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Engagement matters - but what's the secret of success?

August 26, 2010

We all talk about it, many of us try to do something about it but few make any real progress.

So what is the secret of success? No magic wands exist but there do seem to be some simple and practical ideas that any organisation can use.

For example, we have been working with a large and growing contact centre business. Like many others it's gone through fire and brimstone over the last couple of years. But at no time have they lost sight of the crucial importance of keeping employees on side.

Today, we've seen the latest set of results from their regular half yearly engagement survey. Despite the backdrop of our major recession, three findings are remarkable.

First, note the 90% response rate. An outstanding achievement. How do they do that?

There's no direct pressure to get responses. Nobody's punished if the numbers aren't good. But details of response rates are constantly available in real time to every manager and the HR team gently remind their colleagues of how well their people are responding but that it's vital that they volunteer. Managers know the dangers of forcing people to respond, that people will come to resent the engagement survey and will down-rate everything if they pressurise people.

In fact the employees have become extremely enthusiastic participants. Why? Because they know that their views will be listened to and acted upon. Not via short term, quick fixes, but in serious and life-changing ways.

Then there's the tangible evidence of increased overall engagement. We produce visual maps of relative engagement which show positive movement right across the organisation.

How has this happened? Because engagement has become a way of life for every manager in the business.

For example, management meetings - at all levels - always have engagement on the agenda. Managers talk about the subject constantly: how it's changing, what they're doing about it, what success they're having and what the benefits are. They talk about engagement with their people. They ask how they're feeling and what support they need to improve the performance of the business. Engaging people has become a core competency of this organisation.

Then the CEO makes it his personal business constantly to ask employees what he can do to support them better. When the half yearly survey results are published he chairs a workshop on the subject. He commits publicly to specific measures. And details of progress are published. People LIKE the fact that they're part of an engaged workforce. So the whole process becomes self reinforcing.

In a very real way managing the business is all about managing engagement. Of customers - they're avid collectors of and listeners to customer feedback - and employees.  And in the last year this focus has been extended to engaging suppliers too. Which we've been helping to gather and process.

So engagement isn't something they do when they have time, or something they delegate to an engagement manager. It's now in their blood.

It's what the job of managing their business is all about. The engagement scores are mirrored in the bottom line financial results. No magic wand, just dedication and commitment to the belief that engagement matters.

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