In the age of customer-centric business models, it's easy to overlook the fundamental role of employees in driving business success. At Mirvac, a leading Australian property group, a transformative journey over the last seven years has highlighted the power of employee engagement as a vital factor in business performance.

Between 2013 and 2019, Mirvac witnessed a significant uptick in its financial metrics, with a nearly 50% rise in earnings and net tangible assets, and an increase in its active Return on Invested Capital from below 10% to 18%. 

However, amidst all the financial progress, one central lesson stood out as a game changer: the value of its people. This realization resulted in a focused approach to enhance employee engagement, driving Mirvac's employee engagement score from a low of 37% in 2012 to an impressive 90% today. This transformation wasn't accidental but the result of a carefully crafted and executed strategy.

The journey to this success was primarily focused on reimagining the company's work culture, embracing the changing realities of the modern workplace and the evolving expectations of its workforce. Flexibility emerged as the key driver for change. However, changing entrenched societal and corporate norms to promote flexible working was no small feat.


Strategic action

Here are some of the steps and strategies Mirvac took to increase engagement by creating flexible working arrangements.  

  • Conducted engagement surveys to understand employee sentiment and identify key issues. The surveys highlighted the lack of flexibility in their work culture.
  • Recognized the importance of good people management and started developing consistent management practices across the organization.
  • Identified the societal assumption that flexible work is only for mothers, which could hinder its successful implementation.
  • Participated in a program 'Equilibrium Man' to change this perception and emphasize that flexible work is not gender exclusive. This program followed the journey of men working flexibly, which was documented in a series of short films.
  • Implemented a Flexibility Charter and provided managers with training on how to hold discussions on output, flexibility, team equity, trust, responsibility, and accountability.
  • Provided employees with the necessary technological tools to facilitate remote work, such as Wi-Fi, laptops, mobile phones, and remote access to the necessary systems.
  • Encouragement of Individual Flexibility (My Simple Thing Program): Encouraged employees to choose one small, achievable change they could make in their weekly work routine to enhance their work/life quality. The team would then discuss and agree on how to make each member's "simple thing" possible.
  • Continuously reviewed and adjusted their practices based on employee feedback and engagement surveys
  • Implemented generous parental leave policies, offered assistance for domestic violence victims, maintained diversity and inclusion, and offered unlimited paid volunteer leave.
  • Ensured senior leaders acted in line with the company's new culture by discouraging mocking or negative comments about flexible working arrangements.
  • Continued to measure engagement and adapt strategies as needed. Recognized that despite achieving high engagement, continuous efforts are needed to maintain and improve this culture.

These steps led to a significant increase in employee engagement, from 37% to 90%, with 75% of employees having some sort of flexible work arrangement in place.


Finding the key to success

Mirvac's transformative journey underscores the immense value of placing employees at the heart of an organization's strategy. The property group's experience sends a clear message to the wider manual labor industry: the key to unlocking business success lies not just in financial investments, but in investing in people.

Overcoming deep-seated norms and making a shift towards flexible work arrangements requires courage, commitment, and a willingness to embrace change. However, as Mirvac's impressive financial performance and soaring engagement scores attest, the rewards are well worth the effort.

While the specifics of the implementation may vary from one organization to another, the core principles — understanding employee sentiment, challenging societal assumptions, equipping managers to foster flexibility, providing the necessary tools, continuously adjusting practices based on feedback, and ensuring alignment of leadership — are universally applicable.

By learning from Mirvac's journey and making a commitment to enhanced employee engagement, businesses in this sector have the potential to unleash higher levels of productivity, profitability, and job satisfaction. Now, more than ever, the industry needs to embrace the power of flexibility, continuing to break down barriers and redefine norms, and in doing so, pave the way for a brighter, more prosperous future for all.