Our Editor in Chief Rachael Bull attended the 2019 Engaging Employees conference in London. Here are her top 10 takeaways from the stellar line up of speakers.
With a speaker line-up awash with industry heavyweights from brands including RBS, Virgin Atlantic, GSK and the BBC, the Engaging Employees Conference was a hotbed of engagement insights, panel discussions and best practice tips. Here are a few pointers that stuck with me…
1. “Every single person in your company is responsible for its culture.”
Just a few of the many wise words from Tom Rainsford, Marketing Director at Beavertown Brewery and co-founder of giffgaff. Tom kicked the day off with a thought-provoking and amusing session on engagement approaches that resonate with different demographics. I also enjoyed his non-BS stance on employees: ‘People are people’. So simple. But too often forgotten.
2. “Most employee engagement survey questions are doomed from the start.”
As a plain English expert/obsessive/crusader I’m forever harping on about the power of using the first person. It turns out that’s not the way to do it when it comes to surveys, as Ghassan Karian from agency Karian and Box explained in his session on employee insights. By asking people to strongly agree/agree/etc to statements written in the first person, such as ‘I understand the strategic priorities for my division of Company X’, responses are 30% more positive – ie it’s massively biased.
Even more interestingly, when asked for their stance against a statement like ‘My manager recognises my full potential’, the latter part of the statement becomes invisible, with respondents responding purely on whether they like their manager. Mind-blowing stuff, hey?
3. “We need a consumer mindset when it comes to using digital for employee engagement”
I generally tend to avoid the approach of treating employees like customers, but this resonated with me. As Alyson Davis from Boots UK explained, we all use mobile banking because banks make it easy for us. Ergo, we should make the same effort when it comes to trying to engage employees through digital and social channels. We can’t just be like ‘well they haven’t learnt how to use it so it’s their fault’. No business would continue trading with that mindset.
4. “Defining your values is the starting point. Then you need to turn them into reality.”
Mat Davies at Addison Lee Group has a really good point here. We all spend so much time talking and thinking about what makes company values great – but there’s no point in any of it if you don’t help employees understand how to live and breathe them. Attitude, actions and outcomes are key if your company values are going to have any, erm, value.
5. “No one comes to work to do their third best. It’s about harnessing their energy and spirit.”
Another good ‘un from Mat Davies – and something that, as employee engagement colleagues, we too often forget. I also liked Tom from Beavertown’s stance on the same theme: “No-one wants to have a sh*t time at work.” Classic.
6. “The most important thing to do as a leader is LISTEN.”
An oldie but a goodie. And something that came up time and time again throughout the day. Employees want to be heard, they want their opinions to be recognised and taken on board, and they want to be involved in decisions that affect them. As Beavertown’s Tom says, they are people. And it can’t be a tick-box exercise – genuine, consistent communications and conversation are key.
7. “Describe your company’s purpose in a way that people can explain to their kids when they get home from work and see their eyes light up.”
A great tip that we’d all do well to remember. It came from Gerard Penning at Shell, who stood at the back of the room instead of taking centre stage, just to mix things up and give us a different perspective. I liked him from thereon in. In my Government comms days, I used to talk about being able to explain a Government policy on the back of a cigarette packet (it was often a challenge). I much prefer Gerard’s way – far more healthy and wholesome.
8. “Culture change is an oil tanker, not a speedboat.”
Worth reminding leaders of this every so often – it’s big and slow and takes years, not weeks. There were a fair few LOLs when someone joked about their CEO asking, ‘How’s culture this week?’
9. “27% of people don’t turn up for their new role.”
And it’s all down to the company, it turns out. In his session on pre-boarding and ghosting, Nigel Williams from Interact revealed the ‘engagement dead-zone’, the time between a candidate accepting a role and their first day. And surprise, surprise… they get poached elsewhere. That’s the perfect time for Internal Comms and Employee Engagement colleagues to get involved – not only to help the new recruits understand what they need to know and do, but to start instilling pride, alleviate any fears and create a sense of belonging. All before the newbie’s even started their role. Impressive stuff.
10. “If you have money to spend, spend it on manager training.”
A brilliant snippet of advice from Paul Gilliam at L’Oreal, who talked about attracting top talent and keeping your workforce loyal and engaged. Alongside revealing L’Oreal’s quite wonderful-looking recruitment campaign on LinkedIn (#TAgoals), he spoke of the manager being the most important part of the employee experience. But alas, as Chloe Foy from Synergy Creative made clear in her session on bringing humanity to work, only 1 in 10 managers have the natural talent to manage a team of people.
(The up-side? They can be coached. Drop me a line to find out how our manager storytelling workshops are helping managers connect with and engage their teams the world over.)
I, for one, am already looking forward to the next Engaging Employees Conference. Hope to see you there!
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