Engaged employees, the driving force behind O’Connors continued business success.

Years Of Service BT

Author: Gareth Webb, O’Connors Chief Executive Officer.

As a business, O’Connors employ over 350 people across our 15 dealerships in NSW, Victoria and South Australia. Our employees work in a variety of roles and departments including Sales, Service, Parts, Administration, Accounting, Marketing, HR and I.T. – all based in rural and regional Australia. People are the backbone of our business so it’s important to us that they are engaged in the work they do and contribute to the success of the business.

Receiving the results of the annual O’Connors Employee Engagement Index is something I look forward to every year. As a CEO who has transitioned through various aspects of the business over my tenure, I know the importance of genuine engagement in the business. In 2022 we are extremely proud of the findings. With a score of 84%, we are placed in the top 10% of Australian companies for employee engagement[1].

Michael Worth, Director of Leading People & Culture who manages the engagement survey for O’Connors, commented that the 2022 Employee Engagement index score of 84% is a significant achievement during what has been a challenging period for all businesses due to COVID, trying to attract and retain talent. From his global experience, this type of result is built up over a period and is significantly impacted by genuine people leaders.

“Engagement is a choice for an employee, and organisations must strive to create a culture that employees want to engage with. When employees feel a strong connection to their work, businesses are better equipped to succeed. Engaged employees have a lower risk of turnover, best in class productivity levels, increased employee growth, and better satisfaction at work. These results would indicate that O’Connors managers are exceeding at what good managers must do, leading and motivating their employees so that both employee and company benefit,” he said.

Having started my career at O’Connors as a sales team member in 2004, I have lived experience of the key factors that I believe make a workplace attractive from an employee point of view. When employees are engaged in the business and believe in our values and our goals, they work harder, are more productive and most importantly they feel successful when the business is successful. Not only do we want our staff to enjoy coming to work and contributing to the communities we live in, but it makes business sense too.

Recent studies indicate that it can cost between six- and nine-months’ salary (on average) to replace a position and provide adequate training to achieve the level of output of a longer-term employee. But the cost to the business goes well beyond the monetary value. The impact on customer relationships, morale within the team and lost knowledge are all indirect costs to the business if a longer-term employee leaves.

In our business, relationships are key. Our staff, and their relationship with our customers, are the driving force behind our success. Our focus is to provide tailored and personalised service to our customers, and we do this by developing meaningful relationships based on a ground-truthed understanding of their business that we service and support.

Our business model is built around knowing our customers, understanding their business, and providing equipment solutions to suit their needs. Our value proposition must be delivered to customers with a level of knowledge about their businesses, the challenges they face and the outcomes they are trying to achieve. Employee retention is key to maintaining and building on these relationships to better support our customers.

Transparency from the executive, through management into the individual branches that provide a touchpoint with our customers, is particularly important in aligning the professional and personal goals of our staff with the bigger picture of the business. We want our staff to know that we are trying to achieve the best result for our customers, and that they have group support in trying to achieve the same.

Our goal is to have staff who want to come to work, who understand their jobs and who know how their work contributes to the success of the organisation. We want our staff to be proud to work for a regionally based business who gives back to the community. We are working hard to promote a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s important to us that employees feel included and heard.

So how do we create a positive work environment to increase our employee’s efficiency and productivity, our employee retention and therefore our business profitability?

  • We ensure staff know our organisation’s purpose, vision and goals. Employees are more engaged when they know their efforts contribute towards a vision, they believe in. We clearly communicate our business objectives and strategies using multiple channels including a quarterly update for all staff, company announcements, news articles and communication via our intranet. Regular meetings (twice per month) are held with Branch and Department Managers via Teams and in person, as well as quarterly group department meetings. All of these ensure the direction of the business is being reinforced to all employee’s day to day in the workplace.
  • We ensure our staff know their role, have the support and skills to complete their role and can see the connection between their role and the overall purpose of the business. We provide our staff with a clear position description and comprehensive induction process, opportunities for training and development and regular business updates. We conduct bi-monthly engagement meetings allowing open communication with our staff. This provides an opportunity to discuss their contribution to the business, provide feedback and allows them to ask any questions related to their role, skill gaps they may have and their career path in the business.
  • We empower our employees and provide guided autonomy in the application of their workflow. Our employees take responsibility for their work and their decisions. We allow them to exercise independent judgement in doing their jobs while being clear about what their performance expectations are, and their level of decision-making. We provide continuous opportunities for training and professional development at all levels to ensure they are skilled and supported to operate in this framework.
  • We measure employee engagement. We have conducted three employee engagement surveys and results have consistently improved. We select critical areas of focus from the findings each year, and actively include these in our business and HR strategy for the year ahead. Following the results of the survey, our People and Culture Advisor works with each individual dealership to identify areas for improvement and develops an action plan for change. This action plan also aligns with the overall employee engagement strategy identified by the executive team using the overall results.
  • We support individual success one day at a time, and one on one. Managers provide regular and ongoing feedback to employees face to face and in real time during the course of their work.
  • We value training. We want our employees to succeed so we give them the necessary resources and training to make that happen. We identify talent and future leaders, invest in training and create career pathways where possible. Our People Management & Leadership Training course has been developed by a third party and tailored to our business and over the years we have supported approximately 100 staff to conduct this training.

As a business we have worked hard to attract and retain our skilled and dedicated team. We are a business that truly cares about our people and in turn, we’re seeing the benefits.

If you would like to join our team or find out more about the opportunities on offer, visit Home – O’Connors Careers (oconnorscareers.com.au).

[1]based on the Culture Amp 2022 Engagement Research Report.

About the Author

Gareth Webb is O’Connors first Chief Executive Officer, moving into the role in 2018 as the company transitioned from a family-owned and operated business into an executive management and board of governance business structure. Starting out in Machinery Sales with O’Connors in 2004, Gareth has held multiple positions within the business during his career. Gareth is passionate about agriculture and committed to the continued growth, adaptation and innovation of Australia’s largest Case IH dealer network.

About O’Connors

With 58 years of experience and sixteen dealerships across three states, O’Connors play a pivotal role in the Australian agricultural supply chain, offering customer focused equipment solutions – machinery, parts, service, precision technology and support to agricultural businesses maximising their growing potential.

O’Connors is a market leader in the supply of agricultural machinery, parts, service and precision farming solutions with specialist knowledge of Case IH machinery. Offering total farming equipment solutions, O’Connors prides itself on delivering a first-class service to customers in all aspects of agricultural machinery across three states and fifteen Case IH dealerships in Ballarat, Birchip, Bordertown, Condobolin, Corowa, Forbes, Grenfell, Horsham, Ouyen, Mildura, St Arnaud, Swan Hill, Shepparton, Warracknabeal and West Wyalong.