Employee Engagement – Learning from Germany

Employee engagement can be a grey area for some companies, almost as if there is a secret, elusive recipe for increasing retention and productivity levels. As a matter of fact, UK productivity is 30% less per hour than in Germany; a marked difference.

In an attempt to find out why, a UK businessman, Will Tyler ventured inside a German organisation, which seems to have a sure-fire way of engendering the commitment and increased productivity of its employees.

Based in the Rhine Valley, Aluplast is one of Europe’s largest PVC windows systems suppliers. As a family-owned company, with an annual turnover of 250m Euros and around 1,300 employees, Mr. Tyler was invited to view the manufacturing process.

Afterwards, he summarised several reasons which he felt were the key to the growth of Aluplast. An underlying theme was the commitment of employees who understood and were engaged in the journey they were on, at all levels. The video demonstrated:

Communication is important. The MD chats to employees on the factory-floor, which is no surprise to them. In fact, he views his walkabouts as an important part of his role. Employees openly offer suggestions and ideas, because as the MD understands, they are the ones who know their jobs better than anyone else.

In addition to clear communication throughout the company, the educational impact of employee involvement in planning and Research & Development, allows for specific improvements to be made to products. Employees have a stronger voice, more decision making power and are able to use and further develop their skills. Therefore they feel valued and engaged and this can only bear fruit, in terms of increased productivity.

The development of long-term strategy helps employees engage in a longer journey with the company as the vision is communicated. This is coupled with focused investment, linked to long-term, 5-10 year plans. Employees can see their ideas in practical terms, as well as investment ensuring that products are state-of-the art.

So for UK companies, the lessons are simple:

  • Each person’s individual contribution is important to the company as a whole. Listen to ideas and share how they are used.
  • Share vision, longer-term plans, and investment strategy. Retention is improved when employees feel secure; are involved in communications; and their ideas are encouraged.
  • Invest in education and R&D. Keeping employees trained and developed will provide a competitive edge, whilst R&D will reduce costs/time and will provide a better end-product.

So the future for Aluplast and its employees looks bright. With 20 production plants and sales offices worldwide, and ten million windows produced per year, Aluplast can only build on their success.