EngagementEmployee EngagementStick to the plan: the key to measuring employee engagement

Stick to the plan: the key to measuring employee engagement

From the outside, it can look like the world’s most engaging workplaces got that way by accident. But as Kate Wood knows, it takes rigorous planning and dedication. Kerri Hollis sat down with Kate to find out how Chess’ blueprint for culture has boosted employee engagement.


It was 1968, and Dr Spencer Silver was working for 3M. His task was to develop a kind of super-strong adhesive. It wasn’t going well. In fact, Silver found his most notable development was quite the opposite – a not-very-sticky glue that he found he could use to apply, remove, and reapply objects to surfaces again and again.

It took five years and plenty of guessing for Silver to find a use for his invention. But eventually, a fellow 3M employee named Art Fry stumbled across the perfect application. When Fry stuck the glue to the back of his bookmark, he found it stayed put in between the pages until he removed it himself.

Just a little piece of colourful paper with a sticky back. Now one of the biggest things in stationery. Art Fry helped Dr Spencer Silver invent Post-It Notes and it was a total accident.

You might already know the story. The reason it’s worth telling again is that accidents like this are one in a million. You can’t luck your way to success.

Least of all when it comes to employee engagement.

Plan to succeed

Kate Wood knows better than most the importance of a plan. She’s Director of Culture at Chess. Chess just topped the Sunday Times’ Best Companies to Work For 2018. And it’s all down to the business’ plan for employee engagement, which Kate explains starts with knowing exactly what you want from your employees.

I sat down with Kate to find out how she measures employee engagement. What does she want from a Chess employee? It’s simple, really:

  • A person who succeeds within themselves.
  • A person who helps their team succeed.
  • A person who drives the company’s success.

And Kate can put it so clearly and concisely because these expectations are a fact of life at Chess. “As soon as we get people into Chess,” she explains, “right from the interview process, we make sure they understand the Chess culture and what they can be part of.”

It’s these clear criteria and everyone’s rigorous dedication to Chess’ plan that help Kate drive and measure employee engagement.

A guide for employee engagement

The plan is important, yes. But just as important and often overlooked is the importance of sticking to it.

“Everything that we do goes back to our blueprint which was created about 15 years ago for Chess by the people at Chess. And that’s our company vision, our company values. And that underpins absolutely everything that we do.”

That’s why Chess is such a great place to work. Not just because it has a plan. But because, when they know the plan, every employee has a guide to what’s expected of them and how they can get there. And when every employee knows how they fit into the business, they’re far more likely to get involved.

So the acts of planning and measuring employee engagement become drivers of employee engagement.

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