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Nov 20

A. Employee engagement drives productivity?

Employee engagement is nowadays seen as essential if an organisation is to perform well

Gallup report that business units in the top quartile of employee engagement outperform bottom units with 17% higher productivity, 20% higher sales and 21% higher profitability – all big performance differences

MGI – McKinsey Global Institute – report that productivity increases by 20 to 25% when employees are connected with effective internal communication channels

Ross Rowbury, CEO of Edelman Japan, a PR company, thus asks: “What makes for good employee engagement?” – is it:

  • A great company newsletter?

  • A regular town hall meeting?

  • Use of chatbots to allow employees to access company information?

Such tactics can indeed be useful – but the big performance improvements arise when organisational culture changes – when employees:

  • Understand and then focus on delivery of the corporate strategy – when they feel an emotional connection with it and are inspired to deliver their best

  • Are empowered to support each other, share ideas and tackle performance problems

  • Understand what customers want, are keen to deliver great service and are proud of what they do

To bring this about, Rowbury says top management must:

  • First understand and then act this way themselves, all hours of the day, to ensure employees see they not only ‘mean what they say’ but ‘do as they say’

  • Clearly explain what the corporate strategy is and why it is exciting

  • Regularly update them on what customers overall are saying about what is being offered them – especially what they’re complaining about, which often comes as a surprise, and the likely impact on sales

  • Instal performance measures for all to measure their performance progress

  • Introduce training programmes to support empowered employees with ways and means to help them improve performance by themselves

  • Design incentive schemes to encourage employees to seek to improve performance and then reward them if successful

  • Continually remind them all of what’s in it for them, what’s expected of them, and why it matters

Clearly, regular communication between managers and their teams is a vital ingredient here, with face-to-face talks being far more effective than occasional dry memos hoping some employees will read them – ‘over-communication is impossible’

But if a major culture change is needed, and quickly, one way is to employ an event likef the PPF – Putting People First – programme we first delivered back in the 80s for British Airways using upmarket venues such as the Rose Room at Twickenham rugby football ground

Essentially, PPF comprised:

  • A member of BA’s top management first explaining the company’s aims and strategy – ‘To be the world’s favourite airline’ – BA became so back then – sadly, 30 years later, they can no longer make this claim

  • An audience at each event of some 150 plus employees, carefully selected from different areas of the company, being encouraged to ask all sorts of questions of the top manager on the stage, the more awkward the better to show the honesty of the day – however, to avoid any career terminating results, an outside facilitator for the day collects all their questions and puts them to the top manager anonymously

  • External and internal customers’ wants of the company are then discussed, including a series of complaint letters being read out – many are found to be ‘news’ to the audience

  • After a good lunch at the upmarket venue – as the event is partly to demonstrate how the company values its employees, it must never go cheap – the audience is split up into several small groups, mixing people from different departments – they’re asked to list the most important problems facing them and produce ideas for solving them

  • The result can be thousands of good ideas collected – a treasure trove which can be used to generate huge financial and motivational benefits in both the short and longer term

Sadly, at BA, little was done with these ideas which obviously lessened the initial employee enthusiasm for the whole exercise

However, at the time, the objective of Colin Marshall, CEO, and Lord King, Chairman, was to change attitudes and make all their employees understand the importance of meeting what their customers wanted, both internal as well as external

To that extent, the programme was judged to be a great success, and credited with being a significant driver of BA’s success for many years after

 

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