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Why it’s important to keep your workforce engaged

Craig Hines

Employee engagement at all levels is an important aspect of running any business, it might be considered by some to be a ‘fad’ but it plays a crucial role and isn’t something which is going away. Here, Craig Hines, business improvement consultant and project manager for Boost’s Propel 2 Grow Business Growth Programme, shares his experiences of working with Lancashire businesses and what they’re doing to rise to the engagement challenge.

Effort, commitment, results and winning performance come from a highly-engaged team. That’s what the evidence says. But, if that’s really the case, why is the number of people who consider themselves highly-engaged is so low in staff surveys? Well, in a nutshell, everyone’s needs from their individual world of work are different. There is no one silver bullet. Working with successful businesses across Lancashire there are some common themes which businesses are doing really well to rise to the challenge.

  • Leadership – modern workplaces are changing. It stands to reason that our approach to leadership may need to change too.

According to Leadership guru Ken Blanchard, people are engaged at work when they have:

  • Autonomy – the ability to control how they manage their work schedule and tasks
  • Mastery – the ability to continually develop to a point of becoming an expert in their chosen field
  • Purpose – meaning from work contributes to a feeling of self-esteem and pride.

In short, how we manage performance requires leaders to give clarity of purpose to their teams, the tools to do the job well, and then to get out of the way and let them get on with it.

  • Generationally diverse – a great team will reflect the diversity of the customers that we serve. This will likely involve managing individuals who span a number of generations. People’s attitudes, values and behaviours will have been formed by varying life experiences dependent on their generation.Modern leaders need to flex their style to take into account the generational needs of the individuals in their team. E.g. millennials have grown up in a time where work tends to be more project orientated - if they have problems they’ll likely be tempted to ask Google or YouTube and these factors translate to a more immediate need for feedback and coaching, rather a formulaic or scheduled approach to performance management.
  • Work/life balance – who wouldn’t want the ability to benefit from increased flexibility to help us juggle kids, appointments, traffic in a way that makes us feel more focused and productive. With this is mind does a rigid approach to working hours and schedules really benefit anyone - sometimes least of all the business? This can be a tough one to implement but it’s certainly worth a look at – particularly if the nature of work requires our people to be creative or innovative in a knowledge based economy.Performance measures that matter can be a pre-cursor to enable this flexibility. Managing people on their outputs rather than on their hours in the building allows people to work when they are firing on all cylinders and also contributes to their need for autonomy. Flexibility and autonomy is often cited as a major contributor to workplace well-being.
  • Technology - are we making the most of the technology at our disposal and the flexibility that cloud based services offer? I’d love to say that I’m blogging away right now with my feet in a sun-drenched Mediterranean pool. Sadly, that’s not the case, but hey if it works, gets the creative juices flowing and benefits the business, then why not?
  • Environment – we naturally seek stimulus from our environment. In our personal lives, we probably like to sit by the window, have background music on, go for a walk, see, hear and feel new things.

How many of us can say our workplace contributes to this stimulus? Forward thinking companies get this totally – being able to work in the sun (on those rare days that it visits Lancashire), have a quick game of table tennis or even find a quiet spot to reflect – depending on our mood or the requirements of the task at hand - is truly energising.

Whatever it is that is likely to work for your teams, will only deliver results if teams truly believe that this is not simply a passing fad that a leader has cottoned on to from reading a thought piece or going on a training course. Engagement only occurs when it is a consistent and embedded desire that has become business as usual. So, in summary, employee engagement needs to be just simply perceived as how we do things around here.

About Craig Hines

Craig Hines is a business improvement consultant and project manager for the Boost Business Lancashire Propel 2 Grow Business Growth programme and has more than twenty years’ leadership experience gained at blue chip companies such as British Airways. As a transformation consultant, he has worked with some of the UK’s best known brands and helped them achieve improved performance across sales, service and brand, with a particular emphasis on the role of people for delivering a step change in business success.

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