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IoIC Live '16: Engagement - what is it good for?

Everyone’s talking about employee engagement. And yet the dial is not moving.

Last year’s CIPD engagement index was 39% and the year before it was 38%...meaning more than 60% of workers are not engaged in their jobs.

Emma Bridger of People Lab outlined ththese stark facts at the start of her presentation to IoIC Live 2016 – and then offered her ‘golden nuggets’ on how to change things, as well as getting delegates involved in the debate.

People Lab recently published research under the title Spotlight On The Employee Engagement Profession after talking to 75 organisations.

The research does not make happy reading.

Research results

  • 45% have an employee engagement strategy
  • 38% do not
  • 17% are unsure if they have one or not!

  • 47% measure the impact of employee engagement within their organisation
  • 53% do not

  • 41% say there is a demand to demonstrate ROI from engagement activities
  • 59% say there’s not

Employee engagement budget

  • No budget – 26%
  • Less than £10,000 – 21%
  • £10k-£50k – 19%
  • £50k-£100k – 10%
  • £100k-£250k – 7%
  • More than £250k – 17%

76% say they have received no formal employee engagement skills training


80% conduct regular employee engagement surveys - but a fifth (19%) do not believe the process helps to improve engagement because ‘results disappear into a black hole’.

“It’s a really clear picture – we aren’t taking engagement seriously. We’re paying lip service to it,” said Emma.

"Everyone says it’s important and yet there’s no budget. When only a quarter of the people dealing with it even have a definition of what engagement is, there’s something wrong.

"Less than half said they had a strategy in place to improve engagement. Only a quarter had any investment in training and development linked to engagement.

"You can see why we’re not making any improvements. Too many organisations think it’s not important enough to invest anything in!”

The challenge is particularly strong because of the massive confusion around internal comms and employee engagement – particularly from internal communicators.

Emma pointed out: “A lot of IC people have been given engagement to look after but our research shows they haven’t had engagement expertise training. The resulting picture is this massive confusion between comms and engagement.

“Only a quarter of respondents had a definition of engagement – that means 75% are working on it but don’t really know what it is…”

She kicked off the interactive sessions by asking delegates to come up with a definition of employee engagement and two were then highlighted.

The first was simply ‘Caring’, while the second was ‘An emotionally-invested relationship between the business and its people in an environment where both can succeed and flourish.’

She said definitions can vary – her own favourite is 'The extent to which people feel personally involved in the success of the business' – but stressed that the most important thing was to consider it.

Emma, who is a psychologist, went on to explain that too many organisations looked at employee engagement from the wrong direction – especially by relying on a massive annual survey.

She talked of positive psychology and said the usual paradigm of ‘work harder to lead to success which will lead to be happy’ should be thought of in reverse.

“Research shows that if you can get into a happy place, you will be successful,” she stressed, adding that employees engagement should be treated this way too.

“If we start by looking at what could our organisations look like when people are engaged and how we are going to get there, it would be a lot more successful than looking back on what’s wrong.”

Emma ended her presentation with six recommendations:

  • Define employee engagement
  • Invest for success
  • Start with an end in mind
  • Develop experts
  • Unblock the leadership barrier
  • Understand that employee engagement and internal communication are not the same – but they have to work together.

Download People Lab’s Spotlight On The Employee Engagement Profession here
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