In Conversation With Regan Sorensen, Vice President of People and Culture, Knightsbridge Human Capital Solutions
We are thrilled to feature our very own Regan Sorensen, Vice President of People and Culture, discussing how Knightsbridge retains and engages its people.
Knightsbridge: How does Knightsbridge engage its employees?
Regan Sorensen: There are three main areas that we focus on; purpose, culture, and strong leadership.
One of the most significant factors that keeps people engaged and connected to an organization is feeling a sense of purpose about what they’re doing. At Knightsbridge we move people and organizations to greatness so that purpose in and of itself engages our folks. We build on that by continuously communicating Knightsbridge’s vision and strategy to our people so that they understand the objective and how we plan to achieve it. We do this through town halls with the CEO, regular emails from the CEO, national conferences, leadership meetings, and monthly all-staff meetings. Our last employee engagement survey shows that 84% of our people say Knightsbridge’s vision is very clear and that they fully understand our strategy, so our efforts are paying off.
We also put a lot of emphasis on what we call our ‘K-Factor’ culture, which consists of 6 pillars – Customer Passion, Service Excellence, One Knightsbridge, Innovation, Courage, and Driving Results. Essentially, the K-Factor is about achieving excellence in everything we do, which really motivates our people.
Our culture is also represented in our physical surroundings, particularly at our head office in Toronto where our employees, including our CEO and the leadership team, work in a totally open space decorated with reminders of our history and culture. We have feature walls throughout the office that showcase things like our core values and our Diamond Award Winners, which are the people who have achieved excellence that year.
Flexible work arrangements like working from home or part-time reinforce our culture of trust. We try to focus less on face time and more on achieving results.
The last area we focus on is strong leadership, and supporting our managers and employees so that they continue to develop great relationships. Our people tell us that their relationship with their managers is important to them so we encourage open candid relationships. It’s not just about managers being responsible for their employee’s satisfaction, it’s also important to foster two-way accountability between managers and employees. We want employees to feel comfortable talking about the things that keep them engaged and satisfied. An example of this is their career aspirations and knowing that they have a career plan. The manager’s responsibility is to coach the employee as they explore their career aspirations and determine development plans to achieve their career goals, and it's the employee is accountable to execute against this plan.
KB: Even though Knightsbridge’s employees are intrinsically self-motivated, do you still have to devote some attention to engagement and career management just like any other company?
RS: Absolutely. We want our employees to feel proud and confident when they go to our clients and say, “We do this too.” Maybe on a different scale and degree at Knightsbridge, but we practice what we preach because we believe in everything we’re telling you the customer. In fact, our own employees are often our lab to test out new ideas and concepts.
KB: What sort of learning and development programs does Knightsbridge provide to its people?
RS: There are a lot of on-the-job learning opportunities at Knightsbridge. One example would be how we pair junior consultants with senior consultants to attend customer meetings. These situations give our junior consultants the opportunity to observe and learn first-hand in a real business environment.
We also host regular product lunch & learn sessions where we invite people from across our lines of business to share the latest products and services with their colleagues in a relaxed, open environment that encourages discussion.
KB: How does Knightsbridge measure employee engagement?
RS: There are a number of ways that we measure engagement. One of the tools we use is an annual survey that provides a baseline so that we can track trends and identify improvements over time. The survey is also an opportunity for employees to comment anonymously so we get some very good, candid feedback. But the real value in the engagement surveys is the dialogue that it allows for managers to have with their employees around areas like behavioural change or formulating actions plans.
Ongoing follow-up is also key when it comes to measuring employee engagement. When we’re at our executive team meetings we talk about people – how are things going, how are people feeling, are there any concerns or issues – this helps gauge engagement as well.
We don’t want to rely entirely on a once a year survey; we need to measure engagement on an ongoing basis. Of course there are indirect measures too, where you look at turnover. But those are lagging metrics that I typically don’t like to focus on because if we wait until someone’s gone, it’s too late to do anything about it.
KB: Because of the type of people you’re looking for, and the business you’re in, it might be easy to assume you don’t need an engagement strategy.
RS: You could, but we wouldn’t want to assume that and take our employees for granted. It’s true that we attract people who are motivated by our mission to move people and organizations to greatness. This really resonates with people. But you wouldn’t want to take that for granted and assume that we didn’t need to take care of them and ensure that they’re learning, developing, and engaged. There are other organizations that do similar work as us and you never know if someone is having a bad day or week, they might accept that lunch with another firm, so we need to make sure that we’re on top of it as managers.
KB: A lot of companies, especially if performance is good, might just assume that employees are engaged. Do you guard against that?
RS: If the numbers are good, you could assume everyone’s totally engaged. But just like any relationship, after a while people will start to feel that they’re being taken for granted, especially when they are working so hard to achieve results. Over the long haul, if you want to grow your business, you need to invest in your employees. This is where our innovation and thought leadership comes from for our products and services – from our people. If you’re not engaging, developing, and focusing attention on your people, you won’t harvest the full value of your human capital. It’s not just about caring for people. There’s a real business rationale that cannot be overlooked.