Engaging for Success

Once again, the leading article in Cuttings is about employee engagement. I am not ashamed to keep plugging away at the same theme — the evidence in favour is growing but there are still a number of organisations who have not yet got the message. Never has there been a more appropriate time for considering the economic as well as the social impact of focusing workplace relations on getting the best out of people.

The catalyst for this article is the publishing of the report to government by David MacLeod and Nita Clarke. This is a comprehensive review of the practice of employee engagement in the UK and delivers an unequivocal conclusion that engagement delivers enormous benefits for both the organisation and the individual worker.
MacLeod and Clarke believe that if employee engagement and the principles that lie behind it were more widely understood, if good practice was more widely shared, if the potential that resides in the country’s workforce was more fully unleashed, there would be a step change in workplace performance and in employee well-being, for the considerable benefit of UK plc.. (and the same would go for Your country plc if you are not a UK resident reader!)

Furthermore, MacLeod and Clarke assert that engagement, going to the heart of the workplace relationship between employee and employer, can be a key to unlocking productivity and to transforming the working lives of many people for whom Monday morning is an especially low point of the week. It should be a prime consideration for every leader and manager, and be placed at the heart of business strategy.

The business case
The report summarises a strong business case for employee engagement. They detail a number of studies that demonstrate that private sector organisations with higher levels of employee engagement have better financial performance, and high levels of engagement are associated with better outcomes in the public sector:

A global study by Towers Perrin-ISR compared the financial performance of 50 organisations some with a more engaged workforce, some with a less engaged workforce over a 12 month period:

High engagement

Low engagement

Operating income



Net income growth



The 2006 Meta-Analysis by Gallup analysed 23,910 business units comparing those with top quartile engagement scores in the with those who had bottom quartile scores. Those business units with the top scores had 27% higher profitability and lower levels of sickness absence (2.7 cf. 6.2 days per year).

In the public sector 78% of highly engaged employees say they can make an impact on service delivery, as against just 29 per cent of the disengaged, according to a 2007 Towers Perrin report.

Two recent studies in the public sector found that one key engagement characteristic – staff advocacy (staff who would speak highly about the authority to others outside the organisation) – was strongly associated with better organisational performance: Ipsos Mori found that councils rated ‘excellent’ by the Audit Commission were more likely to have higher levels of staff advocacy than those rated ‘weak’.

None of this research is new, but what makes it so compelling in this report is how it is brought together from perspectives in a single summary of evidence.

Barriers to implementation
Despite the compelling case for employee engagement, the authors know that a significant percentage of the workforce feel disconnected from the work they do and the people they work for. Whilst accepting that all of us are capable of having a ‘bad day at work’ they do not accept the inevitability of work being just one bad day after another.

MacLeod and Clarke identify 4 inhibitors to effective engagement:

  • 1.Lack of awareness, or not fully understanding the concept and the benefits.

  • 2.Not know how to address engagement.

  • 3.Managers not sharing the belief of their leaders, or are ill-equipped to implement.

  • 4.Seeing engagement as just an annual staff survey not an overall approach that places engagement at the core of the organisation’s strategy.

All of these barriers can be overcome – the first by wide readership of this report. Addressing the implementation is where we should be focusing attention.

Engaging for Success, www.bis.gov.uk
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