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Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

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Interview: Cathy Brown, Executive Director, Engage for Success


Cathy is a judge at the inaugural Employee Engagement Awards which will recognise the very best in engagement programmes publicly.

Who is Cathy Brown?

Cathy Brown is Executive Director at government taskforce Engage for Success.

She originally joined Engage for Success as a secondee, then as a volunteer, before returning to become Executive Director.

She also works as a social media trainer, event speaker and consultant on employee engagement.

Before joining Engage for Success she had an extensive career with British Telecom including in enterprise risk management, IT audit and capacity management.

She volunteers with the Earthwatch Institute and is a volunteer teacher with VPO Nepal.

1) What does employee engagement mean to you?

On a personal level, it’s when I have that spring in my step on a Monday morning. When I can’t wait to start work because my mind is buzzing with ideas to make things happen. When work and the working day feel so effortless and fun that you hardly think you’ve been at work at all!

2) What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt about employee engagement in the past year?

That people working in an engaged culture don’t head into work saying ‘great, I feel really engaged today’ – engagement isn’t an obvious, tangible thing, when it’s there it’s invisible. Those people are saying ‘I’ve just had a great idea, let’s get it done!’ or ‘I can see a way to make this process work better, let’s fix it now!’ or ‘I feel really proud to work for my organisation’

3) What are your three tips to companies looking to ramp up engagement levels in their organisations?

4) What do you feel are the biggest mistakes that companies make when trying to develop an engagement culture?

Trying to ‘do’ engagement to people, by having an engagement initiative or programme – it just makes people resistant

Thinking that engagement is event driven, that if you’ve done a back to the floor and a couple of round table meetings that you are ‘doing’ engagement. Engagement is what you do and how you do it, every day.

Basing all your engagement activity around a survey, rather than looking more holistically at your culture and people

5) Why do employees fail to buy in when companies try to ramp up engagement?

Because people are naturally resistant to change. Because if you haven’t involved your employees in the change you are trying to make they won’t feel a part of it. Because there is often very little recognition that these things take time. Because it’s not really supported at the top. Because you broadcast rather than truly invite a dialogue.

6) What soft skills are most useful for everyone to have when trying to move towards a culture of engagement?

Engaging Managers is one of the Four Enablers of Engagement. It identifies three things that engaging managers do well.

  • They treat people as individuals
  • They are able to provide both focus and scope to their people, trusting them to deliver without micro managing
  • They coach and stretch people – recognising, celebrating & rewarding good behaviour and addressing dysfunctional behaviour clearly and quickly

7) You’re a judge for the inaugural Employee Engagement awards, which seeks to recognise engagement efforts across the private, public and charity sectors. What will you be looking for in entries?

  • Evidence that an engaging culture is systemic through the organisation rather than being down to one or two good leaders
  • A passion for building better places to work
Author Profile Picture
Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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