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David Spencer-Percival

Spencer Ogden

Chief Executive

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CEO Insight: Spencer Ogden’s David Spencer-Percival on engagement


The workforce of 2012 is a fluid one. Gone are the days when a job was for life. 

But even in this time of increased job insecurity, when you would assume that most employees would cling onto their positions for dear life, the rate of staff turnover is high.
Figures vary according to industry, but in the recruitment market where we operate, the average annual attrition rate is an extraordinary 37%. The reason why someone would choose to leave a job varies obviously but, as the old cliché goes, people rarely leave companies, they leave managers.
Therefore, it’s vital that HR professionals strive to engage the entire workforce, managers included, so that they can deliver on a consistent strategy or vision and instil a positive attitude.
Key to achieving this goal is getting the working environment right. It should be engaging, fun, and a place where staff look forward to spending time. A fun workplace can be created in numerous ways – but before you even begin, it requires the senior team to have a positive outlook.
Aside from this, the office aesthetic is possibly the easiest thing to do something about, and this is something on which we have really gone to town.
Our London headquarters is known for its funky design and includes an 18-foot round table, artificial grass carpeting throughout and a fully kitted-out American diner in which to eat or just relax.
At the moment, we also have a fantastic interior designer, Bonita Bryg, working with us to fit out all of our offices around the world in a similar way. She used to be Take That’s stylist, which is also a bit of a coup for our employees and something that they can tell their friends about outside of the office.
Incentive schemes
But sometimes aesthetics aren’t enough and, for some companies, wallpapering the office with a bright, eye-catching colour scheme won’t be possible or appropriate for the company brand.
So you could concentrate on creating an exciting benefits or incentive scheme instead. Before you go down this route, however, have a firm plan in mind and be sure not to just give things away.
Competition is fun and you will find that employees become vastly more productive if they have a target to work towards, or colleagues to compete against.
Our incentive scheme is integral to staff engagement and retention. I mentioned earlier that the average turnover in the recruitment industry is 37%, but here it is just 18%. And the reason for this starts with a roulette table.
In this sector, it is already common for staff to be given placement targets and to be rewarded with bonuses if they hit them. But for each deal that a consultant makes here, they are also given a roulette number on the wheel.
Once the wheel is full, it is spun and, quite simply, the winning consultant receives a prize, which has ranged from a Damien Hirst work of art to a £2,000 shopping voucher.
Again, this approach creates a fun atmosphere and improves engagement levels. It also fosters a family spirit because the whole team competes – phones are set down for five minutes so that everyone can come together and see who the lucky winner is.
Incentives work on many levels and not everyone is going to be attracted to prizes with monetary value – that’s something I have certainly learnt along the way.
The value of recognition
In recruitment, by the very nature of the job, money does tend to play a central role. However, a good HR team will assess the needs of individual staff members, working out what makes them tick before putting an incentive scheme in place.
Some may be driven by gifts, bonus schemes or promotions and others will react positively to acts of recognition. Simple yet effective techniques here include regular thank-yous, posting the name of the ‘staff member of the month’ on the wall or including their profile in the company newsletter.
Remember to give praise where it is due, no matter how small the achievement – it’s important that employees feel appreciated.
For our part, we have noticed that holidays and the opportunity to travel are real drivers for many of our staff, and so we regularly hand them out to people who meet and exceed their targets. These include first-class flights to Las Vegas, exclusive suites in hotels as well as a pile of betting chips.
But we also recognise the value of our newer and less experienced employees. Junior personnel are the future of the company, so making them feel appreciated will help to keep staff turnover low and build a strong brand.
Because our graduate consultants may not make it to Vegas in year one, however, we make sure that they are judged against staff with similar experience, offering them the chance to jet off to New York instead.
But our pièce de résistance and the incentive we are currently most proud of is our ‘secret’ luxury office, located in a tropical paradise. Our top-performing consultants are sent there to work for a time and are given luxury accommodation for the duration of their stay.
In my experience, HR directors should never underestimate how much positive influence an enjoyable workplace can have. The ability to brag about their job to family and friends is also crucial to staff morale. So also ensure that your workforce is proud of their employer and every aspect of their working day.

David Spencer-Percival is chief executive of Spencer Ogden, a specialist recruitment consultancy for the energy sector.

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David Spencer-Percival

Chief Executive

Read more from David Spencer-Percival

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