EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT. A Bray Leino Learning Whitepaper WRITTEN BY NIGEL WALPOLE

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EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

A Bray Leino Learning Whitepaper

WRITTEN BY NIGEL WALPOLE PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 2015

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Inside many organisations, Employee

Engagement is a real focus for HR professionals

and, increasingly, for managers.

Employee Engagement is a concept that has been around for many years,

but it is still a hot topic in today’s modern workplace. Organisations

want their staff to be motivated, ‘happy’ in their work, and getting a high

level of ‘job satisfaction’.

However, the focus in the modern workplace is also about business results.

In this whitepaper we are going to discuss what Employee Engagement is,

why you should worry about it, and some practical steps and strategies to

encourage engagement in your organisation.

Discussion Points

• The mystery that is Employee Engagement

• So it’s just another initiative?

• What is Employee Engagement?

• Engagement in the workplace

• Practical steps to encourage engagement:

• Before you even meet

• The first meeting

• More engagement right at the start

• Engagement throughout the rest of their career

• The drivers and enablers of ‘engagement’

• Engagement by managing performance

• Ongoing engagement strategies

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Why worry?

So why should you worry about Employee Engagement in your organisation?

There are a number of potential paybacks for organisations, including:

• An increase in discretionary effort

• Improved talent retention

• Higher levels of service

• Improved quality

• Increased productivity

• Wider profit margins

• Improved customer satisfaction

• Better shareholder returns

If you offer any executive leadership team an initiative that could deliver these returns, there is bound to be interest and commitment.

The mystery that is Employee Engagement

Inside many organisations, Employee Engagement is a real focus for HR

professionals and, increasingly, for managers.

History

Employee Engagement is a concept that has been debated for many years – the very earliest theorists around motivation, personality and developmental psychology identified how being ‘happy’ in work and high levels of ‘job satisfaction’ boosted motivation. However, the reason for the recent focus in the modern workplace is about business results as well.

THE HISTORY

OF EMPLOYEE

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What is Employee Engagement?

Even when it comes to defining Employee Engagement, there is very

little consensus. It is generally held that there are upwards of 50 different

definitions.

If you ask senior managers, you’ll receive responses such as ‘Empowerment’,

‘Development Opportunities’ or ‘Commitment’ – all a bit one-way and ‘old wine in new bottles’.

Of course, like any engagement, it is two-way and is about more than just what happens, but feelings as well. So the definition we’re working with is simply:

‘The

emotional

and

intellectual commitment

an

employee has to the

organisation

and its

goals

’.

Take a look at ‘What exactly is Employee Engagement’ for more opinions and ideas surrounding the topics.

So it’s just another initiative?

Employee Engagement is so much more than ‘an initiative’. It is

policy, culture, management style, leadership commitment, learning

& development, talent management, living values, working style,

performance management, participation & communication, and flexibility.

Of course, anything that can deliver huge benefits is going to demand wide-reaching activities and responsibilities.

The key question on many HR managers’ and leaders’ lips is,

“does an improvement in Employee Engagement deliver the

suggested paybacks?”

We undertook some research among client organisations, which revealed that many businesses are focussing on engagement initiatives but are only just beginning to measure the results. Of those already measuring results, the most common metrics are ‘levels of employee engagement/satisfaction’ and ‘customer satisfaction’.

In addition, some are indicating improvements in recruitment and retention (with a statistical ‘nod’ to the impact of the recession on these aspects). Metrics relating to the potential paybacks are conspicuous by their absence.

One HR client described it to us as:

“It’s almost a question of faith… of course I can’t prove it,

I just know we are making a difference.”

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Engagement in the workplace

Is engagement some nebulous thing? It is fair to say that it is imprecise

but it is also very noticeable and perceptible. You may not be able to

touch it but you can see it, hear it and feel it.

It doesn’t really matter how you define engagement, because you’ll know it when you see it and, even more strikingly, you’ll certainly notice when it is missing.

So, how do you spot it?

Some of the behaviours you will see from an engaged workforce could be:

The emphasis on feelings is apparent here: positive mood, willingness, keenness, a sense of belonging or ownership.

Other evidence of Employee Engagement

Perhaps this is how our client ‘just knew’ that she was making a difference.

• A positive and enthusiastic mood

• Putting in more effort than is

required

• Colleagues welcoming each

other’s opinions

• A readiness to understand the

organisational context

• People keen to learn new things

• People focussed on what to do

and when

• A ‘problem solving’ attitude

• A sense of belonging

• Socialising initiatives

• A sense of ‘ownership of the

work’ displayed

• A keenness to stay updated

• A willingness to initiate or

implement change

• Joining in corporate social

responsibility events

• No clock watching

• No commentary about ‘us’

[the workers] and ‘them’ [the

employer]

• Documented long

service

• Engagement surveys

• Positive measurement

of engagement

• Social media

• Higher quality/fewer

defects

• No ‘taking advantage’

of flexible working

• Place of work recommendations

– friends and acquaintances put

forward as potential employees

• Great attendance records – even

starting early and finishing late

• Great safety records

• Positive take-up of learning &

development opportunities and

positive attendance statistics

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Earlier on, we defined engagement as ‘the emotional and intellectual commitment an employee has to the organisation and its goals’.

It is very important to recognise that the seeds of that commitment can be planted long before the employee even joins the organisation.

In fact, before you have even met a future employee they will have studied your website, followed your PR and social media, perhaps even seen you at recruitment fairs and looked at specific job adverts.

Already they are deciding whether this is an organisation they could really engage with. Does the organisation give a

consistent message? Are its values clear, and what does it say about what it is like to work there?

Practical steps to encourage engagement

You may know that you need to improve the engagement of your

workforce, but how do you make that difference? Our four key phases of

engagement are a great place to start.

• Before you even meet

• The first meeting

• More engagement right at the start

• Engagement throughout the rest of their career

If an organisation gets this right, the prospective employee can move forward to making a formal application.

At this stage more questions surface...

Does the application process encourage engagement?

Do the job descriptions and person specifications describe an engaging role and an engaging workplace?

Do invitations truly reflect the culture and working environment?

Use this as your initial consideration for employee engagement. Can all of your managers get this right or is there a learning and development need?

Before you even meet

TOP TIP!

Make sure job descriptions

and person specifications

describe an

engaging role

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Of course, the story continues into the first meeting.

Every organisation recognises that this is about engaging the right employee, but are you paying similar attention to the fact that the best ‘millennial’ talent is now judging whether they could give ‘emotional commitment’ to your organisation?

In preparation, judge everything from how people are greeted, whether the skills of the interviewer are good enough, and how you ‘sell’ the organisation and role to the candidate. This is an opportunity to provide an open and clear insight into the organisation and the job, nurturing the green shoots of engagement. It isn’t just people of course.

The first meeting

TOP TIP!

Make sure that

your message and

values run through

to the heart of your

organisation, not just

on the face of it

A senior manager within a corporate IT environment recently said, “We knew we had found the perfect team member, after months of trying and spending hours and £1000s in the process. They accepted in principle but then changed their mind when confronted by the stacks of contractual paperwork I was obliged to send them.

They said it was such a stark contrast to the vision they had developed of the organisation.”

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TOP TIP!

Check out our

induction checklist

download for things

to consider when

designing your

process

More engagement right

at the start

It is vital that a well-thought-out

induction plan is prepared and shared. It must encourage the new employee to ask questions and help them do any research they might want to undertake. Our experience shows that a truly

blended learning solution can be the most effective way to achieve this, encouraging engagement from the new starter right from the start.

You will be well on your way to a solid induction process if HR provides good practical guidance on how to create an employee-centric induction, if line managers learn how to make sure their new team member knows the priorities and ‘what success looks like’, and

colleagues live the organisational values.

Induction is definitely a special

opportunity for the organisation to live its values.

To achieve this, many organisations have introduced a buddy system and some even encourage the buddy to get in touch beforehand, often meeting the new arrival off site first.

But beware; I once overheard a buddy say “other than showing you where the fire exit is, I haven’t been told what to say…”.

To avoid this, make sure everyone

completely understands their role in the induction process and the importance of it.

It goes without saying that new starters are likely to be highly motivated and keen to engage positively with the role, wanting to become a ‘star employee’. But there are many influences at play that determine whether engagement flourishes or wilts. Every one of these has a role in nurturing engagement.

Line Manager

HR Buddy

L&D Colleagues

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In the same way that it is easier to sell to an existing customer than a new one, it is easier to keep people engaged than it is to change them from disengaged to engaged.

But no organisation, HR department or line manager can rest on their laurels. Many HR departments have reorganised themselves more strategically,

positioning themselves as HR business partners and integrating themselves thoroughly into business processes. With such a change, there emerges a key role for Learning and Development.

Line managers are not always

equipped with the tools and training to successfully undertake traditional HR tasks such as recruitment, performance management, reward, procedures and welfare. This can have a detrimental effect on engagement.

Organisations keen to exploit the advantages of employee engagement must get HR practices and policies right. Who delivers them isn’t the important part, as long as they are correct.

Research suggests that, to achieve this, an increasing number of organisations are creating Employee Engagement steering groups and that these work best if they are:

Representatively chosen

From all levels of seniority

With union involvement (if represented)

Full understanding of performance and business priorities

Environment considered; our

processes, our resources, behaviours and completing the sentence ‘this would be a better place to work if…’

Including possible sub-groups for local areas, particular disciplines or representing any special requirements

Engagement throughout the

rest of their career

TOP TIP!

Make sure engagement

is marbled though

every aspect of

performance

management

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The drivers and enablers of engagement

In the MacLeod report ‘Engaging for

Success: Enhancing performance through

employee engagement’, David MacLeod

and Nita Clarke argued that Employee

Engagement was absolutely fundamental

for organisational success.

They put forward four enablers of Employee Engagement, factors that were “commonly agreed to lie behind successful engagement approaches”. These were:

• A strategic narrative

• Engaging managers

• Employee voice

• Integrity

There is no doubting the validity of those groupings.

Engagement by managing performance

By now a big investment has been made in our ‘engaged’ employee,

but the work must continue. Many important strategic approaches put

forward by MacLeod & Clarke are encapsulated within the Performance

Management process.

When done well, the Performance Management system is sufficiently flexible to ensure it provides individuals with tangible objectives broken down to the individual level. It should also allow managers to devote sufficient time to the process and have the requisite skills in place.

With these fundamentals in place, performance management cements engagement by providing:

• Clarity on common goals and the importance of teamwork

• An opportunity for employees to participate in decisions to

communicate their opinion about work-related topics

• Better communications between employees and managers

• Consistent communication across different teams

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Ongoing engagement strategies

No single model of engagement can be applicable across diverse

organisations, so it is important to find a solution that best fits your

values and procedures.

We recently published two blogs, featuring suggested hands-on strategies that emerged in our discussions with organisations vigorously pursuing ‘engagement’. Hopefully you’ll find some useful suggestions to assist with the creation of your engagement model.

We have come up with the model below. It can be used as

a guide in the creation of your own model, by considering

what topics may come under each of the five areas.

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Conclusion

Employee Engagement emerged as a term in the 1990s and, because

of the perceived benefits, interest inevitably grew rapidly. Like many

aspects of organisational development, interest and investment waned

during the painful years of economic recession but we are now entering

an exciting time for engagement application with the focus increasingly

being on practical efforts being made.

Besides those identifying improvements in the most common metrics - of employee engagement/satisfaction and customer satisfaction - there remains a deficiency of evidence, but the promise of discretionary effort, talent retention, productivity and profit keeps engagement at the top of the agenda.

Perhaps the last word should go to Alan M. Saks, Joseph L. Rotman School of Management, Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources, University of Toronto, Canada from his study paper “Antecedents and consequences of employee engagement.”

“The results of this study suggest that employee engagement

is a meaningful construct that is worthy of future research”

We also think it’s worthy of future action.

If you’d like to find out more about introducing Employee Engagement

schemes into your organisation, watch our free webinar

‘Uncover the

Mystery of Employee Engagement’

today.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nigel Walpole is the Managing Director of Bray Leino Learning.

Nigel has over 20 years’ experience of design and delivery of learning solutions with a wide knowledge of managing contracted outsourced solutions.

This experience enables him to ensure the business provides customer-focused services and quality controlled delivery of training services to a range of large clients.

ABOUT BRAY LEINO LEARNING

Learning and Development is vital for any organisation to embrace change.

With 20 years’ experience helping our clients with their training needs, we’re in the business of skills change, knowledge change, and behaviour change.

Many clients want us to improve their productivity, communications or service quality; some need an increase in sales or better staff retention rates. Others need support with rapid growth, or help resolving crucial issues such as change management, individual performance or customer service.

Whatever the challenge, we will rise to the occasion, helping your organisation develop to achieve the results you require. After all, we’re number one at creating bespoke, results-driven, blended learning solutions.

Contact us and find out how we can help.

Telephone - 01271 337110

Website - brayleinolearning.co.uk

Email - learning@brayleino.co.uk

Twitter - @BrayLearning #bllmanagement

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