Debate: Engage and empower

Workforce engagement is seen as key to improving productivity. Together with NWEEG, the North West’s premier engagement group, we brought our experts to Ribby Hall Village to discuss how to create environments where people can thrive.

NWEEG Engage and Empower

PRESENT: Richard Slater ~ Chair • Kevin Boles ~ UCLan • Carole Calland ~ Westfield Health • Andrew Dewhurst ~ Ipsativity • Laura Hartley ~ LH Recruitment • Andrew Henderson ~ Anthem • Suzanne Hitchen ~ Instep UK • Nicola Mason ~ Napthens • Liz Pollard ~ Enabling Bold Moves • Steve Smith ~ NWEEG • Mike Wilson ~ NWEEG

How do you define employee engagement?

Steve Smith: It’s doing things in the right way, creating and building the conditions and environment where people can be brilliant at work.

If we show people they’re valued they become more fulfilled at work and have a heightened sense of wellbeing and businesses improve.

Being able to love the job that you get paid for is massively important. Increasing engagement by 2.5 per cent over a year on average puts four per cent on the bottom line.

Carole Calland: It’s a case of measuring where staff are and benchmarking engagement. We do that with surveys and follow on with a strategy. That might include such things as health and wellbeing screenings.

We provide workshops for our staff on the subjects that matter. We want people to sleep, move, eat and work better. If they are doing that, they’re going to come to work a lot more engaged.

Andrew Dewhurst: I really dislike the phrase, ‘employee engagement’. I prefer ‘colleague collaboration’.

A lack of collaboration means we haven’t got team work, we’re not all pulling in the right direction and we’re not focused on the goals and objectives the business has. The quickest and simplest win is to listen and talk.

Andrew Henderson: It is not just about employees, it is about people and that includes the stakeholders interacting with the business.

It is vital that HR and business leaders understand the impact that creating a great place to work has on customers.

We need to create customer loyalty and the only way to do that is by creating a high performance culture which is based on engaged people.

When we look at survey data, the number one thing that has a negative impact on employee engagement is poor communication because that leads to mistrust which prevents it from happening.

Liz Pollard: Organisations with poor engagement have managers and leaders maintaining too much control. They’ve got that fear about telling employees too much.

They’re leading with authority and ego and when you’ve got that your employees are never going to be engaged. You need to give them more control through empowerment.

That is about leaders and managers empowering through delegation and trust.

Laura Hartley: When we go out to see a new client, there are certain things we ask. Part of that is the culture, the values and the vision, and do they share that vision with their employees.

What’s the leadership style? Do the employees have a voice? And how much empowerment is given?

That allows us to find the right candidate fit because the values should be shared. If you’ve an engaged workforce people will stay.