Employee Engagement and the Half-Time Team Talk

Employee Engagement. Hackneyed phrase or holy grail? Having recently read the MacLeod/Clarke report to the British Government (Engaging for Success: enhancing performance through employee engagement) on the subject, I am convinced that a) there is currently no better way of describing it and b) it is fundamentally important. To quote from the opening section, “If it is how the workforce performs that determines to a large extent whether companies or organisations succeed, then whether or not the workforce is positively encouraged to perform at its best should be a prime consideration for every leader and manager, and be placed at the heart of business strategy.”

I will leave you to delve into the rich findings, recommendations and case studies in the report, and I do recommend it to anyone with a passing interest in the subject of employee engagement. Here, I will simply draw out some of the barriers organisations feel inhibit effective engagement, together with the key principles highlighted that are imperative for successful implementation.


  • Lack of Awareness.  Some leaders are not aware of employee engagement and what it can do for them. Others are reluctant to get involved, concerned that it may be seen as too ‘soft or fluffy’.
  • Uncertainty about Starting.  Some who are interested are unsure how to get involved and started, sometimes fearful that it has to involve ‘buying a product’ and therefore entail expense.
  • Culture.  The prevailing culture and working practices get in the way of delivering engagement, even when leaders place great emphasis on it. Managers may not share the belief, and attempts to implement can be resisted.
  • Underestimating engagement. Some see employee engagement as another job on a tick-list that is achieved when the annual staff survey is completed.


  • Leadership.  The importance of a Leadership vision (or ‘strategic narrative’ as it is described in the report) cannot be overstated. A widespread understanding of purpose, and each person having a clear view of how their role contributes to that purpose is paramount.
  • Engaging Managers.  While it is key that Leaders set the purpose, vision and direction, it is the engaged manager who is at the “heart of success” in any workforce.  As one contributor to the report said, “the line manager is the lens through which I see the company and the company sees me.”
  • Voice.  Providing employees with a voice – so that they are listened to, are not fearful of raising issues, know that their views will be heard and could be used to help define and change the direction of the organisation.  This is, of course, a cultural challenge for many organisations where ‘token gesture’ attempts to implement ‘speak up’ policies have failed to penetrate the DNA.
  • Integrity.   Consistency across the organisation between stated values and behaviours. “If an employee sees the stated values of an organisation being lived by the leadership and colleagues, a sense of trust in the organisation is more likely to be developed, and this constitutes a powerful enabler of engagement.”

Regular readers of my posts will know that I enjoy looking to sport for leadership lessons and parallels. So, this week, my attention turns to Continue reading