What’s so Engaging about Staff Engagement?

Earlier this week, I joined the NHS Employer’s webinar on the subject of “Staff Engagement During Tough Times”.  It was a useful webinar (if not a bit dry for me) and it was useful hearing about what other parts of the NHS are doing about increasing staff engagement.  This comes at an important time, as the NHS Staff Survey results for 2009 have just been released.

I started to ponder during the webinar about why the topic of staff engagement so popular at the moment?  Everybody wants to be doing it, talking about it, finding out what other people have done, going to conferences, attending webinars.  It’s part of everybody’s HR Strategy this year.  And the conclusion that I reached is that we’re all searching for the Staff Engagement Panacea, the hidden secret, the magic ingredient that we can put into practice in our own organisations that will lead to happy, motivated staff.

The bottom line is that there is no panacea.  Instead, these are my suggestions to help you on the way to developing your staff engagement strategy:

  1. The culture of every organisation is different.  Therefore, different staff engagement interventions work differently for different organisations (even within the same industry).  Before embarking on any staff engagement project, undertake some sort of “temperature test” or survey.  (The best approach is a survey that gives you quantative and qualatitive data.)  Understand your organisation.  Once you’ve done this, you’ll be in a better position to decide which staff engagement initiatives will work best.
  2. Benchmark your organisation against others, both within and outside your sector or industry.  Gather ideas, make comparisions and identify any barriers to successful implementation.  Cost is always an issue: Many staff engagement initiatives require the investment of time as opposed to spending money on an outsourced product or service.
  3. To increase staff engagement you will need to implement and sustain a number of different initiatives.  There is no one intervention that will lead to increased staff engagement.  Your staff engagement strategy should contain a range of interventions that will work cohesively and in tandem.
  4. Although staff engagement is about involving and listening to the front-line staff, you won’t increase staff engagement if the top team haven’t bought into your staff engagement strategy.  Win the top team over first.  Change their behaviours before embarking on winning the hearts and minds of the rest of your staff.
  5. You can’t build Rome in a day.   If your staff survey has just been published, then you’ll probably be surveying the staff again in six months time.  Being realistic, there’s no-way that you can substantially increase staff engagement in such a short space of time.  Manage the expectations of the Executive Team and the staff in general:  your staff engagement strategy should reflect the longer-term, and the tangible benefits will not be apparent for at least 18 months.

 Having said all that, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the level of staff satisfaction rise in your organisation once the fruits of your staff engagement strategy ripen.  Good Luck.