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Company engagement – who’s responsible?

Three things you can do to improve employee engagement

A word that comes up a lot in the governance world is engagement.

Is your company engaging with its stakeholders? Does it have an open and communicative culture? Do your employees feel they can approach their leaders?

At our Ahead event on 8 October 2019, Sally from stakeholder engagement experts, Black Sun, led a panel on the evolution of company engagement, with Sharon and Helena, two independent non-executive directors at Ted Baker.

The discussion explored:

• Their experiences with poor engagement
• The role of a designated non-executive director for employee voices
• How you can quantify goodwill in a company

1

Check how your workforce are feeling – and not just once a year

‘You don’t know how well you’re doing at engaging with your employees until crisis hits.’

Helena and Sharon stressed that just because you haven’t heard from your employees, it doesn’t mean they’re happy.

You need to give your employees a voice – even if you start with pulse surveys through the year as a formal, objective way to gather their thoughts.

Ask ‘do you think this is a good place to work?’ and other questions to give you insightful answers and statistics.

Teambuilding exercises and social get-togethers are great ways to engage your colleagues, but they’re not enough on their own. Your organisation is nothing without its employees, so make sure they feel they have a voice; otherwise it can end in disaster.

2

Give your employees a focal point

Having an independent non-executive to represent employees’ voice is a great way to make sure your employees know where to turn when they have something to say.

Sharon, who undertakes this role at Ted Baker, says people come to her because they can tell she genuinely cares about their contribution. And, as a non-executive director is independent from the company, they can properly hold the company’s senior leaders to account.

If your CEO has an open-door policy and staff feel like they can speak to them openly, that’s great.

But it’s not enough on its own. Who would staff go to if the problem was about the CEO? Also, the information passed back to the board can’t be considered objective because of unconscious bias. That’s why you need objective surveys.

You need to create a process where staff feel they can contribute – and you need to support this consistently.

3

Be vigilant about your engagement reporting

This goes without saying. Reporting requirements are becoming more stringent, which is a good thing for employee engagement. If you’re writing employee engagement reports, your company has to be working on this in the first place.

But don’t work on your company engagement just because regulators have told you to.

Unlike 25 years ago, we see fewer ‘jobs for life’ now; employees change allegiance when a different employer gives them a better deal.

If you want to keep your employees, make them feel valued – before someone else does.

Engagement can be a great way to build a competitive, successful organisation. But, most importantly, give your workforce a voice because it’s the right thing to do.

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