Birmingham Engage for Success will be partnering with Squire Patton Boggs, the CIPD and the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce to host an event this Friday 17 February 2017 on “Increasing Productivity”. This event is specifically designed for board members to share and learn how to close the productivity gap.  Ramez Moussa, a Partner in our Birmingham Labour & Employment team, will be speaking on the employment law consequences of disengaged employees.  For more information and to book your place at this event, please visit the Eventbrite website.

To mark this event, here is a useful look at key engagement considerations by Fiona Anderson of Change Consultancy, valuingYOU, and founder of the Birmingham Engage for Success network.

Some sources say that every disengaged employee costs you over 1/3 of his/her salary.

You’ll recognise them. These are the people who:

  • deliver lower quality outputs or a poor customer experience
  • take higher levels of sickness absence
  • are resistant to change and often late for work/meetings
  • create a toxic atmosphere for their fellow co-workers; and
  • blame others for their own inadequacies

So how much are your disengaged staff really costing you? In addition to the cost of sickness, these will be the hidden costs in terms of managing customer complaints, quality control, recruitment, time lost while waiting for late arrivals, the impact on those who “carry” their poor productivity, time spent managing them and so on.

In 2013, Gallup reported that 26% of the UK workforce are actively disengaged, the highest level of disengagement in all the G7 countries. Only 17% of the UK workforce were identified as positively engaged.  These are the ones who are emotionally attached, go above and beyond the call of duty to do their job and do it well. They are more likely to be innovative and prepared to constructively challenge the norm to add value.  They own a problem and take pride in being the best they can be at work. That leaves another 57% who were identified as not engaged. They are not actively alienated but still feel no meaningful attachment to their job or company.

As they struggle to manage the effects of the Referendum and Industry 4.0, to retain key staff and to attract the “millennials”, how can leaders build greater employee engagement?

As a starter, by accepting that poor engagement generally means that one or both of two key things is missing. These are Leadership and Communication. So let’s consider each of these.

Leadership requires leaders who inspire and motivate their employees. These leaders provide:

  • Clear direction – great leaders have a vision that is memorable creates clarity for everyone in the workplace and is understood by all who work for them. A clear vision underpins every decision made in the business, including the tough ones. It is not is a lonely poster on the wall, bearing the title “Vision” with a few descriptive platitudes.
  • Brand – great leaders develop a brand with clearly defined values that drive behaviours and which is threaded through everything they do from employee experience to customer experience. A brand is not just a logo.
  • Expectations – great leaders are clear about what is expected in terms of both tasks and behaviours so every member of staff understands how their role contributes to achieving the vision. They know what they have to do and how they are expected to behave. They know that if they take a calculated risk, they will be supported by their manager. This requires managers who empower staff, recognise great contribution and manage poor performance. It is not ignoring unacceptable behaviours and inconsistency in order to be “the nice guy”.
  • Leadership by example – great leaders know that whatever they say or do, others will follow. They understand that their staff often have the answers. They involve staff at all levels to develop solutions. Their behaviours and actions are consistent whether celebrating success or leading in a crisis. It is not saying one thing and then doing another.

Communication can be a cancer or a catalyst. Too little communication and staff create their own version of reality, a version that is often much worse than the reality itself.  The energy and time that is consumed by those guessing what might be happening can create a toxic environment where it is difficult to differentiate between what’s the truth and what’s not.

For communication to be a catalyst, staff are provided with regular strategic updates, ideally face to face. They have the opportunity to ask questions without fear, to seek clarification and understand how things may impact on them. They are asked for their opinions and their suggestions and ideally are involved in developing solutions. They receive feedback so that they understand why some of their input is used and why some is not.

Courageous leaders involve saboteurs. They identify those vocal sceptics who can influence their peer group and involve them by giving them a voice.  Through involvement saboteurs are likely to become engaged.

An authentic thank you for a job well done, and genuine recognition of someone who has delivered results, goes a long way to build employee engagement.

Great communication is not reliant on email, the internet/intranet, social media or sharing bad news on a Friday.