The debate: What next for employee engagement?

A panel of experts discusses the future of employer-employee relations

Richard Lock
Principal consultant
Cause Related Learning

CR Learning_Richard LockHumans have a great tendency to overcomplicate things, yet at the core of most issues lie simple truths. Employee engagement risks becoming another management fad that fades before the business benefits have been fully realised.

In my view, efforts will focus on aligning the expectations of business strategy, senior management and individuals. Engagement happens where those expectations meet. Too often there is a reality gap. Simplifying processes and communication is key to bridging the gap. Having good policies, procedures and metrics is a useful part of developing an engagement strategy.

But engagement is more than executing a set of procedures. Stepping outside those more formal approaches and genuinely engaging with people is critical. Senior managers taking time to talk with, listen to, work alongside and share ideas with people from all levels of the organisation enables those reality gaps to be reduced. The role of the manager will shift from delivering performance through people to delivering performance with people.


Gary Cattermole
The Survey Initiative

Survey Initiatives_Gary_v2Organisations are developing their employee engagement strategies as they know they can transform their business and their bottom line. However, we’re concerned that as employee engagement has become the latest buzzword, there’s a growing cynicism among employees about what’s in it for them.

More and more employees are coming to the conclusion that employee engagement is merely about an organisation getting its pound of flesh from its workforce – so it is no surprise that employees can become cynical.

My advice is to stop talking about employee engagement and simply make its function inherent in everything your business does. Stop thinking of employee engagement as a “project” or an add-on extra; it needs to be a way you do business, and the boardroom needs to drive the strategy and activity in consultation with employees. If administered correctly businesses will naturally look after their staff and, in return, employees – within a supportive and challenging environment – will naturally give their best.

01255 850 051


Mark Allison
Managing director
Digital Opinion

Digital Opinion - Mark AllisonThe business case for engagement has been well and truly made. For many companies, engaging their people is fundamental to how they do business. But for many others, it’s about measurement, communication and little else – something to be handled by HR and communications.

That is a big mistake.Engagement is about much more than measurement and communication. It’s about the way we lead, manage and involve people, how we align their attitudes and behaviours with business goals. It’s a hard performance issue rather than something soft and fluffy; it’s a proven driver of competitive advantage and delivers measurable ROI. As such, it needs to be placed at the heart of a company’s operations and built into its DNA.

The next big challenge for engagement is to be recognised more broadly as the key performance driver it is, and adopted by every leader and manager in the company. It’s much too important to be simply left to HR or communications.

020 8546 7243


Claire Sporton
VP, Customer Experience Management

Confirmit_CarolineEngaged employees provide better customer experiences which drives profitability, but they can also provide insight into your customers’ experiences you won’t get elsewhere. Developments over the next few years will focus on giving employees a voice, enabling us to learn from their insights and demonstrating the link between employee and customer engagement to secure funding for improvement initiatives.

Giving employees a voice means moving beyond traditional employee surveys towards actionable, incremental programmes that engage with employees in the here and now and show them the impact of their actions on customers.

The companies that do this best will take lessons from their VoC programmes and will be well placed to engage employees and generate ROI in the process.

Key steps for organisations will
be to create relevant Voice of the Employee programmes and demonstrate the action they’ve
taken based on feedback. This creates a virtuous circle which impacts every part of the company.

020 7648 8560


Mark Quirk
Chief experience officer
Reach Remarkable Ltd

Mark Quirk-Reach Remarkable-HeadBeyond a side project: some organisations have been through a process of change that puts engagement at the centre, though the majority are still contemplating or testing to see if they really can predict the benefits. But I expect time will push engagement beyond a benefits add-on and make it onto the leadership scorecard.

Continuing individualisation: Great managers know they are individually motivated, bringing a unique combination of strengths and skills. Imagine if internal communication took this into account too. Marketing teams don’t think twice about profiling and uniquely targeting potential customers – what if we treated internal comms in the same way?

Real-time measurement: Today I use questionnaires to measure engagement. They work well, especially if we can sample quickly and frequently, but I don’t think they’re the future. The growth of internal social networks, big data, and work on language analysis offers a promising future for authentic real-time measurement.


Frazer Rendell
Director of business improvement and employee engagement
E-Trinity Consultancy

Frazer RendellThere will be a wider understanding that employee engagement is an outcome of creating a culture where employees are players and not just pawns, consequently, enabling “more to be done with less” by unlocking the potential of intrinsic motivation.

This will be vital as we see flatter structures, increased remote working/outsourcing, complex business networks and the need for teams to be flexible and embrace change. Autonomy, purpose and employee input are key to deliver this.

The metrics impacted by engagement, such as sickness and employee turnover, will increasingly appear on commercial scorecards with improved understanding of the impact engagement has on productivity, quality and service.


Tony Thomson
Managing director
Thirdwave Business Partnership Limited

Thirdwave_tonyIn a nutshell: Highly engaged employees are strong advocates for any business. For this level of engagement, the military-style management processes and systems that are prevalent in the UK must be dropped in favour of management by mutual consent, because there are both financial and non-financial benefits.

How is this achieved? By ensuring that every employee is valued, with their own aspirations embodied in the goals and objectives agreed with them.

Why? Because highly engaged employees are enthusiatic about what they do, and enthusiasm is contagious. People respond positively to enthusiasm, and this can translate into
more business.

01628 487 912

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