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Blog : Employee engagement, more than just a buzzword


Employee engagement, more than just a buzzword

Jon Reed shares some latest interesting insights into employee engagement from the public sector.

A couple weeks ago, I was lucky to attend a conference focused on people engagement. There were a number of high profile speakers all with a different stories to tell. I was particularly impressed with David MacLeod; who has just led a large research project for the Department for Business Skills and Innovation. At first I thought: “oh no... Another government funded research project with very little application to the private sector”. How wrong I was!

Engaging employees is a BIG issue whether you're public or private sector, large corporate or sole trader. The word engagement is clearly a buzzword at the moment, but ultimately it’s about keeping the team happy, enthused, contributing. It’s about providing a working environment that is fulfilling and allows employees to deliver great things. The goal in many cases is encouraging high-energy employees. (There are hundreds of definitions out there if you don't think I've cracked it).

A key part of the conference was theatre-based training where actors assumed the role of CEOs, Finance Directors and so on. It was clear that people at this level were open to any concept that can drive people performance but bizarrely when it was packaged under the banner 'engagement' there was less interest from business leaders. A tangible learning for me was that most CEOs would see the benefit to growing energy and performance but by calling it engagement, it didn’t appeal to the CEO's focus on commerciality. Something useful for HR departments to bear in mind.

The MacLeoad Report on Engagement was very insightful and I especially liked David's introduction to the world of engagement. Comparing the need for engagement much like the need for innovation:

'Every organisation says that they want innovation and many organisations do everything they can to stiffle innovation and make it impossible. Maybe the same applies to engagement'Lets hope not! Especially at the moment where many commentators (I spoke to people from Anglo Irish Bank and ING) are predicting lots of employee movement over the coming months as the economy recovers. So focusing on employee engagement represents a huge opportunity to proactively manage the number of leavers.

The MacLeod Report suggests measuring engagement can simply be 'you'll know you have it when you see it'. 'Do it your way' was another key message. Anyone that is planning on launching an engagement programme will recognise the need to deliver a return on investment and measurement of success in order to gain resource. In this instance using online engagement surveys can be hugely beneficial for managers and the board. (Try our free online employee engagment survey for up to 100 of your people, or talk to us about a more bespoke and cost effective solution for measuring and driving engagement/or whatever you want to call it!)

Another element to the MacLeod Report was the importance of making roles meaningful to employees. By all accounts this was the greatest driver for creating engagement! I'm sure you've heard the story of the NASA employee who when asked whilst sweeping the floor: “What are you doing?” replied “I am helping to put a man on the moon”. Now that kind of work is meaningful! (All roles in every organisation can be too with some creative thinking and a joined up culture).

It seems employee engagement is on many organisations' agendas this year and some of the shining lights are making waves. HSBC for example where a ‘culture wizard’ is employed and O2 who have a shadow board made up of front line employees. Both of these organisations are well placed to stay ahead of the game. Are you and your organisation?

learnpurple have an event coming up on 15th April in London focusing on how organisations can engage their people through training. It’s by invitation only - but if you're reading this chances are you're our kind of person - so please contact sam@learnpurple.com if you're interested in joining us.

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