Richard Harris as King Arthur in the musical 'Camelot'.

Richard Harris as King Arthur in the musical ‘Camelot’. ‘The King and the land are one’…this can be applied to engagement writes David Coleman

Staff engagement has become a popular boardroom topic, particularly as its influence on performance improvement and competitive advantage are now so clear. It is well known, through studies such as the McLeod report, that highly engaged teams significantly outperform their less engaged counterparts. Some of the numbers are more than eye-opening, especially as they pertain to core metrics that determine any business’s success.

It is also well known just how hard it can be to drive sustainable improvements in improving engagement and many organisations have found it difficult to make real breakthroughs in this area.

It’s not just junior doctors and teachers who are fed up and planning to emigrate – according to Investors in People, 60 percent of U.K. workers are not happy in their current job.

Executives in more progressive organisations recognise the power of engagement and are implementing strategies to improve it. Some focus on decentralisation, delayering and a reduction in HQ-centricity, whilst others are electing for better environments, empowerment and improved communication. Some are working well, many are still yet to bear fruit.

Engagement however, a bit like rapport, can be tricky. You can’t fake it. If you do, you are highly likely to be found out and the very thing you are seeking, like an anxious deer, will turn and run in the opposite direction.

Many organisations have taken to measuring and targeting engagement, particularly as it now features as part of the executive bonus plan. Often prior to the annual staff survey, campaigns, roadshows and leadership walkabouts are organised to drive the numbers up and make them look good. This tick-box approach entirely misses the point and has itself become a great source of cynicism.

As Merlin said to a sad King Arthur when the land had become barren. ‘The King and the land are one’…This could equally be applied to engagement. ‘Stop faking it, become what it is you want’.

Many organisations are forging ahead by authentically upgrading engagement within their businesses. Many have started to question how often staff matters are properly discussed in their board meetings, other than as a statistic or as part of a succession plan. Many have redrawn their diaries to spend far more time with the people that actually ‘run’ the business.

The untapped potential within organisations is huge, the research clearly tell us that. It’s not a moment too soon for British companies to start taking the subject to heart and to not make token gestures when it comes to bonus time.