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Moments that Matter: Creating a meaningful employee experience

| Economic factors

It’s clear from the frequent employee surveys conducted worldwide: remuneration is no longer the sole driving force in incentivising and retaining employees. This is particularly true of Millennials; one global survey by Deloitte found that while all ages of employee find compensation important, Millennials (29%) value pay less than Generation X (32%) and Baby Boomers (42%).

 If not only salary, then what else is important to employees? Reinette Lourens, Training Manager at Ackermans, believes that it’s all about Moments that Matter: creating and sustaining an empowering, meaningful employee experience.
“While talent retention may be the ultimate goal, employee engagement is the means to achieving this. With the latter, the focus is on the employee experience and how they view and value their role in the company, which is directly linked to productivity, potential for growth and the duration of tenure at their place of work.”
There are a number of factors that play a role in shaping the employee experience; progression/recognition, culture, and total reward. The Human Resources Team at Ackermans - a value retailer with a well-above-average staff retention rate - unpacks each of the focus areas which contribute towards shaping the employee experience.
Progression & recognition 
Lourens says that it’s important to consider the holistic development of the employee, and not only the training they require to better perform in their current role. “At Ackermans, we believe that in order to reach your full potential and prime yourself for future career progression, full-spectrum development is required; from personal awareness and leadership to interpersonal effectiveness, business acumen and thinking skills, amongst others.”
The retailer sees around 2300 employees attend classroom training every year, and more than 8000 employees embarked on Ackermans e-learning journey in 2019. “We strive to offer development opportunities that are easily accessible from anywhere in South Africa – which is critical due to our nationwide footprint.
“People want the opportunity to progress within a company and to be recognised for doing a good job, and thus these are critical components in building an empowering employee experience. Employees need regular feedback, collaborative goal-setting, reward incentives or promotions – and never underestimate the power of a simple ‘well done’.
“There needs to be a system in place to instil recognition throughout the company, across all levels.” For example, Ackermans runs a number of succession programmes to facilitate career progression, and its high internal promotion rate is testament to this.     
When you consider the phrase ‘employee experience’, culture is probably the first thing that springs to mind. “And this doesn’t simply refer to employee perks and social gatherings such as team lunches or foosball tables” says Hanifa Jassiem: HR Manager: Talent & Culture at Ackermans. 
Disengagement is an ongoing challenge for employers. A company culture where employees are productive, motivated, and engaged is the antidote, but what constitutes a healthy culture?
Culture is based on your company’s lived values, says Jassiem, and this “should be driven through all employee touchpoints.” This is so important to the retailer that it forms a significant part of performance discussions; employees are assessed on how they demonstrate and ‘live’ Ackermans’ values across every facet of their professional lives.
And practically, says Jassiem, employee satisfaction must be monitored to gauge your retention risk, as this is a significant indicator of company culture. Ackermans regularly conducts employee surveys that ascertain employees’ satisfaction in terms of their package, recognition etc. “This enables us to tangibly identify any potential risk to talent retention, with sufficient time to address.”
‘Total reward’
‘Total reward’ encompasses all aspects of the employee package, including remuneration and benefits. “To devise a package that adds value to the employee experience, it is vital that staff give input, says Ackermans’ Remuneration & Benefits Manager Fred Prince.
“At Ackermans, what we put on the table comes directly from our employees, and this is what makes our benefits unique,” explains Prince.
A large percentage of Ackermans’ employee base comprises parents, which means that it was important for the retailer to have a comprehensive and attractive maternity benefits package, as well as flexible working hours, for example.
“If your employee base consists predominantly of a twenty-something age group, then other benefits may be more attractive. Thus, it’s important to make this a collaborative process with employees, to determine what genuinely adds value to their lives and contributes towards a fulfilling employee experience.”
It is also important to drive ongoing awareness of benefits, says Prince, and not assume that they are known to all staff. “Mailers, intranet, in-person briefings, our website and in-store radio programmes are how we actively drive awareness of benefits at Ackermans,” he says.

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