EngagementEmployee EngagementThe pursuit of employee engagement – empowering and involving people

The pursuit of employee engagement - empowering and involving people

In a regular column, Paul Devoy, CEO, Investors In People (IIP) discusses the importance of employee engagement and how highly engaged teams increase overall productivity.

The understanding that we have of the link between employee engagement and productivity has never been more strongly evidenced, nor more widely accepted. Gallup produced a potent statistic around this last year when they found that highly engaged teams can drive profitability upwards by as much as a fifth.

There are many factors that feed in to this feeling of engagement. For some, the presence of a defining organisational purpose can be enough to engage employees who are motivated by an altruistic cause. However, research has shown that a confidence in senior leadership is actually the strongest driver of engagement.

The proof of the importance of leadership is something that we’ve seen reflected in our own research. Earlier in this series, I mentioned that the results of our latest Job Exodus report in 2018 showed that poor management was the biggest driver of discontentment, with 49% of respondents suggesting that this was the reason that they were considering a new job in 2018.

However, beyond the immediately significant size of this percentage, the trend that it reveals is also concerning. In 2017, 42% of workers said that poor management was a reason that they might move on, so the increase of 7% in just a year is not something that employers can afford to take lightly.

Clearly employee engagement is on the radar of most proactive organisations. Indeed, Accor research asserts that 90% of employers think an engagement strategy would have a clear impact on business success, but barely 25% of them have an actual strategy in place.

So what can organisations do?

Engaging employees does not need to be a hugely complex undertaking, comprised of HR policy and arbitrary strategies. According to our IIP Framework, it can be achieved by placing two pillars of people management at the core of leadership; the intention to empower and involve employees.

I am long enough in the tooth to tell you that achieving a sense of empowerment and inclusion at all levels of an organisation is no easy feat. It takes dedication from leaders to fully embed this ethos in their teams. However, it is very much a people-led process. There aren’t any documents that can be written that outline exactly how to achieve a sense of autonomy for all.

Involving and empowering staff is very much a behavioural phenomenon and it requires managers to trust their people. It asks them to look at the skills and competencies in each of their teams and encourage the development of those positive attributes by giving employees the space to decide how best to apply themselves to their role. Once this culture has taken off, it becomes a virtuous circle where employees are confident and secure in their role and their purpose in the broader organisation.

I know that the above isn’t a concise set of instructions on how to achieve an engaged culture, it’s just an argument for you to consider. So below are three key ‘quick tips’ for managers looking to encourage individual empowerment within their teams:

  1. Feedback: this is vital for employees to feel engaged and empowered. Positive feedback on a job well done can give someone the confidence to apply themselves to their next project with a greater degree of autonomy.
  2. No-blame culture: This isn’t as extreme as it sounds. It simply means giving employees the space to fail. A person is far more likely to push themselves and their idea if they know there’s a safe space if it doesn’t work out. Holding people to account for trying too hard or innovating isn’t good for them or your organisation.
  3. Collaborate: Even if an employee might not be directly involved with a project or initiative, consider asking their opinion anyway. Not only will this make them feel included in the work of the broader business, it will also prove that you value their opinion; a sure way to increase engagement.

It’s amazing how much of a difference you’ll see if you follow this advice.

An IIP example

One organisation that has really onboarded the mantra of empowerment and inclusion advocated by the IIP Framework is The Camperco Group. Founded in 2007, the original company, Bunk Campers, has since grown to UK and Ireland’s largest motorhome company. They began their journey with us in 2016.

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For Camperco, the challenge was keeping existing employees engaged at a time of expansion of both the workforce and the operating model and this was their reason for reaching out to IIP and getting advice around their people management practices.

As part and parcel their work with us, a review of Camperco’s existing organisational structure led to the creation of new job descriptions issued to all staff. This involved a process of evaluating existing roles and responsibilities to ensure people were satisfied and that work was structured to maximise efficiency.

I am sure that keeping staff involved at all times during this process was difficult for Camperco, but the results they’ve reaped from taking an approach which empowered employees to think about their role and the company are clear. Indeed, the company reports that not only does it receive 100% feedback on its employee engagement surveys, the Camperco Group turnover has also increased by 40%.

This is a perfect example of how good people management can improve the quality of work for people, as well as the bottom line for the company.

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