Employee Engagement – Is it worth it?

On Monday I was lucky enough to attend an engagement practitioner’s event run by Engaging for Success (E4S) and hosted by The Admiral Group in Cardiff.


How can you tell if you employees are engaged in the business?

E4S was set up by the government after the publication of the MacLeod report into employee engagement in the public sector (A copy of the report can be found here) and its aim is to improve engagement within the public sector by giving practitioners the opportunity to network across departments and share best practice.

The day started with an overview of Admiral Insurance and how they deal with engagement and right from the start of the session it was clear this is one area Admiral takes very seriously in its business model. One point Admiral did make several times during the day is that all employees are equal and each has a voice in the business and are critical to its success. A couple of things did jump out though:

  •  No one in the business has a company car – Why should the management team have a company car when the contact centre workers don’t?
  • Only the Chief Executive and Finance Director have their own offices, all other managers within the organisation are within the departments and fully accessible.
  • The Chief Executive meets every single new starter in the business no matter what their role.
  • Communication is the key to success, there are many outlets for feedback and the organisation encourages employees to provide both negative and positive comments.
  • There is a culture of continual development within the organisation
  • Managers have 10 guiding principles which are readily available to employees and allows managers to be measured by their actions and not just results.
  • There is a culture in the organisation of the management team not expecting anyone to do anything they would not be expected to do themselves.

The day progressed with group exercises and it was good to talk to people from many backgrounds and differing levels of experience in employee engagement. There were many different stories, some cringeworthy examples of bad engagement and some excellent examples of how it is done in the public sector.

One of the good experiences that stuck in my mind was from a local authority who, like many other authorities have had some budget cuts over the past few years. At this point, the Chief Executive stood up and stated that there would not be any redundancies (compulsory or voluntary) and they would find a way to work as an organisation to deal with the cuts.  Now the important thing that engaged the workforce was the fact this has been delivered, so we are in a situation where a senior manager has made a promise and in the eyes of the employee has delivered.

So, what does an organisation look like were the employees are engaged? For me it is all about the culture, staff at all levels need to feel part of the business before they become engaged. If you can harvest a culture of development, communication and openness then your journey will be easier.

In summary, the keys points about engagement are:

  • Communication, Communication, Communication
  • Senior Management team need to have the hunger and desire to support engagement.
  • Engagement not being seen as a tick box exercise that is being done to fulfil a criteria
  • Sometimes, engagement is about giving up control
  • Engagement is a journey not a destination

A little test I make whenever I speak to an organisation is what I like to call the ‘Reception Test’. In my experience you can usually tell how engaged the employees are by the welcome you are given when you first arrive at reception. If you were a visitor to your orgainsation, could you tell that your employees were engaged?

E4S are certainly on the right track with their movement and I am looking forward to working with them in the future to assist the public sector becoming more engaged.

We are running two FREE events in May in Cardiff on the 10th May and London on the 15th May around employee engagement to coincide with International Ideas Week 2012. Why not come along and see what the fuss is all about.


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