Richard Branson: Why business is about people, people and people

Employee engagement is a top priority across the Virgin businesses, a factor that Richard Branson believes has enabled members of staff to flourish in their roles...

It’s clear that over the last four decades there has been a firm emphasis on ‘we’ rather than ‘I’ at Virgin. Offices throughout the Virgin group are focused on breaking down the silos that can inhibit collaborative team efforts. Here Richard Branson outlines how this works in practice and the benefits that come with such an approach.

"We give our people real autonomy, and celebrate their achievements by identifying star contributors, highlighting brand ambassadors in our internal newsletters and hosting parties for individual employees. The newsletters and parties also provide context and information about why we do what we do, and what we’re accomplishing. We encourage employees to take advantage of flexible work hours: They can opt for alternative schedules, to work from home, or to work from one of our other offices. We also foster physical activity through initiatives like discounted gym memberships and in Britain, by using tax incentives to encourage employees to bike to work," explained the Virgin founder in a recent blog.

"To learn whether what we’re doing is working, we listen to feedback from our employees, which we gather through ordinary conversations and through satisfaction surveys. We also measure success by referrals, since there is no stronger endorsement than when an employee tells a friend or relative that a company is a great place to work."

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It's clear that high levels of employee engagement will only be of benefit to a company, but knowing how to achieve that can be easier said than done, especially when a business is in its infancy. Some managers might worry about the financial implications of giving their staff all the benefits they'd ideally like to.

Richard Branson, and CEOs across the Virgin group, work hard to ensure that budget lines don't put restrictions on the confronting the key areas which dictate employee satisfaction.

"How can companies increase engagement? An insightful New York Times article by Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath included a survey of more than 12,000 employees that identified four drivers: physical (having the opportunity to recharge); emotional (feeling valued); mental (having the ability to work autonomously); and spiritual (feeling connected to a higher purpose).

“Success in business is all about people, people, people. Whatever industry a company is in, its employees are its biggest competitive advantage. As Virgin Pulse CEO Chris Boyce said recently, “They’re the ones making the magic happen - so long as their needs are being met.””

How do you tackle employee engagement in your business? Let us know below...

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