The hot button issue of employee engagement took centre stage at Symposium’s latest HR forum. Held at the Kensington Close hotel in West London, the event heard from a string of experts from the engagement field.
The increasing importance that company CEO’s are placing on the issue is a reflection of the intensifying ‘War on Talent’ that is being waged by firms struggling to retain gifted staff. It is increasingly becoming the norm for young professionals to flit round at will from job to job, leaving companies in the lurch and HR departments mired in a never-ending interview process.
“Engagement is directly related to keeping your top talent within your organisations,” said David MacLeod, co-chair of Engage for Success, an employee engagement task force launched by the Prime Minister in 2011. MacLeod went on to warn that the UK is in danger of losing the human side of business and that it needs to be put back as soon as possible.
It was noted at the conference that the UK, in a recent survey, had been ranked as the tenth worst, out of thirteen advanced economies, for employee wellbeing, a statistic prompted by the fact that many UK workers do not have faith in senior managers.
“Trust, consistency, authenticity and being genuine are the key factors in creating acceptable employee engagement within a firm,” commented Kevin Matthews, head of marketing and communications at Leathwaite International, who also spoke to the conference. “Engagement does not fit clearly into one box, it is a personal and different experience to each employee,” Matthews continued.
The engagement of managers came up again and again as a crucial issue, as it is only when managers are engaged that they can successfully act to engage members of their team.
Jane Marsh of Innocent spoke about their forward looking engagement programme. “Understand the power or ritual,” Marsh commented, “eating together is important as is going on yearly trips.”
Innocent, after a staff consultation, changed the office closing hours from 6 to 5:30 and this made a great deal of difference in terms of staff engagement.
“It is a misconception that employee engagement is owned by HR, essentially it belongs to the business,” Kieran Grundy, HR director at SNC-Lavalin told the conference. “You either do engagement, or you don’t do it at all.” A key take-away from a day of interesting comment.