Advice & Guides

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Maggie Owens of FedEx shares her advice for how to keep your workforce productive.

As HR Managers, we need to have a vested interest in the development of our team members. We are there to support them, provide them with the resources required and ultimately enable them to progress and develop at their own speed.

The aim for most companies is for employees to be doing the kind of work they want to do and why we need to aim to make each person’s role appealing through a focus on individual development.

People take action. People make change. People shape the world and as a result we must place emphasis on employee engagement, aiming to provide the best environment to work in within your industry. The connection between how you treat your customers and how you treat your team members is undeniable and generating maximum employee satisfaction is crucial.

Providing them with the platform to achieve personal development success is integral and we have compiled some top tips to follow in order to maintain a happy, healthy and above all, motivated workforce.

1. Start as you mean to continue

Buddy programmes for new hire employees when they start are important. From day one, new hires should be taken through an orientation programme. Providing a mixture of online training and documents to help educate on the philosophy of any brand, it provides new employees with a greater understanding of the company, whilst showing you are willing to invest in your people to help them grow from the word go.

2. Reward & Recognition

Linking employee awards with your main HR policy can be extremely effective, to not only help you achieve your own departmental goals, but motivate your team members or employees to work even harder.

For example, at FedEx, we implemented the Purple Promise award for all employees, whether a courier, IT professional or package handler, to reward those who consistently go the extra mile for internal or external customers.

Employee recognition programmes to motivate staff and deliver HR goals are important, especially when recognising team members who have enhanced service and profitability whilst exemplifying the spirit of teamwork. 

If you also make it an internal tool for staff to nominate others, it can help generate a feel good factor within the team to know you have been put forward by your peers, again helping engrain continuous improvement. 

On the spot monetary bonuses can also raise staff morale for those who overachieve. We have seen staff engagement levels increase following a similar incentivised approach by implementing the ‘Bravo Zulu’ award at FedEx.

3. Upskill your Workforce

Continuous improvement needs to be at the forefront of any HR strategy to help develop the workforce. Introducing a soft skills programme for online learning as well as launching certain management development programmes directly benefits employees and by giving something back to your workforce, motivation can follow.

Ensuring an effective HR strategy by supporting productivity and profitability goes hand in hand. Staff development is key and recognises the importance and desirability of employee educational development. By establishing development tools such as financial assistance to all employees seeking either additional education or training to increase job skills, prepare for career progression or acquire formal qualifications, affinity to the brand and work culture will ultimately follow.

4. Coach your Team

By providing continuous opportunities to develop skills, you should support employees aspiring to be future managers. Role models are incredibly important, particularly when team members are looking to progress through the ranks as support and mentoring is required in order to develop.

Mentoring schemes are invaluable as they not only provide support to employees, but can enable internal progression and by implementing a development programme which involves managers being ‘coaches’ for employees, a structured development process can then be followed. As a result of implementing such measures, we have seen a high internal progression rate, with 70-80% of UK front-line managers at FedEx having been recruited from within. 


5. Choice & Challenge

No matter its simplicity, training is integral in helping develop your workforce. Whether online or in a classroom setting, enabling employees to ‘dip and dive’ into areas of interest and gain soft skills whilst following an individual development plan is often a good approach to help challenge learners. 

Providing tasks just beyond the skill level of employees is important, you don’t want to push them too soon as work that is too difficult can raise anxiety, however on the other hand, tasks that are too simple contribute to boredom – decreasing motivation toward learning. A happy medium needs to be met to encourage employees to search for challenging activities, all forming an integral part in the learning process.

Continually investing resources into learning and development is important to enable companies to not only retain, but maximise the team’s abilities. When compiling a learning and development programme, you need to ensure there is no one size fits all approach. Individuals naturally learn different aspects, in different ways, at different speeds and this is not considered a reflection on how ‘good’ someone is. 

Think holistically about lifelong learning. By laying out ongoing training options at the outset of an individual’s career enables them to see clearly the path they can take, the future they can have and the opportunities that exist for them if they remain with the business – helping your company increase staff loyalty and engagement.

Maggie Owens is managing director of HR services for southern & central europe & talent management, EMEA FedEx

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