Improving Employee Engagement in the East of England 

Some key takeaways, for business leaders in particular, at the first gathering of the #EngageEast network

“Engaging employees is just how we do what we do, it’s not another action”. So said renowned employee engagement expert, David MacLeod, at the inaugural network meeting of EngageEast on Monday 2 December.

In front of an eclectic audience of HR practitioners, recruiters, business owners, consultants and local growth hub representatives at The Bradfield Centre in Cambridge, MacLeod talked about the four enablers of employee engagement and how they contribute to high levels of engagement, and ultimately organisational success. There were plenty of anecdotes thrown in, drawing upon MacLeod’s years’ of experience in senior roles in the UK and overseas.

The point MacLeod was making is that employee engagement must be embedded in an organisation’s culture, it’s not an extra ‘thing’ to do.

It’s ten years since the government-sponsored MacLeod Report was published and its recommendations are as relevant today as they were then, like:

  • engagement levels across the economy need to be higher to meet the future challenges of international competition and of providing public services with constrained resources
  • more people need to understand what ‘employee engagement’ is and more people need to do it
  • the issue of employee engagement therefore needs to be raised with leaders in all sectors of the economy.

UK productivity has flat-lined since the 2008 economic downturn and research shows time again the correlation between high levels of employee engagement and productivity and performance. Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workplace report showed that businesses in the top quartile of their global employee engagement database are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile.

There’s a real opportunity for businesses in the East (and elsewhere!) to boost productivity through improving employee engagement. Not surprisingly, there were some important messages for leaders during the session:

  • strategic narrative must be authentic; if there is a say-do gap it creates distrust
  • ‘employee voice’ is the cheapest smoke alarm you’ll ever have
  • engaging managers support, coach and stretch their teams
  • the changing world of work and increased competitive means organisations must innovate but they can only do that if they engage their employees
  • people are not ‘human capital’
  • speak to your people about what success looks like and bring them with you.

While the benefits of employee engagement to organisations and individuals are clear (there’s plenty of research out there on the topic), how best to achieve it is more complex. Employee engagement must be at the core of organisational design, culture, and the attitudes of leadership.

To help unpick the complexity, organisations from around the region will be invited to showcase their employee engagement initiatives at future EngageEast network meetings. By facilitating the sharing of best practice EngageEast is fulfilling its aim of increasing engagement across organisations and their employees in the East of England.

EngageEast covers Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex. We encourage leaders, HR professionals, managers, internal communications professionals and others with an interest in employee engagement to join our LinkedIn Group and to help shape the debate in our region.


@EngageEast #EngageEast #EmployeeEngagement

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