With a remit to ensure that a range of practical support is available to organisations including employee engagement best practice and a place for debate and online support, the task-force has the backing of David Cameron: “This task force has my full support because I know that it will bring together two of my government’s top priorities – delivering sustainable growth across the UK, and coming up with new approaches to help people improve their wellbeing”.
David MacLeod and Nita Clarke (Chair and Vice Chair of the task-force) who produced the 2009 report ‘Engaging for Success’, lead a team with academics, representatives from blue chips and government bodies together with experts including the CIPD and Best Companies.
Almost without exception, commentators on the recent launch have welcomed it warmly. As we await its outputs, it’s perhaps a good time for HR to consider what’s needed.
‘Engaging for Success’ captures findings from various studies and presents a compelling business case for improving employee engagement. The evidence confirms a strong relationship between engagement and financial performance including :
- 26% higher revenue per employee,
- operating income levels increased by 19%
- 13% higher total returns to shareholders over five years.
So that covers the ‘why’ questions. The report also tackles some of the ‘whats’. Many definitions of engagement are provided – old wine in new bottles perhaps as employee engagement clearly goes hand in hand with good leadership. But to achieve real benefits, improving engagement must be both transformational and transactional. A valuable deliverable might be a framework for a consistent, strategic approach that may have been lacking in the past?
David Macleod has also suggested some answers to the ‘who’ questions; ‘it is the duty of HR to be clear what the evidence around engagement is and to make it understandable to both business and employees’. But it’s in the business –at all levels – where accountability and responsibility for engagement lie.
Perhaps the most difficult questions begin with the word ‘how’. How to secure buy-in from key stakeholders to mobilise the entire organisation? How to support the business to develop the right end to end communication and action plans? And how to ensure that plans are delivered even after the spotlight is off and there are a number of competing priorities.
The task-force might answer some of those questions but are unlikely to give us ‘magic bullets’. Businesses embarking on a strategic employee engagement journey will continue to require a great road map translated for that organisation, multiple stakeholder buy-in, resilience and time!
The launch has created a new focus on engagement and already some commitment to action. As suppliers of people to us all, even recruitment consultancies are assessing their own engagement strategy. Search Consultancy has appointed Advance Consultancy as part of their business change and transformation strategy. Simone Lockhart, Managing Director says that ‘recruitment is in a new phase and we recognise that employee engagement is key to delivering our growth plans.’
Strategic employee engagement has been a passion of mine for some time and I have a continually developing framework from experiences at several organisations. Whilst we await Task Force outputs, you might find it useful:
- Create a compelling vision, values and clear strategic imperatives
- Align engagement ambitions to strategy – ‘engage’ people to do the right things
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
- Manage multiple stakeholders throughout.
- How engaged are your employees now?
- Ask the right questions. How do employees think / feel / act? Measure success over time but remember that no-one ever fattened a pig by simply weighing it!
- Create a win-win for your people and the business
- And finally
- Create accountability and deliver on promises!