Employee Engagement

As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us are still reeling from the shock of having experienced it.

How HR leaders can once again turn their energies to maximising the engagement levels of our valued employees poses a significant challenge. Perhaps there are now implications for employee engagement that didn’t previously exist?

Having seen the UK economy bounce back to its previous strong level, (evidenced by the continuing positive trend in GDP and decreasing unemployment levels), businesses now face new macro challenges, such as racing energy costs and inflationary pressures, alongside a growing need to operate sustainably and with more consciousness than ever for our climate’s survival.

Within our family and home lives, many of us are learning to cope with personal sadness, loss and grief as a result of those who tragically lost their lives during the pandemic. 

How we can create more positive states of mental health across society is much more prevalent in our day to day conversations than ever before – thankfully, of course. 

However, for those 15 million of us in the UK who are currently living with long-term health conditions, maybe our day to day lives see us live and work with ongoing pain and illness? 

Families are also challenged with the financial squeeze that perhaps recent periods of unemployment or work instability, and now inflationary pressures, are placing upon us all.

And in the workplace, the initial novelty of regular working from home has long gone for many employees, as businesses and their workforces trial new hybrid methods of balancing between operating in both home and office locations. 

There is no doubt digitalisation has hastened process change in many workplaces, creating slicker and less clunky ways of working for many, but fast-paced tech advancements are very much here to stay – and what they mean for some sections of our workforce is as yet still unclear….

For those “non-desk workers” who never benefitted from the safety and security of working from home, we now more than ever ought to appreciate the pressure and stress they likely suffered in attending work as usual throughout the pandemic period.

Whatever your position in our working population, new and emerging challenges exist as a result of the pandemic, and all of this calls for a renewed focus on employee engagement by HR professionals and business leaders.

The umbrella term of employee engagement has been around for 20-30 years – but a clear definition is hard to come by! 

Even the UK Government only described it as “a better way to work” in the 2009 Macleod Review. So the best chance HR leaders have to create engagement improvements, is to remain pragmatic and ensure a laser-like focus on bringing practical and tangible solutions to their own contexts.

Figuratively “turning on our listening ears” (a phrase I use almost daily with my little grandsons) can offer HR leaders both a challenge and an opportunity.

The opportunity is to seek out a broad range of people-data sets, to bring them together holistically, allowing us to look beyond the obvious, thereby truly gaining a better understanding of how connected our people feel to the business, and how much they identify with their organisation and their work.

The challenge is for us to find the best possible ways to harness the power of these strong connections and to leverage the way work intrinsically defines us to ourselves and others, creating amazing openings to reignite and sustain high employee engagement levels. 

Ensuring that an empathetic and human-centred approach to leadership and management is coupled with visionary HR practice and policy as employees’ careers grow with the organisation, provides the openings for their engagement to deepen, and for their highly-prized discretionary effort to make an ever-increasing contribution to the organisation’s success.

Taking our business leaders with us on a journey of renewed focus on employee engagement is key – the most impactful HR professionals are first and foremost business leaders and the people agenda for which they hold accountability, fully deserves its rightful place at the Boardroom table. 

Working collaboratively and in true partnership is the most rewarding part of most HR professionals’ roles – influencing our leadership teams to co-create dynamic, contextual and pragmatic solutions to employee engagement dilemmas will see our businesses, and the individuals within them, continue to thrive and grow…..

About the author

Helen Gopsill is an accomplished and commercial HR professional with 25 years of experience within large international organisations, across the automotive, aerospace, retail and food industries.

She is strong in stakeholder management, risk/crisis management, governance and compliance topics and an expert in relations with Trade Unions and in achieving significant strategic objectives through negotiation and collaboration.

A Chartered Fellow of CIPD, Helen is passionate about long-term employee engagement as a lever to the achievement of business goals.