How to raise employee engagement

It's no secret that employee motivation and engagement is central to business success. How employees think and feel directly influences their behaviour - which in turn impacts on the success of their organisation. But while organisations and leaders aim to have 'engaged employees' do they have full understanding of what it actually takes to get involvement and commitment?

There are a lot of different definitions of employee engagement, but to me the CIPD definition feels about right, "Being focused in what you do (thinking), feeling good about yourself in your role and the organisation (feeling), and acting in a way that demonstrates commitment to the organisational values and objectives (acting)." I like this because it makes it clear that engagement is not something an organisation does – it's about how the organisation is, and whether policies, processes and leadership style allows people to flourish.

When I joined Brand Learning as HR Operations Director one year ago our internal 'Happiness Survey' had just been completed, giving me deep insight into the organisation I had just joined. I learnt that at Brand Learning how we work is as important as what we do, something that has been externally recognised through impressive results in such awards as Great Place To Work's 'Best Workplaces' and The Sunday Times' 'Best Companies'.

And yes I wrote that correctly – we call it a 'Happiness' Survey, not 'engagement' survey, 'employee opinion' survey or 'staff satisfaction' survey. A total of 10 Happiness Surveys have been held since 2006 and it's a huge source of insight for the leadership team. I saw first-hand the positive intent from both employees and the leadership team to listen and take action. The whole initiative is a collaborative approach where we honestly identify issues and work together to find potential solutions. Following the review last year one of our teams explored opportunities to accelerate how we learn and grow, resulting in a new internal up-skilling program that champions the skills of in-house expertise.

In 2009 the government commissioned the McLeod Report, a review which stated that 'employee engagement strategies enable people to be the best they can at work, recognising that this can happen only if they feel respected, involved, heard, well led and valued by those they work for and with'. The McLeod Report identified four enablers for engagement - pillars familiar to Brand Learning as they closely reflect our own values and culture.

Using the McLeod Report four pillars, here is how Brand Learning has shifted engagement from something an organisation does to something it is:

  1. Visible empowering leadership – a strong strategic narrative. Each new member of the team is taken through a comprehensive induction programme, including a ½ day induction with the Co-Founders who explain how the company started and the plans for growth. Furthermore, Annual Planning is not just a leadership activity - the whole company is involved. Weekly hub meetings update the team on the financial progress and each monthly team meeting offers an in-depth update on our progress against plan. Information is never hidden, giving everybody a sense of ownership.
  2. Engaging managers – people focused. Brand Learning Supporters (known as Line Managers in many other organisations) play a central role in employee engagement, with even their title setting the tone of the two way interactive relationship that is established. Supporters play a key role in facilitating employee engagement that's based on mutual trust and positive intent, with the employee responsible for taking ownership of their own development.
  3. An employee voice. There is a loud and positive 'employee voice' which is heard in our Happiness Surveys, internal roundtables and our annual performance and development review. At the end of every team meeting we always include a 'likes and builds' recap that allows all employees to share what they enjoyed about the session and what they could do without for next time.
  4. There is organisational integrity. Our values are written on the wall (quite literally!) and capture not only the company history but the future direction to drive behaviours - how we do things. To ensure our values resonate with everyone we've captured what each value means to each individual and are refreshing them in language reflected by the team. This ensures they genuinely mean something to everyone.
This is what 'employee engagement' means to us – what does it mean to you?


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

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