It’s now 5 years since the publication of “The Evidence” by the Engage for Success Taskforce. This brilliantly thorough attempt to nail down all evidence of the impact of engagement on workplace performance was a real breakthrough. Five years on, though, it still feels as though it’s one thing to nail down the evidence, but quite another for too many businesses to act on it.

Today, as then, we find the UK near the bottom of the workplace productivity league. The UK economy is growing steadily, but productivity growth is virtually zero, the second worst among the G7 nations. Research by The Work Foundation, quoted in the Taskforce report, memorably stated that increasing employee engagement by 10% puts £1500 per employee on the bottom line of the business – a leap forward in productivity and profitability to die for.

 

The Engaging manager is key

 

So what can be done to move from research and rhetoric and on to reality? Well, the original report identified the four enablers of engagement.
 

  1. The strategic narrative (having a clear vision and knowing one’s part in that vision)
     
  2. Working for an organisation that has integrity
     
  3. An employee voice (and of course being listened to)
     
  4. And finally (and without doubt in my mind the most important) having an engaging manager.
     

In our view, a manager who focuses on their people, gives them scope, treats them as individuals, coaches and stretches them. It’s all about the manager, a point we made in our recent Engage for Success podcast.

The great news is that ‘The Evidence’ gave – and still gives - the HR and L&D professional the opportunity to engage in a hard data debate. But to move on we need to:
 

  • Invest more in management development
     
  • Understand more completely what makes for great managers (and select on those competencies)
     
  • Provide bespoke development, building on the strengths of those emerging managers
     
  • Embed that learning in the business, addressing real business issues such as increasing employee engagement and delivering career development.
 

Success is within everyone's grasp

 

We have given many talks on engagement – why it matters and how to achieve it - with particular reference to our work on a major engagement programme with MBNA, the major credit card lender, which increased engagement by 36%.  And it’s great to see strong stories, like that of DS Smith, the global packaging business, on the power of engaging managers in transforming organisations, which also saw sharp increases in engagement levels across the board.

To improve engagement significantly is within the power of any organisation willing to commit itself to the task. More than enough evidence has been nailed down - and now it’s high time for many more businesses to nail the challenge.