Employee Engagement Everywhere!!

 Is it just me or do all roads seem to lead to employee engagement at the moment? No matter what the problem is the answer seems to be ‘have engaged, motivated staff and everything will be fine’.  For example, I recently chaired a conference about what public sector organisations are doing to reduce absence and the evidence was clear that you have to create an environment where employees want to come to work.  Sounds simple but it got me thinking further about engagement and how exactly  you get it. Is there some new trick that managers and leaders need to learn or is this just a new description for the old challenges of motivation, morale and productivity that we’ve all grappled with at some point?

David McLeod and Nita Clarke of the brilliant Engage for Success movement have been working hard on these questions and have managed to prove the link between engagement and the success of the business.  Their work shows organisations from all sectors reporting that engaged employees have higher levels of customer satisfaction, higher productivity, lower employee sickness and turnover.  This inspired the LGA Workforce team to explore what employee engagement looks like in local government given our recent and ongoing tough times. 

During 2013 we supported 5 councils in England and Wales to pilot a new diagnostic tool examining the drivers of staff engagement, analysing the particular elements of the employment relationship that help or hinder employees in doing their work well.   And our research shows, not surprisingly, that being a good employer is not determined solely by what pay, terms and conditions are on offer.  Our research showed that the one single thing that an employer can do to have the biggest impact on engaging their workforce is to make people feel valued.

Sadly, there is no combination of ‘right’ buttons to press for this, no silver bullet cure as each council will need to develop a culture that is right for them.  And you can see in our latest Workforce News podcast some innovative activities Birmingham City Council have been involved in to successfully improve the engagement of their employees. 



But from our research we’ve been able to draw some general lessons on improving engagement, and the main lesson is that in a time of dynamic and turbulent change where we will need to adapt to a new era of public service, employee engagement for local government means offering a better balance of leadership, enterprise, job pressure, trust and value to our staff.  You can see more detail of our research by reading the case studies of the councils who took part in a pilot of our employee engagement diagnostic tool.

So drawing on all of this I think we can summarise the challenge of engaging our staff in these four key questions:  

  1. Are jobs and tasks are well designed with the correct levels of authority and responsibility?
  2. Do jobs have meaning within the organisation and is this meaning understood?
  3. Do employees have a voice and – crucially – is it listened to?
  4. Which behaviours result in people feeling appreciated, enthused and willing to go the extra mile? Are those behaviours common place in your workplace?

It’s becoming increasingly clear that putting effort into improving these elements of working life is the key to harnessing sustainable high performance from our staff and this is what we need to be able to deliver successful transformational change in councils.  The LGA Workforce team has developed a range of practical resources to help councils to make the most of the diverse talent within their workforce by having the right people in the right jobs at the right time, being managed and rewarded in the right way.  Visit our website local.gov.uk/workforce for more information or contact me for more information on sarah.messenger@local.gov.uk

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