Trust me: I’m an employee
ENGAGEMENT is at the heart of Acas’ mission to improve employment relations and working life.
At a time when the public sector is feeling the squeeze, getting the best out of employees has never been more important. The Government recently published evidence for effective employee engagement as part of the Engage for Success movement, which Acas is a member of, ensuring that engagement is firmly on the workplace agenda for the future.
To my mind, engagement means having employees who share the organisation’s vision, values and objectives, and who willingly share their ideas. This in turn leads to improved performance and increased productivity and innovation. Engagement takes time to build but once it’s in place it can be key to allowing organisations to flourish and grow.
Much is written about the “drivers” of engagement. In Acas we have a straightforward model which we believe applies to organisations of all sizes and sectors. We believe engaged organisations come about because:
Firstly, the board and/or senior team demonstrate they are committed to creating a workplace where engagement matters. This means having a plan for engagement, communicating it effectively and being consistent that you value employee input.
Secondly, once employees realise that managers are genuinely interested in their views, there need to be opportunities for those views to be expressed. People sometimes call this “employee voice”. It can be as simple as holding briefings where employees feel comfortable about offering their thoughts and ideas, or other arrangements involving employee representatives or unions.
Its not just about giving information – it also involves genuinely listening and responding to employees’ views, ideas and suggestions. Where ideas are good, make it clear they’ll be taken on board but if they aren’t, take the time to explain why they wouldn’t work. Countless “back to the floor” programmes demonstrate that employees have a level of knowledge which is invaluable when it’s tapped into.
Thirdly, when genuine consultation becomes routine, it builds trust.
The tips Acas offers for building trust include making sure actions are in line with the organisation’s vision and values; open and honest leadership; and having skilled line managers who work closely and openly with their staff. Trust is both a driver of engagement and a by product of it – and with it can come a working environment where success is celebrated and staff have pride in doing the job well.
Fourthly, my reference to skilled line managers has to be expanded on. If the leaders set the tone, it’s the line managers who have to make engagement a reality on a day to day basis. The level of skill and confidence your line managers have in dealing with their teams can make or break your business which is why we place a great deal of emphasis on this when advising companies and provide training and guidance to support managers.
No two workplaces have identical features. Each is shaped by a range of influences and pressures. It follows then, that no single or static model of engagement will apply to all. But putting effort into finding the model that works for your business will pay dividends.
Acas is holding a conference on healthy engagement on 13 December in Birmingham where business leaders will discuss the importance of health and wellbeing at work in engaging employees to help improve an organisation’s business performance. Nita Clarke, co-author of the MacLeod Report on employee engagement, and Government adviser Professor Dame Carol Black, will also be speaking at the event. Details at www.acas.org.uk/westmidlands
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