Engagement with employees vital

ASK any company and the usual mantra will be the customer comes first. That's true even for Malaysia Airlines but now the happiness of the employee is something the airline has realised is crucial.

The dissatisfaction of Malaysia Airlines System Employee's Union (Maseu) towards the shareholder tie-up between the airline and AirAsia Bhd, where the union was said to have used its leverage to reverse the share swap agreement brings into light the need to have employees buy-in into any game changing plans the management may have for the future of a company.

Maseu president Alias Aziz says the union met the Prime Minister three times to tell him that the share swap was not good for MAS and is grateful to him for listening.

Employees of the carrier are “very happy” based on some initial feedback and morale is up again following the unravelling of the MAS-AirAsia share swap agreement.

Despite having unhappy workers, the flights of MAS were not affected. Customers were still sheltered from the dissatisfaction by the union as they went about doing their job.

In extreme cases, union workers may have gone on strike to try to force employers to change their policies as seen in many countries.

“Many employees in Malaysia have become disengaged from their work, with less than half feeling valued by their employers, and more than one-in-three saying they frequently think about quitting, according to the latest survey results from the Kelly Global Workforce Index (KGWI), an annual survey conducted by Kelly Services,” Kelly Services Singapore and Malaysia managing director Melissa Norman says.

The survey was participated by almost 170,000 people in 30 countries including about 4,500 in Malaysia.

Norman says the survey goes in-depth in their finding to reveal that it was not just about keeping employees happy but the need to keep employee engagement' as a core focus which will ensure employee retention as well as attracting the right talent to your organisation.

Last year, Australian carrier. Qantas was forced to cancel flights due to a strike action by Qantas ground staff. The nationwide walkout by about 4,000 baggage handlers, caterers and freight workers in a dispute over pay and conditions saw staggered four-hour stoppages throughout the morning peak period.

“Unions are a good platform to ensure that the well-being of employees is being addressed to meet the needs of the organisation for optimum growth,” Norman says, adding that businesses and employers will need to change their way of persuading their best employees to stay.

“This is where unions and employers need to work together and leverage on their unique strength to ensure productivity, employee engagement and growth is maintained. In most organisations today, there is a multi-generational workforce in place and each generation brings with them their values, opinions and strengths to an organisation.”

According to Norman, money may do the trick to keep employees happy but not always.

“Especially with Generation Y, you are not going to buy loyalty with extra money. Instead, employers will need to make jobs more challenging, meaningful and provide their employees with more leeway in how they engage with the company, the co-workers and the work itself,” she says.

Norman adds that having your core people stay loyal to you across the years would reap benefits but since loyalty may not be what it once was, constant change may the answer for companies and human resource practitioners.

Organisations seeking to attract and retain the most highly talented candidates need to do more than just focus on their HR performance as brand recognition, corporate culture and the way they engage and create meaning' at the workplace are central to the way they are perceived in the broader labour market.

“This is only possible when union and company representatives work hand-in-hand in ensuring that they best optimise the asset they have which is their people,” Norman says.

Related Stories: Can MAS make it on its own? Fernandes: We could have made a difference MAS back to square one

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