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Macleod report on employee engagement: update 2016

5 Jun 2016 - Blog, Infographics

Macleod report on employee engagement: update 2016

It has been four years since the Macleod Report on employee engagement: “Nailing the evidence” was published. This spring the latest installment: “Further Evidence; Case Study Heroes and Engagement Data Daemons”, is out in the public domain to bolster its predecessor’s findings further. What lessons can be learnt from these works? Is there anything new we can glean from the reports since 2012?

Should we even care?

In short, the answer is ‘yes, we should’. If we want to maintain an engaged, productive workforce with low levels of turnover and healthy levels of productivity, we definitely should. With both papers highlighting key links between an engaged workforce and important organisational outcomes such as sales, talent retention and customer experience, it is hard to ignore the way in which a group of engaged workers can exert a powerful influence to organisational success.



New case studies from old gurus

The new 2016 paper showcases 10 fresh case studies from industries ranging from professional services to retail. These are the “heroes” of engagement, organisations who measure engagement in their workforce and then take action to improve it. These workplace ‘champions’ demonstrate a documented correlation between higher levels of workplace engagement and favourable organisational outcomes.


Performance gains > Engagement costs

What’s more, the 2016 paper demonstrates the all-important Return on Investment (ROI) of engagement initiatives, such as increasing performance outweighs the initial cost of investment in the engagement initiative. In fact, increased engagement is vital for ROI.

Another key message from the engagement gurus is loud and clear. As outlined in the 2016, engagement in the UK remains low. Only around a third of workers are highly engaged and productivity lags nearly 20% behind other countries (the so called productivity puzzle). Therefore, in this article, we focus on key takeaway lessons we can learn from the Engage for Success works, and how each one of us can work on making a difference.


Key takeaway 1: you need to measure

The recommendation from the gurus here is pretty simple: complete an employee survey.

‘If done well, surveys offer an accurate and objective measure of the reality of the organisation” urges the 2016 report.

An accurate measurement tool is vital to successful change, because it shows you what you need to change, and make decisions about how to change it.

Take M&S, a hero from the 2016 report. Staff at M&S complete an annual survey, with pulse surveys throughout the year, which provide a “temperature check” on engagement levels throughout the year. How to do your survey right:

  • 1. Know the engagement outcome you are aiming for. Use a robust evidence based model to structure your survey. Key tenets of engagement, as used in People Insight’s PEARL engagement model are: Purpose, Enablement, Autonomy, Reward and Leadership
  • 2. Think about what engagement looks like in your company. Whilst many elements of an engaged workplace are the universal, there will be key features that are related to your unique workplace culture you seek to maintain. The 2016 report showcases a range of companies so look for inspiration there. Consider your unique context and location, then implement ways to improve engagement in your staff.
  • 3. Confidentiality. Ensure that you’ve taken care of this vital step. Collect aggregated responses, without attribution to any individual. Ensure that your participants know their response is confidential.


Key takeaway 2: take action

One key message from the Further Evidence 2016 is this – it’s not enough just to know that engagement is good for you. In the same way as a person doesn’t become healthy by just knowing about nutrition, we don’t achieve higher engagement levels by simply reading about engagement.

We must take action. And that’s the hardest part, too. But without this crucial step, we will forever be debating on the usefulness of this concept, without ever truly discovering how our actions lead to a happier workforce.


Key takeaway 3: follow through to make lasting change

  • 1. Facilitate change. Use your engagement survey to facilitate a constructive discussion on how to improve engagement levels. What actions can be taken? Which areas should be influenced? What teams / departments need more support? What works well, on the other hand?
  • 2. Just do it! Follow through to actually make the changes happen, prioritise ongoing involvement and communication with your staff to show what is happening.
  • 3. Focusing on engagement is not the end, it’s just the beginning. Organisations should use engagement to authenticate and improve other ‘people’ initiatives such as 360 feedback, as recommended by the 2016 report.

Building a case for an Engagement Programme in your organisation

The Engage for Success reports highlight the importance of a the ‘right’ kind of engagement programme. Such a programme can include:

  • 1. Using the survey data to diagnose issues
  • 2. Taking a holistic view –the survey provides evidence for decision making and change
  • 3. Evaluating how engagement in your company is linked to other elements, such as job design, line-manager relationships, culture and trust

It has been four years since Nailing the Evidence, yet the conclusions are very much the same. Don’t ignore the important topic of maintaining healthy levels of employee engagement – an engaged workforce is still the key to a productive, healthy organisation.


See more on the 2016 Engage for Success report here.


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