The secret sauce of business success

sauceEmployee engagement is the secret sauce of business success… have you got the bottle for it?

This fairly provocative title is tied into a new toolkit I discovered today. The topic of employee engagement is a hot one. It has been for a while and the heat looks set to increase.

I often write about it here and regular readers will know of my involvement with Engage for Success movement in the UK and ImpresAperta in Italy, and the good work they are undertaking.

On 18 July I led a Social Summer event at the headquarters of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) in London where I spoke about employee engagement and social media.

You can read my thoughts on the evening here and check out my slides below. Over the course of the last 10 days the slides have been viewed via SlideShare 1500 times already – certainly shows there is an appetite for this information!

Today’s toolkit is an interesting one, so I thought I’d share with you. It references the Engage for Success work (particularly the MacLeod report) and was created by  @HRZone and research consultancy Great Place to Work.

Great Place to Work has spent the last 25 years researching what organisations do to create the kind of workplace that attracts and retains quality employees, and how those employees feel about their workplace.

The free 21 page document includes:

  • Engagement across the globe – the importance of local context
  • What can line managers do to raise engagement levels?
  • Overcoming the barriers to senior leader engagement
  • Developing leadership styles that facilitate employee engagement
  • 10 thoughts to take away by Jamie Lawrence, Editor,

In the Employee Engagement toolkit, Tom O’Bryne, CEO of Great Place to Work says: “The toolkit has been designed to help you cut through the maze of data and debate about what engagement is, how organisations can benefit and the best way of delivering it. Our research shows that trust is the key driver to engagement and so we particularly welcomed the latest research by the MacLeod Employee Engagement Task Force which shows that trust, or integrity, has been proven to be a key driver.”

Does engagement really work? The MacLeod report Evidence nails once and for all that argument with a list of proven benefits:

• Increased individual and organisational performance and productivity

• Income growth

• Better customer satisfaction rates

• Reduced absenteeism

• Greater staff retention

• More innovation

How do you put it into action?

Tom adds: “So, if it’s that good, why isn’t everybody doing it? Why aren’t UK businesses bursting with engaged employees, all working together to drive productivity, output and GDP? The truth is that it’s actually quite hard to do. Although there are a number of approaches to engagement there are no guarantees of success. For every organisation that creates a workplace of motivated, engaged people improving business performance, there are many others who struggle and fail.

“Many businesses today are too busy focusing on the short term – the order books, the bills – to have the time or resource to focus on engagement. The irony is of course that focusing on the people side of the business will ultimately help drive the business outcomes in the long term. There are other challenges too. Many smaller businesses see engagement as being more appropriate for larger organisations with their bigger HR departments and resources. But again the irony is that, as most people in the UK work for SMEs, engagement is just as important to them and their employees.

“When it comes to investment – and engagement is an investment, no doubt about it – many organisations again take a short term view, looking for returns in a year or so. But engagement isn’t a quick fix, a one-off project or an annual ritual. It needs to be part of an organisation’s DNA, owned by everybody, with the understanding that any financial returns (increased productivity, lower staff costs) may be some years down the line. That requires vision and commitment from the top and a willingness to literally engage with employees, giving them a voice and empowering them to deliver the organisation’s business objectives.”

HR Zone writersThe toolkit features comments from Professor Clare Kelliher of Cranfield School of Management, Dr Elaine Farndale of Pennsylvania State University, Professor Veronica Hope-Hailey of University of Bath and Katie Truss, Professor of Human Resource Management at Kent Business School.

What’s the role of managers?

In an thoughtful piece, Katie Truss writes: “Amongst a host of factors that can foster high levels of engagement, the role of the line manager is often cited as being one of the most critical. In fact, a manufacturing firm that won several prestigious awards for engagement placed the line manager right at the heart of their strategy, and invested substantial time and effort in re-educating their managers in new ways of working with their staff, moving from a command-and-control approach to a more inclusive and participative style. This approach makes sense, as the way we are managed plays a crucial role in influencing how we feel about our work.”

I’m not surprised by what she’s written, particularly as the role of line managers and their importance is a constantly recurring theme in the world of comms. It came up at the big yak unconference I ran alongside my fellow The IC Crowd  @theICcrowd co-founders last month, and what I like about what Katie’s written is the fact line managers are placed at the heart of the strategy.

Far too often I hear of people who are relying on their line managers to be ‘channels,’ without recognising the importance of their views and the benefits that can be realised by shaping strategy with them.


Developing leaders

Amy Armstrong, Research Fellow at Ashridge Business School has also written in the toolkit, and she tackles some of these issues. I like her focus on developing leadership capability and also some of the barriers.

She writes: “To be an engaging leader is extremely difficult. Engaging leaders possess a particular set of leadership competencies, such as the ability to forge deep trusting relationships at work, leading with emotion and authenticity and operating with genuine openness and honesty.

“However, some leaders may be wary of engaging in this way, believing that by asking for openness and honesty, it may unlock Pandora’s Box, leading to dissenting voices within the organisation where they themselves could be criticised. Poor self-awareness on the part of leaders may also hinder engagement. Engaging leaders need to be deeply self-aware, however they may not reach ‘true’ self-awareness if conversations and feedback in their organisations do not stem from a place of honesty overcoming the barriers to senior leader engagement. and deep mutual trust. Indeed, many corporate conversations appear to continue to be driven by hierarchy, which creates division and prevents honest upward feedback from taking place.”

Well done HR Zone and Great Place to Work for publishing this toolkit. I think it’s an insightful read and you can download the toolkit here. If you are studying employee engagement or internal communication at the moment, I think you’ll find it particularly useful.

What do you think of it? Do Tweet me @AllthingsIC or comment below, Rachel.

Post author: Rachel Miller

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