Do you have a best friend at work?

How can Maersk unlock its full potential as a transport and logistics company? There is no simple answer, but one thing is certain: it will take committed and passionate people. A new approach to employee engagement is paving the way for high performance and new connections across the business.

Best Friends
Building strong relations at work is crucial to employee engagement and performance, research shows. “We have to take a new approach to engagement with a clear focus on how we make connections, engage in conversations and collaborate,” says Lars Even Rasmussen, Head of Culture, Performance & Team Development. Photo: APM Terminals, Tangier, Morocco

For the Transport & Logistics division to succeed, the coming years will entail a significant shift in Maersk’s company culture – from one of competition to one of collaboration.

Casting a fresh eye on engagement is the first of many steps towards a more collaborative and high-performance culture across the business, says Lars Even Rasmussen, Head of Culture, Performance & Team Development.

“Synergies between brands are the talk of the town, but for them to materialise, we have to build stronger relations with each other,” he says.

“This means we have to take a new approach to engagement with a clear focus on how we make connections, engage in conversations and collaborate. We’re a networked organisation. Everything we do is interdependent, but for decades we have been operating on the basis of a company culture of individual accountabilities.”

From insight to action

The journey starts with the introduction of the new and simpler engagement survey, ‘Connections’, which marks a significant change in the company’s approach to engagement and performance. 

“Managers tend to make engagement and performance all about survey results and scorecards. Improving engagement is not just about the numbers. It’s about how we put results and insights into action,” says Lars Even Rasmussen.

“The survey has been too focused on completion and getting a score, after which nothing happens. If we want to move to a new level of performance, we need to move to a new level of engagement. The new survey speaks more of the emotional attachment people have to their jobs. We need to be asking the right questions about how the employee relates to the company and the people he or she is surrounded by.”

Best Friends
For the Transport & Logistics division to succeed, the coming years will entail a significant shift in Maersk’s company culture – from one of competition to one of collaboration. Photo: Scanpix

This means asking fewer and more focused questions. At first glance, some of them can seem very soft, such as ‘do you have a best friend at work?’ However, the topics are, in fact, research-based and closely linked to business outcomes.

“The questions are quite different from what we’re used to, but they trigger real conversations and ‘hard’ results,” says Rasmussen.

With its clear focus areas that are more relevant to the individual, the new approach makes it easier to act upon the survey.

Engagement fuels performance

Despite being a term that is often used in management theories and corporate speak, ‘employee engagement’ can seem a fluffy concept. Nevertheless, research carried out by Gallup and MIT shows that it represents one of the secrets to making and keeping a business successful.

While there is no clear recipe for high performance, researchers and behavioural scientists have documented how companies with highly engaged employees are more productive, better at retaining employees and experience less absenteeism.

Synergies between brands are the talk of the town, but for them to materialise, we have to build stronger relations with each other”

lars-even-rasmussen

Lars Even Rasmussen, Head of Culture, Performance & Team Development. Photo: Maersk

Employee engagement – what’s new?

Engagement is the energy, commitment and dedication people put into their work and into their relationships with colleagues.

The new employee engagement survey, ‘Connections’, measures employees’ emotional attachment to their jobs. Here is what is new:

  • Simpler and focused. Reduced from the previous 31 questions to 13, covering the topics most relevant for engagement
  • More actionable. Fewer questions mean more focus on ongoing dialogues, making use of the results to create clear action plans to effect change
  • Stronger relevance. Questions are relevant to the individual employees, regardless of who they are or where they are

The Connections survey runs until 22 December 2017. The results from the survey will help foster the right conversations throughout the organisation and help employees to take action on the areas that are relevant to improve.

“We all deliver more if we’re happy, committed and passionate about our work. Dedicated people perform better and that makes engagement a huge enabler of growth,” says Ulf Hahnemann, Head of HR at Maersk.

“Employees have made Maersk what it is today. We want to build on this foundation and let everyone play his or her part in creating a more engaging workplace where we have the best possible environment in which to perform. It simply makes it more fun to go to work and is crucial if we are to realise our ambitions.”

Managers drive engagement

Managers explain 70% of the variance in engagement, according to Gallup, making them the most significant driver of engagement. Acknowledging this, the new survey works as a conversation starter between employees and managers on how people feel about, relate and connect to their jobs, colleagues, teams, leadership and the company.

“We need to foster the right discussions between leaders and employees and those dialogues must be ongoing. We want employees to feel that engagement is not something imposed on you by the company – it’s about your energy and passion and what you bring to the job,” says Gauri Narayan, Engagement Consultant at HR.

 

What’s does engagement mean to you?

Christabel Achieng Omollo, Learning Consultant, Learning Design & Innovation, Denmark

“Engagement for me is two-fold: Firstly, what drives me as an individual? To what extent do I feel committed and passionate about what I do and what my organisation does? Secondly, how has my organisation created the kind of environment where I can give my best every day? And subsequently, how do these two aspects balance each other out for mutual growth.” “To me, motivation and engagement are directly correlated. A high sense of engagement on my behalf ensures that I come into the office with increased confidence and belief in both my own abilities and those of my organisation. I execute tasks a lot faster, I am innovative, I come up with solutions to challenges quickly, and so on. The opposite would mean a not so productive day at the office.”

Hicham Bengriche, Safety Coordinator, Loss and Prevention, APM Terminals, Morocco

“To me, engagement is about taking responsibility, believing in my company and participating in its growth. It makes me smile at work when I’m helping to support safety in my company, and also when I’m striking a healthy balance between personal and professional life. I really mean that.”

Cielo Rima, Process Expert, Global Service Centres, the Philippines

“To me, engagement is the way or time to communicate and voice concerns or appreciation with management or the company. Every time I’m recognised for my work, it makes me smile since my hard work really pays off. I can personally connect with the company and look for improvements on both sides to create a better working environment and this also helps to keep the best employees in the company.”

In addition to the new engagement survey, HR is also looking at other ways to stimulate collaboration, focusing more on team and company performance.

At Maersk, performance and incentives are usually measured in keeping with a set of individual KPIs (key performance indicators) related to the individual employee’s job description. Subsequently, the appraisal system – which comprises a 1-5 scorecard and has been used for over 30 years, naturally fosters a sense of competitiveness within teams.

“There are things in the way we operate that foster internal competitiveness rather than collaboration. We love individual accountability, we love focus, we love to have success – that’s our culture,” says Lars Even Rasmussen.

“This has made us hugely efficient and successful as a company, but it cannot give us the last thing we need to really be successful in the future. That’s why the culture of collaboration and holistic thinking is so important. We need to combine individual drive with collective success and to start talking about team performance and measuring that, too.”

Being successful ultimately means to help realise the common vision: becoming the global integrator of container logistics.