The real driver of business growth and why you MUST understand it

Engagement is a buzz-word in the business world just now. However, I suspect many business owners and managers don’t quite understand it, or worse, feel they are already doing it – when in fact they are not.

Engagement awards ceremony in Battersea London

Last week I attended the Best Companies awards dinner for small businesses and social enterprises, in Battersea. Best Companies has been in existence for 13 years and all of the UKs top organisations are desperate to top their list, which is published annually in the Sunday Times. This list is special because it is assessed on the opinions of the employees – you can’t buy your way to the top of this one! I was the guest of the CEO of Best Companies (Jonathan Austin) – a man who really does get engagement. After all, he’s built his entire business around measuring it! He also owns The Art of Engagement, a truly special training centre based in a less special place – Milton Keynes.

In my mind, the fundamental to engagement is recognising people as your best asset. However through this post I want to share with you what Best Companies understand engagement to be and why the top businesses out there are doing it. I must emphasise this point as I can’t abide plagiarism – this is Best Companies’ learning – I am simply a conduit.

Starting with the basics – Best Companies define engagement as “doing it because you want to, not because you have to”. It’s a great definition. Of course, to generate engagement amongst staff, two things need to happen. Firstly you need staff that are capable of engaging. With the best will in the world, some people will only ever be there just for the pay cheque. Secondly you need to create an environment that activates their engagement gene and then continue to stimulate it.

They describe eight factors of workplace engagement:

1. (Relationship with) manager
2. Leadership from the head of the organisation
3. Love of the company and role
4. Sense of personal growth
5. (Relationship with) the team
6. Giving something back (to society)
7. Fair deal (in terms of pay and benefits)
8. Wellbeing at work (stress and pressure).

When you really break it down, those eight do pretty much cover it. If what you are seeking is to truly maximise engagement then settling for just one or two of these is not really going to cut it. The companies that really achieve engagement do it across them all.

As I see it, the goal is therefore twofold. Firstly: identify current weaknesses and areas for improvement. Maybe the people are great but the company is just not loveable? Perhaps more can still be done to make it more fun?

Secondly identify quick wins or people inside the organisation that can help you achieve quick wins. Improving engagement really is a process of evolution. It cannot be achieved overnight. But tremendous momentum can be built if people begin to see change happening.

So how do you improve engagement? Again, Best Companies describe four key elements:

1. Motivating: selling the direction and vision of the organisation and enabling staff to see their role in it.
2. Considering: Recognition – both in terms of the expectations you place on staff and of a job well done.
3. Conversing: Create a two-way dialogue with staff.
4. Caring: Respect employees’ lives outside of work and get to know them as people not a commodity.

Happy people jumping together in the snow
If you feel your organisation needs to go on an engagement journey, how do you make those first steps? I guess you will need to address which of the four elements above need the most attention. Then it’s one of two approaches. Either begin to slowly introduce change. Perhaps confide in your best staff that a change is needed and make it a concerted effort. Alternatively, be upfront about it with everyone. Recognise and share the weaknesses you’ve identified and commit to making strides to overcome them.

That’s my take on a hugely significant aspect of creating a successful business. The real experts sit in a little corner of Milton Keynes. They are slowly but surely bringing it to the forefront of the minds of business leaders. Perhaps this is the year when you choose the Best Companies approach to achieving business growth?



1 Comment

  1. This article is on the ball and is a must read for all involved in business and people. It is a reality not just a passing trend and we all need to ensure that engagement is the byword

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