Fiona’s guide to engaging your staff to improve your performance



What is engagement and why it matters?

“An engaged workplace encourages commitment, energy and productivity from all those involved to help improve business performance” so sets out the report to Government ‘Engaging for Success – enhancing performance through employee engagement’ by David MacLeod and Nita Clarke. They state that “Engagement, going to the heart of the workplace relationship between employee and employer, can be key to unlocking productivity and to transforming the working lives of many people for whom Monday morning is an especially low point of the week.”

The LGA asked me to make a film on the topic; Thank Goodness it’s Monday! which gives great examples of what councils across the country are doing to get the best out of their people to reap the performance benefits.

Engaged staff deliver better for you. People will want to work for you, they will buy into to what you stand for, will want to give their best and be positive brand ambassadors too. At the heart of engagement is a belief that to improve public services means developing the connection people have with their work, their managers and their communities. And in today’s world of tough financial times with less money, yet greater expectations and demands, with recruitment freezes, shared services models and doing more with less, it’s only organisations with the openness to involve staff in the challenges ahead that will really keep their employees turned on, not just turning up.

The business case

For many people the case for engagement is obvious. People who are engaged in their work will be more committed to the organisation and will be going the extra mile. There’s also a raft of studies that demonstrate the correlation between staff engagement and performance, including other key measures of success such as customer satisfaction, profitability, sickness and innovation. Here’s a selection from the national review of the topic for Government . Councils high up the rankings of the Times Best Public Sector to Work for list also correlate to those with high performance in both auditor rankings and resident satisfaction.

  • Gallup; engagement predicts sickness levels of 2.7 days/yr for engaged employees and 6.2 days/yr disengaged.
    • Towers Perrin; 75% of engaged staff believe they can impact costs, quality and customer service. Only 25% of disengaged believe they can.
    • PricewaterhouseCoopers; strong correlation between highly engaged staff and client satisfaction.
    • Chartered Management Institute; found a significant association between engagement and innovation.
    • Corporate Leadership Council; engaged employees less likely to leave. Engaged organisations grew profits 3 times faster than competitors.
    • Institute of Employment Studies; established link between employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction and increases in sales.
    • Hay Group; engaged employees generate 43% more revenue than disengaged ones.
    • Best Companies to Work for; companies on the list increased their profits by 315%. Indeed councils included in the Best Council and Best Public Sector lists are also those with strong auditor rankings and high resident satisfaction results.

Drivers of engagement

The 4 drivers of engagement as set out in the MacLeod report together with some practical things to help improve engagement are set out below.

  1. Strategic Narrative – or more simply – how do you involve your people in developing the vision and persuasive plan for the future. It’s about setting a clear and motivating direction and purpose for the organisation and helping employees to see how their role fits in.
  2. Engaging managers– management relationships with employees is key to engagement and creating a positive organisational culture where the style is less about command and control and more about empowerment and appreciation, feedback and involvement.
  3. Voice– staff views are actively sought out and listened to and help shape the strategy and services. Strong internal communications are key to this, not simply top down strong corporate messages delivered in engaging ways from newsletters, blogs to briefings, but mechanisms to encourage staff to be active like staff sounding boards and forums and staff suggestion and improvement schemes.
  4. 4.Integrity– Behaviour is consistent with stated values leading to trust and integrity. People need to see it to believe it particularly true of actions of the people leading the organisation.

Seven practical things to improve engagement

  1. Know where you starting fromyour staff survey will tracks things relevant to engagement such as levels of satisfaction, involvement, motivation, pride and satisfaction with communications. Taking the pulse of your workforce is only half the story, acting on the results is essential for credibility. It’s not about necessarily acting on all the findings in today’s financial context, but explaining what’s possible is crucial with staff.
  2. Involve people in the purpose and strategy– they will feel part of the bigger picture if they are involved in the business planning process. Be clear what you stand for and communicate clearly – things like posters on your priorities and one sided versions of your strategy all help staff be clear what the focus of the organisation is and the part they play.
  3. Recognise and celebrate achievements– it’s the little things that matter to staff from having a culture that is quick to thank staff for a job well done. Communicating staff success stories in internal communications helps build a team spirit, so does running awards recognising team and individual achievements – especially if staff are involved in the design of schemes and can nominate their colleagues.
  4. Harness ideas from staff, including ways to save money– most organisations have staff suggestions schemes but many fail to say what action is taken as a result. Close the loop and involve staff. Why not harness the ideas for savings too? It creates an ‘in this together’ feel.
  5. Be open about change and involve people in improvement– sometimes we can get too bogged down in transformation programmes and processes and forget the crucial people dimension. The people in the service know it best and will buy in to change that makes services better for customers, so take the time to get their support and harness their views.
  6. 6. Be clear what’s expected of your people– the relationship between an employee and their manager is critical to their engagement. Clarifying what’s expected of an employee through appraisals and regular one to ones not only helps with focus but with managing performance too. So make the time for people and they will deliver better.
  7. Recognise people have a life beyond the workplace– people’s health and well being and work life balance matters to engagement so look at how your HR policies and well being work supports this, it’ll help people be healthy, happy and here.

Improving engagement helps build proud, passionate and performing people that go the extra for your organisation. Take the Engagement Test. for your managers and staff to see how you measure up and help you develop an action plan.

Click to see ourEnergetic Engagement page.