Today’s interview is with Cathy Brown, Exec Director at Engage for Success, a UK-based social movement that is committed to promoting employee engagement as a better way to work that benefits individual employees, teams, and whole organisations. Cathy joins me today to talk all things employee engagement, why it’s important and what firms should be thinking about and what they should be doing if they want to boost their levels of employee engagement.
This interview follows on from my recent interview – Great service comes from doing things upside down – Interview with John Timpson – and is number 181 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.
Here’s the highlights of my interview with Cathy:
- Engage For Success was formed 5 years on the back of a government report into employee engagement – The MacLeod Report (2009) written by David MacLeod and Nita Clarke.
- The main conclusion from the report was that everyone that they spoke to agreed that employee engagement was a good thing but many didn’t know what to do about it or how to improve it.
- They also found that there were Four Enablers of engagement: Strategic Narrative, Engaging Managers, Employee Voice and Integrity.
- Engage For Success is funded by and run by industry and they receive no government funding. But, they do benefit from government support at the highest level.
- The point of the movement is to give anyone interested in engagement a place to meet like-minded people and to promote thought leadership and best practice in the areas of management and leadership.
- It’s hard to land on a definitive definition for employee engagement as there are so many. David and Nita in their original work came across 54 different definitions. Therefore, Engage For Success don’t attempt to define employee engagement.
- Cathy believes that it is only important to define something if you are then going to measure it and your definition will, in large part, depend on your organisational context.
- Engagement is a product of what we do. It is an outcome.
- It can be counter-productive to focus on employee engagement as it is an outcome.
- According to research by the CIPD, most (75%) organisations are focused on transactional levels of engagement i.e. dealing with the outputs from a survey through action plans.
- The actions of these companies imply that, for them, employee engagement is something that you do to people.
- Leading firms with the highest levels of engagement address it very differently as it becomes how they doing things and how they are as a company i.e their culture.
- They have found that if the Four Enablers are not present then it is highly likely that you won’t be delivering the level of engagement that you want.
- The Four Enablers in more detail are:
- Strategic Narrative – Visible, empowering leadership providing a strong strategic narrative about the organisation, where it’s come from and where it’s going.
- Engaging Managers – Engaging managers who focus their people and give them scope, treat their people as individuals and coach and stretch their people.
- Employee Voice – Employee voice throughout the organisations, for reinforcing and challenging views, between functions and externally. Employees are seen not as the problem, rather as central to the solution, to be involved, listened to, and invited to contribute their experience, expertise and ideas.
- Integrity – Organisational integrity – the values on the wall are reflected in day to day behaviours. There is no ‘say –do’ gap. Promises made and promises kept, or an explanation given as to why not.
- None of this is rocket science but it is the implementation of it and the commitment and discipline required to make it work that makes the difference.
- Cathy cites BAE as a company that has done really well with its engagement efforts as it has focused them on improving certain business metrics rather than trying to influence any scores from a survey.
- The real leaders in engagement benefit from joined up thinking and realising that this is not the domain of just HR but is the responsibility of everyone at all levels.
- Engagement is a two-way relationship. Employees need to want to be engaged too.
- The next big challenges for employee engagement is to help people see how employee engagement fits into the big picture and to also better understand what is getting in the way of improving overall employee engagement numbers, given that they have been low and relatively stable for a number of years (Gallup).
- Cathy describes some people working in a local Co-Op that she encountered on a weekend away as the epitome of Wow service. She said they were an absolute delight, that they were helpful yet authentic and completely true to themselves.
- Cathy recommends that in order to deliver a Wow service/experience firms need to trust their people as they know the best way to improve your organisation.
- Most people don’t come to work to do a rubbish job. They come to do a good job so trust them to do it. Let them be themselves.
- Go and explore the www.engageforsuccess.org website, go and be a part of the movement……They’d love to meet you.
About Cathy (adapted from her LinkedIn bio)
As the Exec Director for Engage for Success Cathy engages and energises audiences around business change, leadership and innovation. She passionately believes that helping people find a better way to work can make a big difference to people’s lives, their organisations and ultimately to the country.
Engage for Success is a social movement committed to releasing the capabilities of employees to improve performance, instigate growth and enhance wellbeing. It operates across the public, private and third sectors and enjoys significant Government support.
As director for Engage for Success, Cathy has wide ranging experience across the public, private and third sectors in raising awareness and providing practical guidance to organisations looking to improve employee engagement. With a background in delivering strategic transformation programmes for a FTSE 100 company, she recognises the importance of values, good management practices, authentic leadership and the ability to listen in creating environments where people can bring the best of themselves to work every day.
When she’s not out evangelising the virtues of employee engagement, some of the many other things that make her happy are Morris dancing with Shrewsbury Morris, feeding people (especially with cake) and stretching mind and body out in a good yoga session.