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Engage, lead and succeed: Why employee engagement should be a key priority in 2013

By Gaelle Ciriego - Posted on 14 February 2013

Strathclyde Business Fellow, MBA Alumnus and founding Director of HR consulting and executive coaching company, Ipso Facto, Gaelle Ciriego, discusses how we can improve employee engagement.

The field of Human Resources is constantly evolving. With new technology, research and theories emerging, on what seems like a daily basis, it is important for HR practitioners to stay on top of the latest developments.

It was with this in mind I recently took the opportunity to attend the 11th Annual HR Directors Business Summit in Birmingham where, over the course of two-days, I had the chance to discuss some of the key challenges and developments in Human Resources with other senior HR professionals.

While diverse speakers and delegates drawn from an array of industries ensured variety, three topics, which seem to be discussed year-on-year among the HR community, were never far from the agenda:

  • Employee engagement
  • Positive psychology
  • Leadership and Management (L&M) capability and development

So why do these topics continue to spark debate in HR? Put simply, the world of work is changing.

In my parents’ generation, for example, people were more loyal to their employer, they expected to stay with the same organisation for decades, not years. For them, a job was about bringing home an income rather than about fulfilment, the business they worked for operated a “command and control” structure and they accepted it. That’s just how things were.

Today, however, we want our working lives to have a purpose, we want responsibilities, autonomy, flexibility and we no longer accept the command and control approach. Instead, we expect transparency in the decision making process. Any less and we will happily jump-ship to find an employer that can fulfil our needs.

While this is widely understood, recent evidence suggests, businesses are still not doing enough to improve employee engagement. The Government’s 2009 “Engaging for Success” report, for example, found just one-third of the UK’s workforce felt engaged by their employers. The follow up report, “Engage for Success – The Evidence” , published last year, clearly demonstrates the impact of this lack of employee engagement’s on productivity – which was 20% lower in the UK than the rest of the G7 in 2011 – turn-over and profitability.

But let’s be honest, staff engagement won’t happen unless the leadership team live and breathe it and are willing to adopt new theories and best practice models.

Positive psychology, for example, is increasingly used to develop positive leadership methodologies which emphasise talent and fulfilment. Based on the study of qualities that enable individuals and communities to thrive, rather than focusing on weaknesses and failure, positive psychology promotes encouragement and engagement through the principle of the 5Cs; caring, connecting, committing, communicating, and celebrating.

Another area which must be improved to increase employee engagement is Leadership & Management (L&M) capability and development. The way we train managers and leaders has to reflect how these roles have changed, that is clear, but how many organisations can truly say they have L&M development programmes?

How many have a consistent leadership approach applied across the organisation, and how many teach their leaders to apply the 5C-like concept to ensure employee engagement?

No one would go to a dentist who hasn’t completed his or her formal dental training so why is it that we leave the management of our organisations to individuals that haven’t been trained or mentored? The truth is; the misconception remains that leadership is a god-given gift and we are surprised when we fail to keep our staff motivated.

Having listened to the HR Directors Business Submit speakers, I would say if businesses make just one change this year, to improve employee engagement, it should be to invest in L&M capability and development.

Developing a management and leadership programme which suits your organisational culture, harmonises management practices and shows leaders, new & old, how to lead will result in better employee engagement, better productivity and should ultimately increase revenue.

How do you think employee engagement can be encouraged? Have any of these practices been implemented in your workplace? Let us know in the comments below.

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