Engage, engage, engaged: winning with people

One of the most important and exciting aspects of my job in the world of capability building is people. Because people really matter! My week is heavily influenced by a focus on how to engage the hearts & minds, the spirit of the right people, both internally and externally, in order to drive change and ultimately business performance.

I have personally been involved in a number of different engagement initiatives over the years, from brand engagement, to employee engagement and general stakeholder engagement. A particularly transformational case study I've come across on this journey is the well-known turnaround of ASDA's performance.

Employee engagement can be a huge source of competitive advantage

David Smith, former People Director at ASDA, had a large part in this turnaround, driving a significant employee engagement programme that ultimately led to ASDA becoming one of the UK's top places to work for five years running! Smith is convinced that 'employee engagement does make a performance difference that is absolutely material and substantial and can be a huge piece of competitive edge'. He says: 'it defines your culture, which leaks out of your organisation and to your customers, for good or for bad'


Watch Part 2 here

In a speech last year, Smith outlines seven simple, practical, ordinary, common sense principles that he followed to create a culture of engagement at ASDA. To sum up, his principles are:

  1. Hire for attitude – the most important decision you make is the people you hire
  2. Communicate, communicate, communicate – keep people in the loop!
  3. Listen – we've all got two ears, but only one mouth...use them in proportion
  4. Good Leadership & Management – encourage leadership at all levels
  5. Performance Management – remove your underperformers and push your talent
  6. Recognition – let your people shine
  7. A culture of fun, buzz and community – 'work made fun gets done'

What can we learn when engaging people to inspire change?

So how does Smith's approach translate into the work I do at Brand Learning? What can we learn when it comes to engaging people to inspire change?

Firstly, attitude is fundamental to everything we do. Only by having the right people with the right attitude driving an initiative can we make it happen. Passion is critical too...people with a shared passion is a non-negotiable for any significant change initiative to succeed.

Secondly, on-going communication is vital, however listen first. Only once we've listened and understood can we determine what the key messages are and how they can best be communicated. Don't assume people know already, tell them again, this makes people feel included.

Last, but not least, we need to remember that we are dealing with human beings with some simple, but fundamental needs...

...A need to be recognised – give them a stage and an audience to showcase their great work. In my experience this is the best way to initiate best practice sharing. Engage and motivate people and you'll be surprised by what you can learn from them.

...A need to drive & lead – put people in the driving seat. Most of our stakeholders are people with many years of industry experience. Engage them by thinking about 'what's in it for them', for their profile and ultimately for their future.

...A need to have fun – as Smith says 'work made fun gets done'! Make sure you're at the top of that to-do-list, not bottom. Human beings will naturally prioritise what excites them and matters to them.

Engage, engage, engaged - in my experience, that's the way to win with people. What are your thoughts?


For more information about how Brand Learning can help you lift your organisation’s HR capabilities, please get in touch or contact me directly @NinaHoldaway. You may also like these films, perspectives and resources on HR.

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