Employee engagement offers big profit generation opportunities
A recent CIPD Newsletter stated “The economic downturn has forced HR to change its priorities, with organisational performance and employee engagement now at the top of the list”.
So what’s new! Some years ago I was a member of the Central Management Group (CMG) for a large chemicals’ factory in the North of England which employed 4500 people and was performing badly. Industrial relations were appalling. Productivity was low and absenteeism was high. The turnaround came from engaging the front line supervision, operatives and maintenance personnel in helping to make this the best factory in the Group worldwide. This was done through the CMG identifying the big ‘gain’ efficiency and effectiveness opportunities and prioritising them. Each priority gain was assigned to a task team consisting of a high potential middle manager team leader and front-line personnel. Their task was, firstly, to formulate recommendations on how to realise the gain and, secondly, to deliver it. In five years the factory did become one of the best performers in the Group with high productivity, good industrial relations and low absenteeism. The challenge then became managing the visitors who streamed to the factory to find out what it had done to enable it to become so successful!
So what are the key engagement factors in this story? The CMG offered a vision of success – the best factory in the Group. The vision included what needed to be changed to get the efficiency and effectiveness gains needed to be the best. This provided the context for the workforce, through the task teams’ engagement, to determine what was helping and what was hindering the changes and make recommendations of how to build on the former to address the latter. They then acted to implement their recommendations once they had been approved by the CMG.
Oh, and this is a diversity blog and so where is that particular angle? The frontline operatives and maintenance personnel had been excluded, mostly, until then from helping the business succeed. They came from a different educational background, having left school at the age of sixteen, to the university educated management cadre. Furthermore, there was a class divide with the managers being middle class and the frontline personnel working class. The senior management built an inclusive culture across this educational and social class divide through the engagement intervention.
IDC has vast experience of helping clients successfully engage employees to deliver outstanding and sustained improvements. Please get in touch and ask us to help. The returns could be enormous, as in the story I have recounted.
Dr Ian Dodds,
30 Jan 09