If only work could engage staff as much as Big Brother

It can be hard enough to motivate your staff at the best of times. But it gets even harder when all your employees want to do is discuss the latest developments on Celebrity Big Brother. After all, how can the day job ever compete with the opportunity to gossip about the latest antics and arguments of Shilpa, Jade et al? If only work could engage employees with similar passion and interest.

There is certainly no one-size-fits-all solution to employee motivation – it all depends on listening to individuals and working out what sparks them up. But our features section this week throws up some usable ideas that may help keep employees keen and engaged. It’s not about keeping staff contented just for the sake of it, however, as academics and business leaders agree that happy staff can mean even happier profits.

What may be a spark for HR professionals is the growing demand for people skills at the very top of an organisation. Some companies have already realised this and given their HR chiefs a leading role. For example, retailer John Lewis has just promoted its personnel director to managing director, and mobile phone retailer Carphone Warehouse gave its group HR director the opportunity to lead the integration of a new acquisition.

Unfortunately, not all chief executives see it that way. People and talent may be the most pressing issues for business leaders, but they still slate HR for not being up to the job. Only a third of CEOs rate their HR departments highly, according to the latest Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) statistics. It seems that nothing has improved since the EIU’s report a year ago, which concluded that HR was the most unloved of all business functions.

The HR profession absolutely has to do something about this. It needs to learn, acquire or hire the skills that business wants.
If HR is so critical to senior managers, then it’s about time HR started acting like it.

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