Wednesday 22 June 2011

Live blogging on the Employee Engagement Taskforce part 2


  I’ll come back and post on my own presentation later, but to continue with the programme:


More Presentations

Firstly, David Macleod and Nita Clarke talked about what the taskforce will be doing next.  The intent is not to repeat ‘Macleod 1’ but to update it (because things have moved on, eg there’s more evidence of the benefits of engagement), and more importantly, to try to create a movement, through their practitioner and guru groups, and other things.  They think there is a bit of zeitgeist developing around engagement and they want to catch and lead and this.  One of the key actions will be developing a free, open access and interactive (social?) website.

Following on from my presentation, Denise Fairhurst from Ipsos Mori has been talking about engagement during and since recession. Supported by some vox pops, she suggests there has been an evolution in what our employees want, and therefore a need to review the employer deal.

One of Denise’s inputs I found interesting was that disengaged people (low alignment, involvement and loyalty) are almost totally dissatisfied in the balance between what they put out and how much they take out – the complete opposite of engaged people are almost totally satisfied with this balance.


Our Panel

-   Measures

Then we moved onto a panel.  David and Nita talked for a while, answering questions on how people could best participate in their movement.  (If you want to get involved, the current website is

One of the questions was focused on how the taskforce is going to measure its success.  Their answer was that some of the group members will come up with these over the two years of the taskforce (so they shouldn’t be too hard to achieve then!).  But some of the things they are looking at are:

  • Rising levels of engagement across the board
  • CEOs taking engagement more seriously
  • Becoming the natural way we do things
  • More companies getting it
  • More people feeling it (one of Nita’s interviewees measured the change in her organisation as ‘my husband thinking I’m an easier person to live with).


I liked the way most of these measures were so people centred (the focus of my presentation) – which was also why Denise’s vox pops went down so well.


-   Compelling Purpose

Anyway, I was beginning to wonder if I’d get a chance to say anything on the panel, but then an attendee from the voluntary sector asked David and Nita a point about their sector, stressing the importance of compelling purpose in organisations within these sectors.  That was my chance to talk about one of the things I’ve been seeing, which is private (and public) sector organisations focusing much more on this, as traditional sources of mission (like shareholder value) have become less resonant for people.  So companies have been investing more in things like corporate responsibility if they’ve not seen their core focus as sufficiently compelling.  (See my post on mojos vs BHAGs.)

David gave a good example too which was a group of bus drivers who because of the noise and chewing gum etc, didn’t like doing kids’ buses.  They got the kids drawing pictures of their bus journey and found these all focused on the driver who was clearly seen a bit like a parent for the span of the journey.  They showed these to the bus drivers which helped them understand how important they were to the kids.  As a result, the situation is completely turned around, with the drivers prioritising the kids’ buses.  Never underestimate the value of deeply connecting with a company’s purpose!  (A rather different take on Jim Collin’s get the people on the bus!)


-   Social Media / Engagement

Raffaela Godby from Birmingham Council then set me up nicely with a question on social media.  So I talked about how people find using social media an engaging experience, and suggested they un-ban access to Facebook in their organisations!  See for example this post on a longer presentation on this.)

Then I talked more broadly about the importance of social connection to drive engagement (for example, Nitin Nohria’s bonding drive from his book, Driven).



After this, we had a couple of audience polls, including the following (* shows my questions):

  • In my organisation, ‘employee engagement’ is a term understood by all.  81% no.
  • * Do engagement surveys help or hinder the improvement of
    engagement?  72% help, 9% hinder (I voted hinder, though it depends on the way that it’s done).
  • In your view, which single factor from those below is the
    strongest driver in creating an engaged employee:
    • Involvement in decision making
    • Able to voice ideas and have these contributions recognised by managers
    • Opportunities for developing their jobs
    • The extent to which an organisation is concerned for
      an health and wellbeing

64% of attendees voted for ability to voice ideas though Denise suggested the true finding is a focus on health and wellbeing.


      Presentations – Practical Benefits

      After the panel, and lunch, we moved onto some case studies.

      Helen Giles from Broadway noted that they employ for engageability eg they don’t promote people to be managers unless they’re motivated to manage people.  And in recruitment, they look for staff who see the world in a half-full sort of way and filter out the rest.  For example, they ask interviewees to tell them about time you have adapted to changing working to test for adaptability as they believe adaptable people tend to be more highly engaged.

      Nigel Carruthers from the Local Government Group talked about a mini survey they’ve been promoting which is designed to be built on a video, Thank Goodness it’s Monday.

      Elizabeth Theobald from Lewisham talked about involving people through change (the Council has to cut one third of its budget) in a programme branded Change and Save.  They need people to be more flexible and work outside of their job descriptions.  For example, alumni of their Future Leaders programme have formed a consultancy to support needs within the Council and provide opportunities for people to work collaboratively. They’re implementing Sharepoint 2010 and they’ve also been using Yammer for over a year – people share reports, information and collaborate and don’t use it for personal purposes (not sure why this should be seen negatively).  They’re going to be running their engagement survey over Yammer too (nice).  They also run change health-checks for managers after each change exercise to draw out learnings (they’ve got another four years of this to go).

      And Raffaela Goodby at Birmingham talked about her experience in Birmingham Best.  They’re four years into their change journey supporting the Council’s values.  It’s a top level sponsored but fundamentally bottom-up approach led by local champions or Change Leaders.  The most pivotal factor for these has been how engaged they’ve made the people around them.

      Core to the programme is a mandatory once-a-year workshop led in teams by trained Best Leaders reviewing progress against the values and delivery requirements etc.

      They also run a Dragons Den type thing where people and teams can bid for funding.  I liked Raffaela’s example of a social worker team who asked for a £643 for a hot water urn rather than boiling.  Their business case included the advantages for employee engagement as well as supporting the disadvantaged client groups etc.  You’d never find £643 for a hot water urn in an engagement strategy – it has to be the people you’re asking what’s going to make the biggest difference to you.


      So, good event! – I’ll post on my presentation and perhaps some final reflections tonight.



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      1 comment:

      1. John, it was great to finally meet you face to face and share experiences. I thought an excellent event all in all and nice fruit too!



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