Karen Notaro: The importance of being honest

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Employee engagement is not just about sending an annual survey to your staff. Here Karen Notaro discusses why it is vitally important to expand your horizons when it comes to engagement at work.

“Honesty is the best policy” This is definitely true in most circumstances. Especially when it comes to talking to staff about Employee Engagement. Ensuring that people understand the organisations story and how they are a part of it, by Leaders and Managers enabling their staff to be able to give their best every day. Having a way to obtain an individual’s views and listening to them are all vitally important whilst remembering that any sort of corporate speak will be seen straight through if it is not said with integrity.

But what does this have to do with Employee Engagement? Isn’t it just about an annual survey?

A Report was commissioned in 2008 about Employee Engagement. This report “Engage for Success” contains case studies from public and private sector organisations. In the report it sets out four key enablers of Employee Engagement which were recurring themes in the organisations who were further on their engagement journey. In this article I am going to talk about the importance of all these things and share with you some ideas to enable Employee Engagement within your organisation.

What’s the story?

In order to have an inclusive and engaged workforce, it is important that your people understand what the organisations objectives are, from the very highest strategic level down to the local business plan. By seeing the bigger picture they will be able to understand where they fit into it. This can be done by asking teams to devise a purpose statement of the work that they do or perhaps as a storyboard mapping out where the local office fits into the story. You could also try writing a recruitment campaign, selling all the stories of why the organisation is a great place to work.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

The team leaders, managers and senior leaders within an organisation have a key role to play in enabling employee engagement. Team leaders need to have a genuine interest in engaging their teams, to do this they need to have an interest in their teams. How many people work with someone for years but don’t know what their husband/wife/children are called or if they have any interests outside of work? By learning something new about someone you learn to know where their strengths are; play to those strengths in work. Someone may be a great proof reader, or be a good communicator – call on those skills when working on a project and discretionary effort will follow.

Are you listening to me?

If you use a survey as a way to measure how engaged your employees are with your organisation and this contains free text boxes then once the survey is completed and the results have been analysed, consider carrying out an activity whereby actual words from the free text boxes in the survey are used and communicated with staff. This will show that completing the survey is not just a tick box exercise and that the thoughts and comments are actively listened too. Ensuring that your employees’ voices are heard is not just through the completing of a survey, this also needs to be embedded in your communication strategy. Look at how you communicate with staff and ask yourself:

Clarity – are your messages clear about why it is important that staff have the opportunity to have their say?

Confidence – Have you confidently shown what has been done as a result of the previous survey?

Community – Have you shown the diverse audience what a difference they have made?

The right kind of communication being delivered in the best way to suit your organisation will help to enable employee voice.

Is it ethical?

Having a sense of ethical values which are present in all parts of your organisation from the risk management strategy, codes of conduct, complaints procedures, governance and recruitment policies etc will demonstrate organisational integrity. As a leader (even if you are not a leader) ask yourself:
Do you know the organisations culture?

Can you identify the values?
Do you act in accordance with them?

Do you promote those values?

Do they underpin the decision making in the organisation?

How do you know that the messages that you are sending about ethical behaviours are being received and accepted?

If you can’t answer these questions then chances are your organisations values will not be present in your teams’ behaviours. You could consider looking at how you can raise your own and others awareness of the organisations integrity.

The final word

I hope that what I have said is nothing new to you or if it is that you can see the benefit of having an engaged workforce.

The enablers: Strategic Narrative (the organisations story), Engaging Managers (team leaders who know their teams), Employee Voice (actively listening to your people) and Organisational Integrity (values of the organisation) will start your engagement journey. Through being honest with your people about where the organisation is, up-skill managers to have continuous conversations, a channel to communicate with everybody and demonstrating the values through your behaviour will provide a platform for you and your teams to be creative and innovative, this in turn will mean that you retain staff and expertise, it will reduce absence or presentism and as a result you will be able to grow your organisation into the best it can be.

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About Karen Notaro

Karen joined the civil service working for the Department of Works and Pensions in 2000 interviewing foreign nationals for national insurance numbers.
She became a member of the Engagement Champions Forum in March 2009 and is now the chair, lead designer of the annual Champions Day, facilitating bespoke sessions across the MOJ family. She is also the Head of the Engagement Champions Network and is responsible for continuing to grow and up-skill the now 1,000 strong cadre of Engagement Champions across the department.

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