Want the Best Talent? Give Them Great Coffee!

Regular readers and followers of my social media accounts will know that I like a coffee.

It isn’t just the taste and revitalising powers of caffeine that do it for me, but the whole culture that has grown around coffee and coffee shops in recent years particularly in reference to business. When I started as a recruiter, if you wanted to interview someone offsite then you had to head to a smoky pub, or greasy spoon cafe, hardly the ideal location to discuss someone’s aspirations and career plans.

The role of coffee in the workplace has grown too. Moving from the jar of instant and a kettle, to the ‘proper coffee’ machine, there’s an expectation that people do their best work with a decent coffee, have great ideas in a break out area over a few cappuccinos, or just connect and share thoughts and experiences with a latte. It can help people switch off, get creative and engage.

So I was interested to see some research from Nespresso and Comres about coffee in the workplace. I’ve seen other studies that show the importance of valuing people in the workplace, and decent coffee would seem to be a small perk that people like.

I’ll write more about the research another time, but for now I’ll share this infographic.  I wasn’t surprised to see coffee rank as a higher perk than fresh fruit, but free drinks on a Friday?? Times have changed!

And neither was the recruiter in me surprised by the fact that 11% would reject an offer based on the coffee served. I’ve taken feedback from many candidates over the years who have been turned off a company by their first interview experience – and hospitality is often one of the key indicators of attention to detail.

And 44% of HR people have a creative idea on a coffee break…almost as many as the creative and comms industries!


(Disclaimer : Eagle eyed readers will be aware that I joined a number of other bloggers, journalists and marketing people at a recent Nespresso event to launch a new coffee in their range. The research that I’m referencing here wasn’t connected with that evening. It’s something that I’ve been talking to them about over a few months, alongside some other work that I’ve been doing on workplace happiness)

What We’ve Been Talking About at #HRVision14

During the afternoon sessions on Day 1 at HRVision I mainly went to presentations on talent management and engagement. There were some case studies and one or two supplier tracks. I don’t mind those as long as they share some insight rather than pitch – the ones I attended thankfully did the former.

Here are some of the things I heard:


‘If you think someone’s worth talking to then they must be worth listening to

This came from Emmajane Varley of HSBC during a presentation on their employee comms, the team that she runs.. It was an interesting session as she co-presented with her sister Jenny who runs the video channel HSBC Now TV (here’s a review from Rachel Miller a few months ago). She opened with “our leaders had done 148 years and we had had enough. There were too many people with their fingers on the talk button of the walkie talkie“. We had examples of employee involvement and talk of how leaders had embraced the shift from talking to openness and listening. Employee feedback showed an increase in being valued and many felt they had a say in management decisions – probably more the ear of leadership than a seat at the table.


‘Leaders need to be enablers’

During Ralf Larsson’s run through of the Electrolux employee engagement overhaul we heard of how managers had embraced blogging as a way of communication through the social intranet and also how having a mobile interface had driven more use. He talked of the positive impact of moving leadership away from being directive to being inclusive and from taking the role of enablers:

  • explains what employees need to do to support each other
  • encourage exchange of ideas and knowledge among employees
  • explain reasonoing behind decisions
  • trust employees to make decisions



‘You can also find out where to get a coffee’

One of the most impressive tech applications was from Accenture and their Candidate Interview Preparation App. There’s also one for the interviewer to help make sure that they are prepared too. Watch this video explaining more about the candidate app…they even let you know where the nearest coffee shops are…


‘Don’t just focus on your perm workers, understand your contingent workforce too, their passion and value for the organisation’

One of the supplier presentations was from Sally Hunter of Kelly OCG. She looked at various aspects of strategic workforce planning and also talked of the candidate experience, raising the difference between the way we treat consumers and job applicants even though the latter may also be the former. It’s a message we often discuss, but with different audiences at each event it’s one that needs to be repeated.

The main part for me though was about the expectations and needs of contingent workers. In my event preview I raised the point about engaging people who work for you, and represent you, but may not be employed by you. Many presentations around talent and recruitment feature examples from businesses that outsourcer some of their workforce – maybe we need to hear more about the worker/collaborator experience as well as the employee experience.


‘Diversity means nothing without inclusion’

The topic of diversity has been raised a few times. The point being strongly made is that without Inclusion it means nothing.

During the HSBC session we saw videos from employes talking about issues that they behave had with weight and mental health and support that they received. They also shared this video from Antonio Simoes, Head of HSBC UK, on diversity and inclusion…



The Future of Employee Engagement

As an HR blogger I know the perils of dropping the ‘E’ bomb. Few words occupy more gigabytes of space, are more debated and argued over, than ‘engagement’ – particularly when prefixed by the word ’employee’.

I’ve taken part in many discussions, read many blogs and watched many presentations, all concerned with trying to nail down what employee engagement actually is, what does it mean and how to do it right. And does it even matter. For many years it was considered that a pay cheque, with the correct amount arriving in your bank account on time, was all that was really needed for engagement.

The thinking has moved on though. As an HR recruiter I used to interview many aspiring managers. When I got them talking about achievements many would give priority to the engagement initiatives that they had worked on, offering both anecdotal and data evidence of their success. For some it could be simply organising awaydays or parties, fresh fruit for every department, a proper coffee machine or a new style of internal communication. For others it was down to benefits and perks, finding ways of recognising people who went the extra mile for colleagues. And for many there was also the nitty gritty, some would say real core part of engagement, of understanding and communicating vision and values, defining guiding principles.

For my part there are certain recurring messages that crop up at most events:

  • People don’t wake up in the morning thinking ‘am I engaged?
  • Engaged workers are more productive
  • Engagement is an outcome of doing the right things, not about the process itself
  • It starts with a CEO committed to the people agenda
  • People need to be treated with respect and dignity, shown that they are valued
  • It needs to be assessed in the ‘now’ and not with historical surveys
  • Social media is the new water cooler and you can pick up how your employees feel about you by being in the conversation

There are many more – and you’re welcome to add some in the comments – but the main drift is always that it starts with a mindset, of having a vision and culture that values employes and the contributions they make.

As Meg Peppin says in her latest blog on the subject:

“The solution is simple, create time and space for people to talk with each other to make meaning. Time, patience, space, respect. Simple and yet so difficult.”

Most people tend to see this as easier to achieve in a smaller business where employees are closer to, and likely to be more aligned with, the core vision and values, whilst leadership also tends to be more visible and approachable.

However it’s clearly on the agenda of most major businesses also. This report on the future of employee engagement suggests that over 80% see it as a priority, with pretty much everyone (97.4%…to me that’s everyone) saying that they will be investing in improving engagement levels over the next 12-18 months. All companies involved said their CEO was involved – although only 20% classified the CEO as instrumental – whilst recent Chartered Management Institute research suggested that the number one priority for business leaders this year is a reshaping of workplace culture, with employee engagement and better leadership at the core.

The report was produced by Osney HR ahead of next month’s HR Vision Conference in Amsterdam. They pulled together a panel of 9 specialists in employee engagement and comms from a range of business sectors – IBM, Starbucks, Electrolux, Zurich Insurance, Starwood Hotels to name some – and put 7 questions to each. They ranged from ‘who will be the drivers of employee engagement?‘ (line managers not surprisingly featured heavily) and ‘will engagement be replaced with empowerment or enablement?‘ (seen as drivers not replacements) to the thorny subjects of measurement and ROI (crowdsourcing and assessing impacts feature).

One contributor said

“Times will be challenging. Building engagement does not happen via tricks or treats, it’s about shared vision, challenging goals and being given the appropriate tools to achieve.”

You can download the e-book here – it’s an interesting read.

I’ll be heading over to the HR Vision conference and will catch another of the panel – Ralf Larsson (Director of Employee Engagement, Electrolux) – presenting a session on engagement at the event. He’s called it ‘Schmooze or Lose‘, which I guess could become a new catchphrase for the whole employee engagement debate. I noticed some of his suggestions:

  • Breaking down the silos through social technology
  • Development of internal social communities
  • Getting buy in from leaders to connect with employees via social networks
  • Power of a collaborative workforce through crowd sourcing and idea generation

Much about our workforce is evolving and changing – from technology to working arrangements, email to enterprise social software – and hence engagement needs to evolve too. Ensuring people have the right technology to get the job done may seem obvious but nothing disengages more than not feeling that you have the right tools to perform.

And with labour market shifts embracing new arrangements such as zero hour, managed workforce, and freelancing, businesses will need to find ways to engage people who are working for them and representing them, but may not actually be employed by them.

The future for employee engagement may involve a lot more schmoozing…