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David MacLeod

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Engagement key to success – tips from David MacLeod


Improve employee engagement levels, communicate more effectively within the business and help your organisation stand out, all in just in a few weeks – according to David MacLeod, small changes now can make a big difference in 2010. The co-author of ‘Engaging for Success’ gives his tips on leading your organisation into the next decade.

At the dawn of a new decade, with the economy showing early signs of improvement, it feels like a time for new beginnings. Business leaders across the country are mapping out plans for 2010 and looking to start the New Year on a positive note.

But as businesses regroup, HR and management teams need to think about the connection they have with their people – and how it could be improved. Everyone knows that the last 12 months have been a difficult and uncertain time for employees. The question is – are your people prepared and motivated for the new challenges which 2010 will bring?

Earlier this year Nita Clarke and I wrote an independent report for Government called ‘Engaging for Success’. The findings presented a compelling case for employee engagement as a route to business success: through more informed, involved and supported employees willing to give extra input and effort to their company, driving up business performance as a result. For example, according to IES and the Work Foundation, if organisations increased investment in a range of good workplace practices which relate to engagement by just 10%, they would increase profits by up to £1,500 per employee per year.

The best news is that there are some very simple steps that any business can take over the next few weeks to help ensure there is greater commitment and motivation, putting them in better shape to welcome in the New Year.

Analyse your own behaviour
As a leader or manager, the way you behave will have a real impact on whether others are committed and eager to play their part in improving the business. Do you communicate with them regularly about the business? Do you seek their views and feedback? If not, simply taking these steps will help you strengthen relationships with your people.

Communicate strategy
Have you communicated with others regarding the goal and direction for your business? Have you helped build their understanding of business aims and where they fit in? Have you helped people understand where the business is going and why? Have you helped build a common goal which they can radiate to colleagues within the organisation and beyond?

Take time out to give an overview in a meeting, call employees together to help them understand how they will support progress in the year ahead.

Make communication two-way
If your model of operation is based around pumping information out, you’re not really engaging with and gaining commitment and energy from your people. You’re not sure who the information is reaching or what it impact it is having. For example, ask employees for views on any announcements, and then take time to address this feedback. Garnering feedback will vary from organisation to organisation, but the important thing is that communicating with employees should be an ongoing two-way conversation.

Reach out for ideas
No leader has the monopoly on ideas on how to address issues, and one of the key issues which prevents engagement is to think they you know more than the person doing a specific role or job. If you’re not getting ideas and suggestions from staff on how to do this, then you’re missing out on a wealth of potential improvement ideas for your business.

Keep checking in
In any organisation, whatever the scope or size, you need to keep talking to your people and to keep making the difference that you need to. Keep asking for views and opinions, don’t assume that people will come forward. If you’re larger, set up more formal processes like employee meetings.

Employers which communicate a clear way forward, help people see their role and seek their views on a regular basis will establish a more engaging and supportive culture that will help it stand out from the crowd in 2010 and beyond.

David MacLeod is co-author of ‘Engaging for Success’ – an independent report exploring the benefits and drivers of employee engagement in the workplace. For more tips, ideas and the chance to give your views and ask questions about employee engagement, please go to:

3 Responses

  1. Making ‘engagement’ possible

    Can’t disagree with the thrust of these articles, but I do think that a sizeable proportion of the workforce is experiencing seriously depressed economics for the first time.    And because of this, the psychological contract between employer and employee is on a precarious footing.   Fear for the future has for many people, eclipsed other considerations!

    So whilst I agree with what has been written about employee engagement, the world has changed along with the people in it.   For instance, the report refers to employee feedback as being very important, and of course it is … but in this climate, there’s an excellent chance that the feedback will be heavily influenced by the ‘survival’ factor.   There is reference to encouraging creativity in the workforce, which is great – but it’s very difficult to access the problem solving area of the human brain (the amygdala) when it’s owner is accessing the emotionally responsive part of the brain (the cortex) by wondering if they’ll be able to pay the mortgage next month. 

    Sounds technical I know, but it’s nevertheless fundemental to how all of us function.

    A more physically and psychologically resilient workforce, at every organisational level, would increase the likely success of any initiative to increase employee engagement.   But ‘Management’ doesn’t have the silver bullet, and I don’t think that for most, the answers lie in repackaged ideas.        

    We may well get the cart and the horse in the right order, and do our best in encouraging the horse to pull it ……but what if the horse is already lame?  (Any vets out there?) 

  2. Engaging for Success.
    The report itself, in a very awkward way, appeared to confirm what most managers already knew, that an engaged workforce was a better workforce.
    What the report did not do was to explain what an engaged workforce looked like or what to do to get one. On one occasion when the words were reported of someone who clearly knew what engagement was and how to get it, what should have been treated as a revelation was passed without comment.
    A full review of the report is at for Success

    This article shows great development from the confused and unfocused “Engaging for Success” report.
    It is good to see this much more disciplined and helpful article.

    Peter A Hunter

  3. Engagement

    All good stuff in here but nothing new really. I have been working with organisations on this for some time and other aspects that need to be addressed are:

    * ensuring managers have the skills and capability to do the job and manage the people – it’s surprising (well not really) how many managers are thrown into a job because of their technical ability but don’t know anything about managing teams or people – and then don’t have any training or support

    * deal with difficult issues and people as they arise – if you don’t do this, teams can very quickly fragment and become even more demoralised

    * understand different people, diversity and motivation – not everyone things or is turned on by the same things … managers need to have a variety of motivational tools in their armory

    * be able to explain the bottom line figures, the outcomes that need to be achieved and how each person can contribute – it’s no good being all HR pink and fluffy about motivation and engagement – it doesn’t wash. people need to know what is expected of them and why – talk facts and figures, help them understand how your business makes it’s money to pay the wages. Talk to people about what they need to do and understand how you as a manger can help them do just that.

    * review reward mechanisms for the longer term – you may not be able to increase pay for the next few years but look at what can be done for the long term to lock in those people you need in your business

    *make sure you have the right people and skills in the business to deliver – take action to remove those that are not needed or can’t change.


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