25/02/2015

By James Taylor, founder & group CEO of SuperStars


How engaged are your staff in their work? Are they satisfied in their jobs or are they one of the 35% of employees in the UK unfulfilled by their work? Results from the quarterly Employee Outlook Survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) suggest UK workers are now less engaged in, and satisfied with, their jobs than they were just a few months previously.

The fact that engagement and satisfaction levels are decreasing within the UK workforce should be a real concern for employers, particularly at this early stage of the year. If these feelings are left to fester, levels of engagement and satisfaction will surely continue to decline over the rest of 2015.

What’s more worrying is that the UK’s employee engagement deficit is estimated to be costing us all £26bn in productivity each year. This led to the launch of a Government-backed campaign called ‘Engage for Success’ to tackle this growing problem.

The concept of staff engagement is not new. In fact, the mix of factors that make up employee engagement have been around for a long time. These include organisational commitment, job satisfaction, and the willingness to go outside one's specific role to be helpful.

Although engagement is made up of many facets, there is one core component that I feel has the most impact on an employee’s attitude towards work and its organisation: employees need to feel that their organisation is genuinely interested in them.

A CIPD survey revealed that employees feel there is a lack of consideration for their thoughts, particularly when feeding opinions upwards, with net scores falling from +14 to +12.

I think it is important to engage people with your company vision. Our team want their work to have purpose and a meaning.

I’d also advise business owners to place a huge importance on reward and recognition. We take every opportunity to praise and show appreciation towards our team. We reward on performance, attitude and behaviour both as a team and individually. Staff are remunerated on the results they bring in and there is no cap to what they can earn. The more they put in the more they get out and they are in control of their own wage increases.

It’s also important to have growth targets for the year which your team help set. I feel it is important to include everyone in setting the year’s strategy as this way you get ownership and buy in. People are motivated by this transparency and involvement. Importantly get to know what each person is driven by and what their personal goals and dreams are.

On top of individual rewards for performance, consider team rewards. This encourages people to work as a team, as well as concentrating on individual performance.

Staff engagement stems from a culture of caring, being genuinely interested in your people in and out of work, appreciation, encouragement and letting people know they are valued. It costs nothing to thank someone for going the extra mile or to announce how well someone has done.

High workforce engagement is a win-win situation – if staff have a strong positive attitude towards their work, they are more productive, less likely to be off sick and more likely to learn, all of which help the bottom line.

For me, there is one company that really stands out in terms of how it uses staff engagement to the benefit of its business – insurance giant Admiral. Employing over 4,000 staff in its offices in Wales, the company last year topped the poll beating the likes of Capital One Europe PLC and McDonalds to be named best large place to work in the UK by the Great Place to Work Institute in their Best Workplaces list.

Admiral’s approach to employee engagement can be summarised in four words - Communication; Equality; Recognition and Fun. In terms of communication, which I believe a lot of companies do badly, they are completely committed to effective two way communication. There is a strong sense of everyone contributing together, no differentiation or a ‘them and us’ culture. Their approach to recognition is simple. People get recognised and rewarded for the good work they do. And the one, I love best. Fun - the idea is that people can and should enjoy themselves at work and have some fun. This should be something people in other organisations sign up to.

I think their approach is perfectly summed up in a quote about their culture “People who like what they do, do it better”.

As we continue to face up to the challenges of the recovering economy, improving productivity and performance among our workforce has to be a priority and central to the country’s growth agenda. It’s not something that any company leader can be complacent about, given the difference it can make even on a small scale. So if you have concerns about the contentment of your workforce, don’t bury your head in the sand, now is the time to put strategies in place to ensure your staff feel they are valued.