Gary Cattermole: How to engage UK employees

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Employee research (such as employee engagement surveys, focus groups and workshops), no matter what type of business or where it is located, regularly pinpoint these three main enablers where organisations are performing less well than other areas:

  • Internal Communications
  • Training and Career Development
  • Recognition

The results often shake employers who thought that these areas were ones where the outcomes would actually be good as they had certain systems in place. Yet the biggest personnel concerns are that people don’t know if they are really doing their job well, that they are stuck in a career rut and that they are not acknowledged for the work they perform. This can be even harder to control when a company is based over numerous territories and employs people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Internal communications

Social media is a great tool and has helped workforces collaborate better and more intelligently but it is good to be mindful not to exclude those who do not always have connection to the software or are less technologically aware.

It is worth considering how new technologies have changed patterns of work and establishing acceptable business etiquette within your company. Employees who spend more time using email as their primary communication vehicle are losing the art of human interaction. “Without that ability to bounce ideas off one another, creativity, ideas, solutions to problems are less spontaneous and generally less effective”, says Jaime Johnson, Director, The Survey Initiative.

Newsletters, often with employee involvement, can give everyone the chance to find out what’s going on in the organisation and ‘town hall’ style events where teams gather to discuss news and issues openly are both worthwhile.  Taking time for a manager to have a one-to-one meeting and smaller team meetings are all beneficial.

Large organisations need to ensure that the ‘say-do’ gap between its leaders and people is as small as possible. When it comes to communicating the strategy, values and behaviours of an organisation – actions speak louder than words.  Employees need to see that leaders within an organisation ‘live’ the values on a day-to-day basis and don’t merely pay lip service to them. This is why it is critical that senior leaders instil this by demonstrating it themselves.

Training and development

Looking at training from the employee perspective it is easy to see how the lack of basic training that enables someone to do his or her job can create a disengaged employee. It makes good business sense to invest in new ways of doing things, in how to work with your team more effectively or in properly showing people how to use that new software instead of relying on them to instinctively know. Bringing in experts and mentors to assist people not only makes for more efficiency and company profitability, it also de-stresses people and makes them more happy and confident in their roles.

Training was investigated by Jupiter Hotels. The group operates 26 hotels under the Mercure brand in the UK. The company was launched in 2011 via a 50:50 joint-venture between Patron Capital and West Register, under a franchise agreement with Accor. Following a period of organisational change, Jupiter Hotels wanted to benchmark levels of employee engagement within its 1900 strong workforce, and find out what engages and disengages them. Group results were provided to enable Jupiter to see what is happening across its business, and individual results to give the hotel managers an insight into how their hotel is performing within the chain.  The usual top three issues were there and Jupiter Hotels wasted no time and very quickly created actions to improve their levels of employee engagement. Importantly, the company has launched a ‘Rising Star’ training and development scheme to help talent rise through the ranks.

Recognition

Recognition is of paramount importance to people. There may not be many promotion opportunities in this current economic climate but being noticed in a positive manner and career development is still required by most individuals. This not only benefits them but the organisation as a whole.

To enable recognition a new Staff Award scheme was introduced by Jupiter Hotel employees to recognise the fantastic level of commitment given by employees. The scheme allows managers to offer on the spot £25 cash awards for outstanding effort and staff can be put forward for employee of the month and employee of the year accolades too.

The Jupiter HR team has also negotiated enhanced benefits for staff with major discounts off products and services within the Accor group of hotels.

It may seem such a basic enabler of employee engagement but the fact remains that a simple, genuine ‘thank you’ from your line manager is one of the most powerful rewards.  For a vast majority of people, the power of a thank you, from managers or peers is both motivating and engaging and it is incredibly cheap and easy to do – yet, many simply don’t – merely forgetting.

Finally, if you haven’t already, consider undertaking some investigative work to understand what is driving engagement or disengagement within your organisation.  Be it an employee engagement survey, some focus groups or workshops or even one to ones.  These can pinpoint issues, help with benchmarking, with reaching goals and continuously developing people and the business alike.

Here are some tips on how to combat everyday employee engagement problems:

  • As a manager ask your team, what can I do to help you do your work better
  • Consider how new technologies have changed patterns of work
  • Do not let email culture hamper employee engagement
  • Get teams to share their experiences/ successes/ issues with other teams during informal get togethers
  • Organise job sharing, internal mentoring and secondments between teams to help with communication and cooperation and personnel development
  • Look at showcasing staff career progression
  • Have an agile appraisal system in place
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a thank you
  • Survey personnel regularly to identify issues

Gary Cattermole is the co-founder and director of The Survey Initiative, a leading staff survey provider specialising in employee engagement www.surveyinitiative.co.uk.

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