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Jamie Lawrence


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“Engagement is about what happens at the actionable step.”


At the recent Engage for Success conference, Dr John Neil, who led the management buyout of logistics and manufacturing company Unipart, said that engagement is about "what happens at the actionable step," highlighting the importance of measuring whether engagement has resulted in a genuine improvement to process or service.

He added that growth and productivity were the biggest problems facing UK organisations and that there were "no simple ways" to fix low levels of productivity and engagement.

"Business is about solving problems," he said. "If you don't have them [problems] every day you are simply lying to yourself."

Engagement by design

He also talked of the importance of designing engagement into the system.

"Impact decays and there's a return to the status quo," he said. "The grass grows back."

Unipart is one of the largest privately-owned companies in the UK.

Originally part of state-owned British Leyland, it demerged in a management buyout in 1987 and is now 70% owned by employees and its pension fund.

The 'Unipart Way'

The firm became famous for its 'Unipart Way,' combining a guiding set of principles and ideas and lean manufacturing and continuous improvement techniques to focus on improviding productivity and eliminating wasteful activities.

The methodology has achieved wider recognition and Unipart have acted as consultants, including for HMRC and the National Audit Office. The latter have said Unipart's contribution helped cut costs by £400m, according to the Financial Times.

Despite the methodology's success, some have criticised it.

When the methodology was rolled out at HMRC, the PCS suggested that some of the measures – such as asking staff to remove family pictures from desks to eliminate clutter – were "dehumanising" them.

Unipart was awarded a five-star rating in the Business in the Community 2015 Corporate Responsibility (CR) Index, followed by a score of 100% the following year.

Author Profile Picture
Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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