Employee engagement review seeks national debate

The MacLeod Review of Employee Engagement has called for a “nationwide discussion” to build understanding of the positive impact of engagement on performance and how this can best be achieved by employers.

To facilitate this discussion the report, commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said there should be a national campaign – including regional events, conferences and papers – over the next eight months to expose as many companies as possible to the benefits of employee engagement.

From March 2010 a series of practical aids will be made available to employers to disseminate examples of best practice, as well as coaching support and practical advice on engagement programmes.

A “senior sponsor group” will be established to get business, government and union representatives to work together on promote the benefits of employee engagement. Senior figures already signed up to this group include Justin King, chief executive of Sainsburys, and Clare Chapman, director general of workforce at the Department of Health.

David MacLeod, co-author of the report, told Personnel Today: “We want employers to realise that employee engagement is about achieving performance, but not in a manipulative way.

“It’s a way employers can achieve their targets by harnessing their people and unlocking their potential. It’s a way of managing, and a way of thinking of people as human beings not human resources.”

Nita Clarke, director of the employee engagement company IPA and the other co-author of the report, said: “It’s key that we get employers to talk to one another, but also we need to develop a set of tools to support them.

“Employers have a key responsibility in spreading the word and talking to other organisations.”

When asked about the lack of practical solutions outlined in the report, Nita added: “It would have been a huge mistake for us to write 10 steps to engagement heaven. Engagement needs to be developed by the organisations in consultation with their staff and managers. They have got to bring in engagement in an engaging way. The available case studies in the report will enable people to learn more.”

Sainsburys’ Justin King told Personnel Today that engaging staff would help employers to gain a competitive advantage.

“Engaging your people is about getting the competitive advantage. Businesses spend a lot of their time trying to find the competitive advantage through new ideas, but they should start with the colleagues they already have and the extra value they can deliver,” he said.

“One barrier to change is that people don’t think it will be very easy to do, so we need to break that down with plenty of employer examples of how it can be done.”

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Devleopment (CIPD) strongly supported the recommendations.

Stephanie Bird, director of HR capability, said: “This report puts employee engagement where it properly belongs: at the heart of business performance. Employer response to the recession suggests that an ever-increasing number recognise that people are, indeed, their greatest asset.

“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.”


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