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What are the drivers of engagement?

According to David McLeod and Nita Clarke – authors of a report called Engage for Success commissioned by the UK government – there are four key enablers that are found in highly engaged organizations:

· visible empowering leadership, providing a strong strategic narrative about the organization;

· engaging managers who focus on their people and give them scope, treat them as individuals, coach and stretch them;

· a strong employee voice throughout the organization, where employees are seen as central to solutions;

· a strong culture where the values on the wall are reflected in day-to-day behaviours, from top to bottom.

How does engagement impact on performance? The evidence is overwhelming. In commercial organizations, engagement delivers higher income growth. For example Marks & Spencer, a major British retailer, found that over a four-year period, stores with improving engagement had on average delivered £62 million more sales to the business every year than stores with declining engagement. Sainsbury’s, a national supermarket chain, has found a clear link between higher levels of engagement and sales performance, with the level of employee engagement contributing up to 15 per cent of stores’ year-on-year growth.

Engagement delivers higher productivity and performance, greater levels of innovation, less absenteeism and greater well-being, higher staff retention levels, and better health and safety records. Most importantly, high levels of engagement lead to much greater understanding of customer needs, and therefore higher levels of customer satisfaction and retention. In hospitals, for example, patient satisfaction is higher where levels of employee engagement are higher.

What leader wouldn’t want all that?

So, the four enablers of engagement – providing strategic direction, giving employees a voice, involving them in solution finding and bringing values to life – become crucial to effective leadership. The way you deliver all four is through conversations.

To communicate, you can use printed materials such as newsletters or posters, you can use intranets or e-mails, you can even use methods such as Twitter, Facebook or SMS messages. By doing this, you will impart information and possibly create more awareness of issues. You may get lucky and even create a better understanding. But to inspire, and inspire consistently, you need conversations.

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