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The latest Holy Grail of HR: Employee Engagement

As a matter of course, Niki and I regularly receive updates on HR and related topics. Within the last fortnight, there has been a recurring theme – that of employee engagement.

Trends and buzzwords abound in HR as they do in any profession, but infrequently with quite as much focus as seems to be the case with engagement at the moment. So why is this occurring and what are the salient points we can glean from the various articles with which we've been bombarded?

The prevailing belief is that we are emerging from the recession somewhat battered and bruised. So, we are all hesitant to return to the gung-ho attitudes that existed before October 2008 and companies are keen to find ways of hanging on to the staff that they value. So the Holy Grail of the moment is how to engage employees and ensure that they are retained, and remain happy, motivated and productive in their work.

Even the property developers are getting in on the act: According to Property Week, retaining talent is key to office strategy and employee needs are now a core driver of corporate real estate decisions.

It seems universally acknowledged that employee engagement is currently low – in fact, I'd go so far as to say the figures are appalling. According to the various sources, employee engagement in the UK is anywhere between 17 and 23%. This suggests that there is much work to be done for our teams to be anywhere near productive.

Does it matter? Well, the business benefits of employee engagement can be encapsulated in these key points. Companies with engaged employees:

  • typically outperform their competition;
  • enjoy higher productivity and profitability;
  • have lower turnover figures;
  • have reduced absenteeism.
The challenge is how we go about engendering a working environment where employee engagement is a natural course of events.

This is a huge subject and one that we are going to be addressing at greater length in our Breakfast Seminar in June. However, key themes appear in the various articles circulated recently:

  • Employees seek to work in companies whose culture and ethics align with their own;
  • Employees seek to work with managers who motivate them;
  • Employees seek to be involved in meaningful work;
  • Employees seek recognition and appreciation.
It is proposed that a realisation of all these factors will assure engagement by employees. So how to go about it?

Some ideas include:

  • Articulating your company's strategy in an interesting and compelling way and sharing it with your employees;
  • Employ inspiring leaders to help motivate and guide your staff;
  • Streamline processes and blur parameters;
  • Stop micro-managing and treat your staff like adults;
  • Enable your employees to develop the specialist skills that they are passionate about rather than trying to shape them into a one-size-fits-all mould;
  • Make the sharing of information a natural course of events.
Writing it down is the easy part, but it may be a taller order to make these plans a reality.

We look forward to discussing the whys and wherefores of this compelling subject with you in June.