Employee Engagement – Is it Necessary?

Employee engagement is not a binary thing that you either have or you don’t. The goal is always to have more of your people engaged more of the time. In the time-limited Private Equity lifecycle, people are the most important and influential aspect of value creation, and therefore maximising employee engagement is crucial to increasing your multiple. Glenn Elliott, founder of Reward Gateway and co-author of ‘Build it: A Rebel Playbook for World-Class Employee Engagement’ shows us how.

In this article you’ll discover:

  1. How engaged employees drive success
  2. Why wellbeing underpins everything 
  3. Top tips to open and honest communication  

There are many aspects to engagement, but it starts by ensuring wellbeing is front and centre. Clear and consistent communication, shared vision and inspiring leadership then build to create a workplace where everyone is committed to delivering common goals.

Engaged employees drive success

Whilst most CEOs understand that employee engagement is critical, many are failing to deliver it. Research by the Harvard Business Review found that 71% agreed it was critical, but only 24% felt that their own workforces were highly engaged. This ‘engagement gap’ matters because,

There are personal costs to do with suggesting an innovation or having an idea or executing it. So the only people who ever do that are people who actually care about the organisation and want it to be successful. Otherwise, it’s much easier just to stay quiet and think, well, that’s their problem.”

As CEO, setting the culture of the organisation and leading by example falls to you. Not just because you’re the only one who has cross-functional authority, but because you benefit from the enhanced engagement that follows when it’s done well. Engaged people drive success because they:

  • Make better decisions
  • Put business needs ahead of their own
  • Are more productive – focused on objectives they believe in
  • Deliver innovative ideas

Wellbeing underpins everything

When we think about the elements that build engagement, wellbeing is crucial. Yet very few organisations have a Head of Wellbeing, or even the infrastructure to support and deliver it consistently. There are four aspects of wellbeing at work, and we need to recognise that all are important:

  • Physical – the working environment
  • Mental – flexible working can be stressful for some, helpful for others
  • Social – balancing the needs of colleagues who thrive with contact and those who prefer to work remotely or alone
  • Financial

When it comes to wellbeing, leaders can use tools and technology to ensure that everyone in the team is supported and involved:

  • Involving every office / remote workspace / country
  • Optimising your communications infrastructure not only to suit every location, but also to ensure that none are prioritised over others
  • Making immediate and open contact easy (instant messaging platforms, cloud-held documents etc.)

As Glenn concludes,

With some conscious effort you can navigate to the right place. It’s just that we’re not used to it. So There’s a whole lot of things that people think are not possible. But, the truth is we’re just not good at them yet because we haven’t done any practice.”

Top Tips for open and honest communication

One of Glenn’s favourite quotes is from Richard Plepler during his tenure as CEO of HBO, “the building knows the truth”. People always know more than you give them credit for, they are talking and swapping rumours anyway, so why not just be honest with them? How can we expect our people to make good decisions if they don’t understand business context and performance? Share plans, profitability, P&L performance and challenges monthly.

You need people on your side helping. And people will behave differently if they know that there’s a fight that needs to happen.

Open and honest communication drives engagement, and you can achieve it with Glenn’s top tips:

  1. Make room for dissent – if people are frustrated that something is going wrong, it means they care. Listen and act on their concerns
  2. Explain why – communicate decisions and plans and get everyone onboard with how to achieve them
  3. Default to transparency – make everything open, visible and public. Utilise digital channels such as Slack.
  4. Communicate continuously with warmth and emotion. Use a variety of channels and repeat key messages. 

An engaged and motivated workforce is truly a force to be reckoned with – productive, innovative and the key to value creation for any business. Because when your team believe in the company’s vision and mission, they will work tirelessly alongside you to achieve them.

There’s a wealth of practical advice and examples on the principles and processes of succession planning on the PepTalks Members platform.

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