Despite 10 years of success, Brennan I.T. was in danger of stagnating, and couldn't keep its best staff. The growth in the uptake of new technologies by Australian businesses saw information technology and telecommunications services company Brennan IT expand rapidly.
The success had a dark side, however, and Dave Stevens, Brennan's founder and manager director, was soon facing a crisis with escalating staff turnover, an inability to find the right people and declining profit margins.
Despite the fact that Brennan had been in operation for 10 years and had achieved meaningful industry milestones such as being listed on the BRW Fast 100 list for three years in succession, Stevens says the company was having difficulty finding and then retaining important staff.
So, Stevens began looking for a process that would help him and his senior management redesign their human-resources policies to take account of the skills shortage and the differing requirements of employees in the various age groups.
A Harvard Business School business process presented itself as the solution, and with some adaptation Stevens developed an Employee Value Proposition (EVP).
The Harvard model looked at the service profit chain from the client side and at the delivery of services evaluating what it is that customers want from their service provider.
"It was simply a matter of reverse engineering that model," Stevens says. "The first part is understanding what employees want and what kind of environment they will enjoy and then offering that."
At the entry point, the job interview, Stevens designed questions for the potential employee that established their value proposition. The aim was to find a match with the company EVP.
"The staff retention process goes in waves. Twelve months ago we were experiencing a high turnover rate of 20 per cent. That's when we implemented the EVP and began focusing on how our employees find value. The turnover rate is now below 10 per cent," he says.
Brennan employs 150 people. Most are technology consultants and many are in the same Generation X and Y demographic and therefore have similar workplace aspirations and needs.
The Brennan EVP involves ensuring that staff have the opportunity to interact with each other during and outside of work hours. To assist with that process, Stevens established a social club which organised group after-hours activities.
At first Stevens applied the company no-alcohol policy to the staff activities.
"They go go-karting, paintballing and they said yes, they wanted that, but they also wanted dinners out which meant some revision of the policy," he says.
Stevens says the key to staff retention policies is listening to the needs and wants of staff and being flexible enough to adapt to those requirements.
He says before the implementation of the EVP, revenue had grown rapidly but profit was reduced as a percentage of turnover. This situation has now been redressed and the profit component of the $52 million turnover is steadily increasing.
"I truly believe that our EVP is critical to who we are as a company. For both our current and future employees, we want an environment that encourages both personal and professional success, and our value proposition is now another means to keep us focused on this end, as well as help us to attract and retain the right kind of staff," Stevens says.
"Because we're fast-moving and dynamic, our workforce is the key source of our success, and this is one of the reasons that the EVP empowers everyone to take the initiative in enhancing our processes and coming up with new ideas."
©Fairfax Business Media
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