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Lucie Mitchell

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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Employee engagement is key to future business success, finds MacLeod Review


The MacLeod Review of employee engagement, launched today, has recommended that employers must fully involve their staff in the future of the business if they are to innovate and secure new opportunities.

The review also highlighted the need for more government support and more cooperation by UK organisations to ensure the employer-employee relationship is central to the business.
Commissioned in September last year, the review, led by David MacLeod, a leading expert on employee engagement, and Nita Clarke, director of the Involvement and Participation Association, was set up to examine new ways to boost the performance of employees and improve British business success.
Overall, the MacLeod Review has recommended:

  • The government should work to raise awareness of employee engagement benefits and techniques.
  • A senior sponsor group bringing together representatives from business, the public sector, not-for-profit organisations and unions, should be set up to boost understanding of this vital topic – many leading figures have already agreed to be part of this group.
  • The government and its agencies should work together to ensure their support is aligned and tailored to the needs of different organisations in different sectors of the economy seeking to enhance levels of employee engagement.
  • A range of more practical support for organisations who want to raise levels of employee engagement should be made available by March 2010. This support should be designed in consultation with businesses and other organisations to ensure it is tailored to their needs.
David MacLeod said that, whether in a downturn or better economic times, engagement is a key to innovation and competitiveness.
"Engagement is increasingly recognised as vital by senior figures in the public sector, the private sector and trades unions. We are delighted that if our recommendations are accepted, a distinguished sponsor group has already agreed to work with us to raise awareness and understanding.
"Employers in all parts of the economy can make a success of employee engagement through culture change, rather than investing significant financial resources."
Stephanie Bird, director of HR capability at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), welcomed the recommendations provided in the report:
"We firmly believe the calls for a national debate on the contribution of employee engagement to business performance are long overdue and welcome the recognition that HR professionals have a key role to play in this process."
Bird added that the review puts employee engagement where it belongs – at the heart of business performance. 
"Converting employee engagement into bottom-line results is what employee engagement is all about. HR professionals will see this report as an endorsement of what many of them are already doing, as well as a stimulus to do more."

3 Responses

  1. Employee Engagement Is Key

    Comments provided by Erik Finch, SumTotal Systems

    I would certainly agree with the MacLeod Review’s key finding that ‘employee engagement is key to future business success’. After all, successful businesses are likely to act as the key catalyst in pulling the UK economy out of recession. And to succeed in today’s difficult economic climate, businesses will need to focus on their single greatest asset: their employees.
    They will need to ask themselves the question: “do they have engaged employees with the right skills, in the right jobs doing the right things at the right time to successfully execute their business approach?”
    To answer this in the affirmative, organisations must concentrate their efforts on aligning, developing and engaging with existing staff. Key aspects of effective employee engagement include providing good management, recognition of achievements and development opportunities and varied and stimulating work. Talent development strategies and systems help companies to achieve all of this and drive competitive advantage and high levels of staff retention at the same time.
    Why? Because the way employees feel about their career plays a huge role in whether or not they will produce results or even remain with a company. Individuals need to feel their growth aspirations and financial goals are within reach. Without actionable career development plans, dissatisfied staff are likely to look for other opportunities that will offer them their desired growth. If they focus on talent development, businesses can overcome such challenges and engage the workforce by providing goal management, which gives employees clear objectives to work to, recognises achievement and aligns their objectives with those of the organisation as a whole. When coupled with a clear career development plan, this approach boosts both productivity and potential.
    In addition, a proper talent development process also helps managers improve their management skills by providing coaching and leadership guidance. A well-managed employee is typically an engaged employee. After all, a bad manager is often the number one barrier to employee engagement and retention.
    If businesses across the UK take note, the potential benefits are far-reaching indeed. As Nita Clarke, co-author of the Macleod Review puts it, “When done well, employee engagement is a win for the organisation, a win for the individual and therefore a win for the country as a whole.” 
  2. A Review of the MacLeod/Clarke Report by Peter Hunter.
    Engaging for Success
    A Review of the report by David Macleod and Nita Clarke.
    Written by Peter A Hunter

    Engaging for Success is a wonderfully promising report.
    It was commissioned by the then UK Secretary of State for Business in the autumn of 2008 to take an in-depth look at employee engagement.
    The report, in its introduction, sets itself out to report on the potential benefits of engagement for companies, organisations and individual employees, and as it states later, it is not meant to be a “How to Become Engaged” guide, which is a pity because one of the themes that runs through the report is the confusion over what engagement is and the effect that it has on performance.
    The report has been created with reference to surveys of many individuals and organisations and the compilation of statistical evidence is awesome, but most of it appears to have been gathered from the same people who are suffering confusion about what engagement is.
    There is no feel in this report about what a phenomenal difference an engaged workforce makes, no understanding of the market dominance that comes with engagement or the flexibility, imagination and pride that an engaged workforce generates.
    The engaged workforce is the result of an extremely simple change in the way that managers manage and the result of this change is an earth shattering performance that cannot be competed with by any organisation running a conventional “Command and Control” management strategy.
    We had in this report an opportunity to get rid of the confusion that surrounds the concept of engagement. What could have been an extraordinarily insightful initiative got bogged down with phrases of faint praise like this quote from the report:
    “Work is good for physical and mental wellbeing”
    This sounds like a line written by Harry Enfield for Mr Cholmondly-Warner, instead of the most exciting thing that has happened to our understanding of how to manage our workforce since the brilliant work of Douglas McGregor in his 1960 book, “The Human Side of Enterprise.”
    To still be confused about what we should be doing after fifty years later is not encouraging.
    An employee at the phone company O2 is quoted as saying:
    “One thing that really stands out at the moment is the help and support we get from the management team. They’re really listening to their people.”
    But in the feedback from their Head of “Employee Involvement and Experience” there does not seem to be any acknowledgement of just how key this simple statement is.
    It is as if what management are doing happened by accident, instead of being the cornerstone of a deliberate policy to change the way the workforce feel about what they do, to engage them.
    Later in the report we are told that barriers to engagement are “confusion and misunderstanding,” but at the same time the report quotes Professor John Oliver of the Northern Leadership Alliance as saying:
    “Ninety Nine percent of failure to engage staff is due to management behaviour,”
    There does not seem to be any confusion about that statement.
    The barriers to engagement are created by the behaviour of the managers!
    On the first day at work every employee is engaged. They are happy to be there, they know the skills that they have to bring to work and they are looking forward to being able to use them to make a difference.
    The workforces natural engagement and desire to be effective is killed off by the things that management subsequently do to them.
    The authors of the report tell us that there is no Silver Bullet that will cause people to engage. Perhaps that is because they are looking at the wrong end of the gun.
    Instead of looking for the bullet that will make people engage they should have been looking for the bullet that would stop people from disengaging, because that one is blindingly obvious.
    Find out what managers are doing that causes the workforce to disengage.
    Then stop them from doing it! Vic Bayliss, the Director of Customer services at Westminster City Council got it in a nutshell. He said that:
    “Staff have seen this as a programme that is being done with them, not to them.”
    In this report Vic shows a rare perception that is unfortunately not shared by the bulk of the contributors.
    I sincerely hope that this report does not have the effect of turning the concept of Engagement into the level of another “Management Good Idea” that will be used, as has been stated on several different occasions in the report, as a way to get the workforce to accept what management want them to do.
    When used in this way it becomes a cheap trick alongside many other “Management Good Ideas” that failed as soon as the workforce realised that management were just trying out another way to manipulate them.
    Real engagement is the result of an ongoing collaboration between management and the workforce that produces the sorts of comments that were quoted by the O2 employee, not the result of a single initiative, survey or desire to manipulate.
    Peter A Hunter
    Author – Breaking the Mould

  3. Employee Engagement Best Practices
    The MacLeod report has been all over the news and, consequently, frequently commented upon. Common themes from comments include: (1) there’s nothing new here; (2) there are not enough concrete examples of how to build engagement in organizations.

    While there may be merit in these themes, one of the main problems with the concept and adoption of employee engagement is that there is no single, common accepted definition of what is, how you measure it, and when you know you’ve achieved it. As the report asks, “Is it an attitude, a behaviour or an outcome?” Some are saying that the answer – “Yes, to all three” – does little to alleviate the confusion. I disagree.

    Employee Engagement is a complex concept that must not be taken lightly. Too many give up on the effort because they don’t want to go to the time or trouble of convincing their executives of the importance and value of engagement (another key problem of engagement) or believe they have attempted employee engagement initiatives but not seen the impact they desire. Driving employee engagement is not a one-time project. It is something that must be pursued – relentlessly and endlessly – to achieve the results you want. However, you must also clearly define what you do want to achieve, how you will measure it, and what behaviours you will reward in employees who are helping to achieve your engagement goals.

    So what definition does the report give for engagement? “A workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being.”

    Boil that down to – commitment, understanding, motivation, satisfaction. Are your employees committed to your company’s success? Do they even know how that success is defined, e.g., your goals and values? Are they motivated to deliver that? Are they happy in their work and satisfied to be with your organization?

    If you can’t answer yes to all of these questions, you need to work on your engagement strategy and the tools you will need to achieve it. Need tips for how to do this? Check out these best practices:

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Lucie Mitchell

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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