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Open Letter to the Times – The Importance of Employee Engagement to the UK

November 11, 2012

12th November 2012


As sponsors of Engage for Success, the national employee engagement task force launched by the Prime Minister last year, we are publishing today, compelling evidence of the effectiveness of employee engagement in driving performance and productivity for the economy.

Employee engagement is good for individuals, good for business and good for UK growth. The evidence is compelling.  Only a third of people are fully engaged at work, the remainder not reaching their full potential. Research also suggests that £26bn in added GDP could be realised from this wasted opportunity.

Today’s report, Employee Engagement – the Evidence, shows clearly that organisations with high engagement levels outperform their low engagement counterparts in both private industry and in public service. Engaged organisations also report lower staff absence, lower turnover, fewer accidents and are linked to increased employee wellbeing.

Our organisations each have different challenges, but we all believe improving employee engagement can help improve productivity and performance in the UK, and thereby stimulate economic growth.

With two thirds of the UK work force failing to reach its full potential, we invite UK plc to join this movement for better engagement at work, so we all raise our game to meet the challenges ahead.

Signed by:

Lord Gus O’Donnell, former Head of Home Civil Service Andy Harrison, CEO, Whitbread
Nigel Stein, CEO, GKN Richard Baker, Chairman, Virgin Active, DFS and Nectar
Adam Balon, Co-founder, Innocent Brendan Barber, General Secretary, TUC
Neil Bentley, Deputy Director General, CBI Sir Win Bischoff, Chairman, Lloyds Banking Group
Marc Bolland, Marks and Spencer Karen Boswell, Managing Director, East Coast
Adrian Brown, CEO, UK and Western Europe, Royal Sun Alliance Alex Gourlay, CEO, Health and Beauty Division, Alliance Boots
Peter Cheese, CEO, CIPD Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman, Local Government Assoc
Eric Collins, CEO, Nampak Rob Devey, CEO, UK and Europe, Prudential
Carolyn Downs, CE, Local Government Assoc Paul Drechsler, Chairman and CE, Wates Group
Ronan Dunne, CEO, O2 David Evans MBE, CEO, Grass Roots Group
Barbara Frost, CE, WaterAid Sir Stephen Bubb, CE, Acevo
John Hannett, General Secretary, USDAW Sir Peter Housden, Permanent Secretary, Scottish Gov
Stephen Howard, CE, Business in the Community Antony Jenkins, Barclays Group Chief Executive
Ian King, CEO, BAE Systems Justin King, CEO, Sainsburys
Ian Livingston, CEO, BT Charlie Mayfield, Chairman, John Lewis Partnership
Tim Melville-Ross, Chairman, HEFCE Steve Mogford, CEO, United Utilities
Sir Eric Peacock, Entrepreneur, SME Sector Ian Powell, Chairman and Senior Partner, PwC
Martin Rayson, President, PPMA Dean Royles, Director, NHS Employers
Peter Sands, CEO, Standard Chartered Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP
Ed Sweeney, Chairman, ACAS John Walker, Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses
John Neill, CE, Unipart Christopher Hyman, CEO, Serco Group plc
Sir John Armitt, Chairman, Olympic Delivery Authority Mark Elborne, CEO Northern Europe, General Electric
  • Pj

    Absolutely spot on. Staff Engagement is a high priority. Invest in people and their engagement and they will invest in the business. It is people who drive a business forwards, slow it down and in some cases put it in reverse! I have much experience working with companies from a Swiss Airline to RBS and can demonstrate the growth / increases etc from focussing on staff engagement.
    Staff Engagement is somewhat like fuel to a car… if the car fuel tank is empty, it is not going to drive very far… if people are low in motivation and engagement then the business is unlikely to go anywhere.
    I am less concerned with how we as country develop staff engagement, and more concerned with the fact we must develop it. Clients who I work with, who do or have invested in staff engagement – and monitor and evaluate it – seriously, reap the rewards many times over. Fact.
    Increasing/developing communication, relationships, motivation, staff engagement etc – though often thought of as soft skills – is by no means a soft option in terms of business development, team work and so on, especially in these tough times.
    We as a business nation need to take responsibility for developing our businesses, our people and our communities. Being more sustainable and effective means we can be more productive, competitive and profitable.
    I really believe its time to stop bitching, moaning and whining, and take action.
    Delighted to help anyone who wants to drive this country forwards.

    PJ Stevens

  • Pj

    This is a fascinating subject. Thank you for posting it up.
    I worked with a client a couple of years to specifically develop staff engagement (soft skills, etc) and they audited those results against customer service feedback scores. Over the year they doubled staff engagement, and the customer service feedback rose from 79-92%. If a javelin thrower increased his/her throw from 79 m to 92m…. it might be the difference between not making the Olympics and winning a Gold medal….  So its not just the Staff Engagement that matters, its what you can do with it if you harness that energy, that good will, openness, trust etc that comes from increased staff engagement.
    In the early part of the recession I worked for division of a UK Bank, with the express goal of impacting on customer satisfaction UK wide – the goal, to achieve XX% ‘very satisfied’ customers, average, across the UK. We delivered a series of Leadership programmes (motivation, engagement and communication sessions). The sessions impacted significantly on the staff engagement survey and as a result, the customers were more engaged and ‘satisfied’. The programme was aimed very much at middle managers / area managers, and there are many stats about the poor level of skills/service in middle managers in the UK. I read that poorly skilled/motivated middle managers cost the UK some £220bn in lost productivity – (Personnel Today website)… ‘More than one-third of UK executives believe their organisations are being “paralysed” by ineffective middle management, cutting productivity by at least £220bn every year.’  Unlocking the potential of staff and companies can often be released through unblocking middle management etc.
    Honestly, invest in people, people skills, leadership and engagement and you literally change the world… well, at least our country!
    All the best,  PJ Stevens.

  • Jlawr24668

    With all due respect to the very good an relevant people who have signed day on day I can find over 4,000 people doing the self same thing and saying the same and several things are stopping us from growing a good workforce in this time of hardship:
    1 Bank loans to SME and indeed you will say plenty of new monies in this one company via one and another through another both took 14 weeks from start to finish.2 The Government have not paid out the apprentice Grants on time to small business and word spreads like wild fire. 3 The very low wage for apprentices does not act as a spur for many young people who pay out £4.00 a day travel, £20.00 plus £3.00 for food £15.00 total £35.00 and indeed buying clothes for work and giving mum money for rent they are perhaps £10.00 a week worse off. 

    4 Adverts in the job center saying £25,000 a year for an apprentice with British Gas or London Ambulance services or work for Jones and Son packing cardboard boxes for £4,999.00 a year 

    • Sandra Burrows

      I agree entirely with your comments about loans to SME companies and the low wages to apprentices.  The same argument applies to the Minimum Wage and the Living Wage – the Minimum Wage is too low to attract good staff and not enough companies are prepared to pay the extra to achieve the Living Wage, which would enable staff to lift themselves off the breadline.  It is much harder to motivate people who are barely making ends meet and struggling when their kids need a new winter coat or want to go on school trips etc. Staff engagement is important and will contribute to the success of a company and ultimately, the country, but let’s get the basics right first – a decent standard of living for all workers.

  • Dorothy Nesbit

    I fully support this initiative.  There is plenty of research which demonstrates the importance of employee engagement (see Litwin and Stringer’s Motivation and Organizational Climate, for example).  Having said that, it does concern me that the list of signatories above is overwhelmingly male – who’s engaging the women in our country?

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