Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Significance of Employee Engagement

Has the penny finally dropped amongst UK’s leaders?

Ask five Employee Engagement professionals which key slides they’ll take along when pitching for a new client, and you will most likely get five completely different answers. With one exception: they will without doubt all include a slide that highlights the correlation between high levels of engagement and business performance. The rationale being that this is the main area where senior executives in organisations usually need the most convincing. 

Not anymore so it seems. Well, at least not for the 40 odd high profile Senior Execs who each signed a letter to the Times, headlined ‘The Importance of Employee Engagement to the UK’. In it they make a number of interesting statements, the most striking being ‘Employee engagement is good for individuals, good for business and good for UK growth. The evidence is compelling.’ And when I say ‘striking’, by that I don’t of course mean that this point hasn’t already been argued for a long, long time. But the main difference here is that this time the message doesn’t come from Consultants who have a service to sell, or Academics with a paper to publish; no, we are being told so by the CEO’s of large UK  companies such as M&S, BAE, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis, to name but a few.

We shouldn’t underestimate the significance of this moment. Firstly, knowing how important visible support from the top is when trying to reach high levels of engagement, it is fantastic to see that there are clearly a good number of large UK organisations where we can assume this to be in place. That it may inspire those leaders who were – until now – less convinced. And on the off-chance that one or two of the 44 names at the bottom of the letter themselves don’t always practice what they preach, having their names associated publically with a cause like this surely opens up interesting avenues within their organisations.

But what is more, possibly for the first time ever do business leaders make a case for employee engagement as a factor that can have a macro economic impact. Yes we have all heard of engagement improving individual companies, but linking it to the wider UK economy at large is new. Well, new at this level at least. ‘Research suggests that £26bn in added GDP could be realised’. £26 billion!!! Just think of how many government cuts could be avoided if even just a fraction of this amount was realised!

Will it really make a difference? Of course only time will tell, but as with anything that requires behavioural change, getting visible support in ‘high places’ is never a bad thing. So us professional s working in the area of employee engagement – whether within organisations or as external advisors – lets seize this significant piece of good news, and make sure it gets heard. Or to sign off with the authors of the report: ‘We invite UK plc to join this movement for better engagement at work, so we all raise our game to meet the challenges ahead’.

Ruud Jansen Venneboer
Managing Partner
Think the Unthinkable
Making Change Happen

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