This is the perspective of Richard Maloney, founder of international business management consultancy Engage & Grow.
“People don't leave organisations because of the quality of the air conditioning or the computers they use – they leave because of the quality of people nine times out of 10, and usually because of the quality of leadership,” Richard tells My Business.
“People, especially Millennials, are demanding more, otherwise they leave. They give you six to seven months of loyalty, and if you’re not up to it as a leader, you’ll lose them.”
According to Richard, a key problem is disengagement between what the employer wants and what employees see themselves working towards.
“It's very much leader-specific: if they are forthright in their innovation and ideas and now know that it's people first, profit second, then they are winning. But if they're profit first and people second, then they're losing. And so there needs to be a very, very strict balance between the two,” he explains.
Why engagement is crucial to profitability
Richard has a simple analogy to explain what employee engagement means to the fundamental productivity and profitability of a business.
“Generally speaking in Australia, seven out of 10 [employees] are not engaged, and three out of 10 are actively disengaged,” he says.
“So at the moment in an organisation, three people are rowing, [four] people are watching the scenery, and three people are putting holes in the boat.”
As such, Richard says every business owner should look at the costs in terms of lost worker productivity and recruitment, as well as the loss of their own time through having to manage people and address staff turnover.
Initiating cultural change in your business
Part of developing an attractive working environment for employees, Richard says, is encouraging them to work on the business alongside you, not just in the business. This enables employees to feel more engaged with you as their leader and with the business as a whole.
“Most companies these days, they don't allow people to spend an hour or two working on culture – they just say 'Bring in the profits',” he says.
“They've got to change their mind[set] to say one hour a week or two hours a week, everyone's got to work on culture and getting to know people, and forcing people outside their comfort zones to build relationships.”
He adds: “The happiest people on the planet are the ones with the most meaningful connections, and so they need to create that in the workplace.”