Top Tips for Workplace Engagement

Post by Jessie Beham, GCS Professional Development

Friday 4 November 2016

Stop. Think. Reflect

I was very keen to attend the conference for some inspiration to help me with the challenges landing on my desk at the moment, and it certainly did that.  In fact, it reminded me to go back to one of the basics: to reflect upon the purpose of what we’re doing.  

It might seem obvious, but sometimes this important message gets lost as the speed of change and the need to ‘get things done’ picks up pace. The impact of having a common sense of purpose on levels of engagement shouldn’t be underestimated.

There is a danger in our organisations that leaders assume everyone is keeping up with them and automatically understand if priorities change.  Surely this can’t help engagement?  

The importance of skilled managers being able to translate strategy effectively and the impact this has on driving behavioural change was mentioned several times.  Absolutely!  


Don’t forget; they’re actual people!

The Engage for Success conference was one of the most thought provoking events I have been to. I returned to work full of thoughts, ideas and questions about how to reach the individual in my organisation – all I need to do now is decide which one to start with.

What especially stood out was that it’s about people. Well yes… but it can be easy to forget this when the people become numbers in a survey, ‘users’ of the latest technology or attendees at an event.

How we can speak to the individual, identify with that unique person, and how we can include EVERYONE was the theme that ran through the day.


Listen to opinions

The ‘Enterprise Social Networks – liberator or burden?’ session continued to remind us not only of the need to seek our colleagues’ opinions on what works best for them, but also of the need to do this very regularly.

We were reminded of the ever-growing array of internal communications tools available, but also warned not to fall into the trap of assuming that, just by adding to the number of platforms we use, we’re listening more effectively. 

Speakers from the ‘Engage for Success’ movement urged us to pause next time we’re considering buying into a new social network and ask ourselves: what is the plan? Will people use it, how will they use it, and how will this benefit the organisation?


Be inclusive.

CBI President, Paul Drechsler reminded attendees that inclusion is a key part of engaging staff.

His key pointers to improve inclusion were to start with leaders – they need to set targets for inclusion as “what gets measured, gets managed.” Then, look to your line management; spot talent, develop that talent, give them opportunities to lead and turn this into a formal process, not just something for now but for the long-term. Practical suggestions for improved inclusivity were also covered such as removing names from recruitment applications before shortlisting (as we practise in the Civil Service), ensuring Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic people are on manager-level recruitment panels, and actively encouraging a flexible workplace to make leadership roles more accessible for women.


Have a plan.

The title of this year’s conference was ‘Engage by Design.’

Engage for Success co-founder Nita Clarke reminded us, engagement doesn’t happen by accident. This was also brought to life by Unipart’s Dr John Neill who showed us a 1980s advert where Unipart promised: ‘The answer is yes, now what is the question?’ Dealership staff were not living up to the advert’s promise to their customers, and so in response ‘the Unipart Way’ was born. This intricately designed system, with a firm commitment from leadership, helped to unlock potential and engage people at every level of the business.

It has been shared across the private and public sector to show how a clearly designed plan for staff engagement can have a real effect on productivity.

Subsequent public sector successes include NHS staff re-designing their own outpatients’ buildings, leading to shorter waiting times and happier staff. John’s session really brought home how much commitment from leaders, and sometimes full-scale architecture, is needed to help staff feel really engaged.


Engage for Success is a growing, dynamic, voluntary movement promoting employee engagement as a better way to work that benefits individual employees, teams, and whole organisations. 

Originally conceived from work for the Department for Business, it is a non-commercial movement, supported by government and comprising organisations representing some 2 million workers across the UK.

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