MANAGING MANAGEMENT: do as I do (not as I say)

24 April 2017 -


This spring, Symposium’s Employee Engagement summit brought thought-leaders and subject specialists together to unveil why the UK has one of the highest levels of workplace disengagement, and what business leaders can do to rectify it

Guest blogger Jo Sutherland

According to the Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report, 87% of organisations claim their biggest challenge is ‘culture and engagement’. Gallup’s research suggests that only 13% of employees are engaged at work, 63% are not engaged, and 24% are actively disengaged.

This lack of effort may be a contributing factor to the UK’s ongoing productivity problem.

Leesman, the world’s leading independent assessor of workplace effectiveness, has surveyed over 250,000 employees worldwide. The data reveals that only 55% agree that their workplace enables them to work productively, suggesting there’s a fault with the physical environments employers are providing their staff.

Employees are hardly going to ‘give it their all’ if the space they’re plonked in fails to support them in their role.

Similarly, managers that provide inadequate support to their teams may inadvertently hinder engagement. Previous research has shown that only half of employees know what’s expected of them at work; the same amount claim they don’t have a voice; and a third do not trust senior management.

The general consensus, promulgated by the summit speaker line up, is that organisations are becoming increasingly transactional. There seems to be the misguided belief that pressure improves performance, and that long hours reap results.

The science of motivation, however, suggests the way most organisations currently undertake performance management is based on the wrong thinking.

People need to feel empowered, excited and clear about their contribution to an organisation. Reward and recognition for their efforts is just as important when reinforcing positive behaviour.

But it’s not just about the individual – it’s about the collective too. There needs to be a sense of trust if you want people to share their knowledge.

Management behaviour must reflect these drivers in the endeavour to improve engagement.

Following a review of 800 academic papers, workplace consultancy Advanced Workplace Associates’ (AWA) research into knowledge worker productivity supports this stance. AWA’s research also highlights an additional driver; namely, perceived supervisory support.

“People need to feel that the person they report to is positively supporting them in their role,” explained AWA founder Andrew Mawson. “If their relationship with their supervisor is poor, they will withhold discretionary energy and be less generous with their ideas.”

Royal Mail delivers engagement boost

Following reports that claimed the Royal Mail workforce was disengaged and distrusting of senior leadership, the business set out to equip managers with the skills and tools they needed, via senior leader workshops and continuous feedback loops.

By doing so, the company empowered employees to have their say, while giving its 150 senior managers the confidence to talk and listen to people. As such, the company has transformed its workplace offering and engagement levels have soared.

Royal Mail isn’t alone in believing that the strongest divisions have the strongest succession plans. Servest, a leading facilities management company, runs an extensive learning and development programme.

As part of this, the “Voyager”, “Navigator”, “Alchemist” training programmes offer a nine module qualification, respectively designed for middle and senior managers, managing directors and board members, to strengthen leadership and strategic skills.

Since Servest has implemented these initiatives, the business has seen an increase in internal promotions and movement from 10% to 31%; and 204 of Servest’s 671 management and technical teams have been promoted and grown through the business.

Another award-winning company that realises there’s always room for improvement, despite management level, is RHP Group. Amina Graham and Chloe Marsh took to the stage to discuss their approach.

Every month, the executive leadership team, plus a colleague of their choosing, is invited to a session called ‘a great place to think’ – where they can hear success stories direct from great leaders. This encourages them to up the ante with their own approach to management, while improving engagement across the board with the gold nuggets of insight picked up along the way.

This all shows that engagement isn’t something you do, it’s something you inspire.

As account director for award-winning Magenta Associates, Sutherland is responsible for designing and delivering communications strategies and services. She has led a number of high-profile national and international campaigns for leading brands, organisations and celebrities, including US billionaire Martha Stewart. She is also a freelance journalist and writes for various publications, including workplace, architecture and design, facilities management and business titles

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