overcoming that through the clever use of talent management technology.

Terri Lewis, senior vice president global human resources, says: “When I first started in this role, Pontoon, which is part of Adecco, had just been created as a brand. Because of issues such as payroll complexity and social charges, it had a formal system of employee records sitting in each country. However, that meant I didn’t have one true HR information system that tied everyone together. Employee data was inaccessible from a central senior level position, while the ability to track individuals and their development, choices and skillsets over time was very limited.”

In Ms Lewis’s words there was no way to touch all those people very easily. With the workforce so geographically dispersed, she began to travel around talking to people, listening to them and understanding the challenges of working in the organisation

Pontoon team, Manila

Terri Lewis and team members from Pontoon Manila

She says: “I have often said that culture is no one’s job, but everyone’s responsibility. In creating a cultural identity for a distributed workforce like ours, we have to set a tone, plant the seed, then allow our employees to grow that cultural identity and own it more organically.

“By carefully tending the culture, getting to know your people, communicating transparently, providing strong technologies to connect them, and making sure that you are not inadvertently favouring one time zone or one group of people, you use the power of your people to grow an engaged culture that crosses geographical boundaries.”

The key to achieving global cultural connectivity that would support this authentic engagement lies in digital technology. Pontoon Solutions turned to Avature’s HCM SaaS platform. The goal was to incorporate the technology into a unique talent management approach that would enable HR to navigate easily their employee database, connect Pontoon’s people globally, strengthen employee engagement and, crucially, maintain compliance across all international markets.

Avature chief executive Dimitri Boylan says: “Today companies are more global in their operations and need to be very effective in a lot of very different markets. The new model of enterprise software allows them to be bespoke wherever they are on the ground, to have the most talented people and give them a good experience whichever market they happen to be in. Pontoon has a vociferous appetite for technology and, most importantly, they also knew how they could get it deployed.”

As a catalyst for the creation of a cultural identity that employees can be active in developing and feel they belong to, Avature’s technology not only serves to increase the engagement of talent, but also to retain it.

Mr Boylan says: “The notion that millennial employees have a career plan that involves changing jobs every two years is not necessarily true. That actually makes it very hard to advance your career; you will struggle to be productive and anything meaningful that you start working on at a company won’t be achieved until after you have left.”

Terri Lewis and Dimitri Boylan

So why do people change jobs so frequently nowadays? Historically, talent management systems have never had the capability to identify the causes of the so-called “two-year itch”. Avature’s DNA product, a social network and employee management platform, provides that insight into what people are thinking, and how they are feeling about their job and the organisation and, more importantly, how they connect with and respond to each other.

“It does that in ways that allows you to see very clearly whether or not you have a healthy organisation and an engaged workforce,” adds Mr Boylan. “A root cause of employee attrition is a lack of multi-directional communication. With the right talent management tools, communication becomes more impactful and more meaningful, and people feel connected, regardless of whether they are working alone in a home office, as many of our employees do, or in a large office alongside 100 other employees.”

Avature stats

Working with Avature, Pontoon launched its performance review system in April 2017 and plans to implement Avature DNA early in 2018, bringing people closer together globally through the ability to communicate and share. At the same time the company will gain a better understanding of its employees through greater visibility facilitated by the technology.

“An organisation that doesn’t embrace the digital expressiveness of its people is creating a disconnect and also a lost opportunity,” says Ms Lewis. “The use of social media avenues to break down barriers to inclusiveness is effective in organisations of any size, especially those that are geographically dispersed.”

Talent management is about knowing you have the right people, understanding their best skills and matching them with the needs of the company

Employees are comfortable with technology and expressing themselves online. There is real power in this as it enables those who are the most passionate, focused on moving up and getting involved in the things they are interested in, including local and global projects that are beyond the scope of their regular job. For the organisation, the potential from an employee engagement and talent management perspective is limitless.

Mr Boylan says: “Talent management today is not just about focusing on performance management or learning and development, although these things are very important; it is about knowing you have the right people, understanding their best skills and matching them with the needs of the company. That is what our technology can do.”

Ms Lewis adds: “It is a true differentiator when it comes to understanding and getting your arms around your talent. I believe that everyone wants to feel a part of something and that’s what engagement does for a company. You get that discretionary effort from people, that true engagement, by ensuring they feel connected to the core and a part of something bigger.”

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