How to motivate and engage your employees

how to engage employees in health and safety and tips on how to engage your employees
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Dr.JesperHunt,United States,Researcher
Published Date:16-07-2017
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The People Factor – engage your employees for business success bookletWe inform, advise, train and work with you Every year Acas helps employers and employees from thousands of workplaces. That means we keep right up-to-date with today’s employment relations issues – such as discipline and grievance handling, preventing discrimination and communicating effectively in workplaces. Make the most of our practical experience for your organisation – find out what we can do for you. We inform We answer your questions, give you the facts you need and talk through your options. You can then make informed decisions. Contact us to keep on top of what employment rights legislation means in practice – before it gets on top of you. Call our helpline 08457 47 47 47 for free confidential advice (open 8am-8pm, Monday to Friday and 9am-1pm Saturday) or visit our website We advise and guide We give you practical know-how on setting up and keeping good relations in your organisation. Download one of our helpful publications from our website or call our Customer Services Team on 08457 38 37 36 and ask to be put you in touch with your local Acas adviser. We train From a two-hour session on the key points of new legislation or employing people to courses specially designed for people in your organisation, we offer training to suit you. Go to to find out more. We work with you We offer hands-on practical help and support to tackle issues in your business with you. This might be through one of our well-known problem- solving services. Or a programme we have worked out together to put your business firmly on track for effective employment relations. You will meet your Acas adviser and discuss exactly what is needed before giving any go-ahead. Go to for more details. Why not keep up-to-date with Acas news and notifications by signing up for our popular e-newsletter. Visit 1 About this guide 2 2 What is the people factor? 4 Creating a vision 4 Understanding how to motivate employees 6 The art of communication 7 Your attitudes and values 10 3 Developing good employment relations 13 The employment exchange 13 – Dealing with the key issues 15 – Get the balance right 16 – Recognise the different kinds of engagement 18 – Develop teamwork 19 4 Managing in difficult times 21 Reaching compromise 22 Managing change 23 5 The importance of details 27 The place of work 27 Manners 27 Small talk 28 6 Appendix 1: Acas Staff survey – sample questions 30 Acas Training 32 1About this guide This guide is aimed at helping you improve employee engagement in your organisation. It is intended for employers and managers but will also be of interest to employees and employee representatives. Good employment relations is about understanding what motivates and engages employees and what part you play in making the employee- employer interaction positive and productive. Employee engagement describes the positive attitude or behaviour of someone at work. Acas believes that engagement is likely to be higher if you focus on the four main drivers of employee engagement identified by the Macleod Review in 2009: leadership which transmits vision and values how the individual - contributes giving employees a voice to express their views and concerns - line managers who empower rather than control their staff - behaviour which is consistent with stated values leading to trust and - integrity. We explain what each of these drivers means in the context of everyday workplace situations and how they can be used to develop good employment relations. Our practical advice looks at the expectations employers and employees have of each other and how employers can maintain engagement during difficult economic times. THE PEOPLE FACTOR 2The Innovative Workplace Project 1 The case studies in this guide are all taken from a business development initiative that was managed and delivered by Acas in the East Midlands in 2009/10. The project was funded by the East Midlands Development Agency. The United Kingdom Work Organisation Network (UKWON) were Acas’ delivery partners. The organisations who took part were all seeking to change workplace practices and increase employee engagement as a means of improving organisational performance. Nottingham Trent University was responsible for the evaluation of the project which produced the case studies. The full report can be found at ABOUT THIS GUIDE 3What is the people factor? It is often said that people are every giving employees a voice – in one- • organisation’s most important asset. to-one dialogue, team meetings This is perfectly true, but people and via employee representatives are not like other assets. As well as or trade unions being very valuable in their own right making sure the way people – in terms of performance, skills and • behave supports your creativity – it is individual employees organisational values on issues like who bind every other aspect of equality and fairness at work. working life together. It is employees who are often alert Creating a vision to workplace problems and take informal steps to resolve them Macleod Engagement Driver 1: before things get out of hand. It is employers who can help to create a “Leadership which ensures a culture which encourages everyone strong, transparent and explicit to express their views freely. It is organisational culture which gives managers who are best placed to employees a line of sight between take policies and procedures off the their job and the vision and aims shelf and make them come to life. of the organisation.” The people factor is about: Most workplaces have a plan for creating a vision, or story, that the way work is organised which • everyone feels part of sets future targets. Creating a vision for the future is an ongoing priority understanding what motivates and • because it tells people ‘what’s engages employees – is it pay, happening’ – in other words, it gives flexibility or having a say? a sense of purpose, a reason for turning up to work. THE PEOPLE FACTOR THE PEOPLE FACTOR 4 4This ‘vision’ does not have to be where the organisation wants to • very complex – it can be written on be in the future one side of A4 if that is all that is the values that are most important required or it can be part of a more • to you. detailed business plan. The key is 2 that the vision is linked to individual Senior managers and employers performance targets, sometimes often produce the plan that takes via team plans. A clear vision will in the bigger picture – in terms of help people to make connections products, customers and targets. between: Line managers provide the local managers and employees • context for these plans – they understand what the overall the aspirations of the individual • messages will mean to individuals and the organisation. and their jobs. Your vision will often set out: the overall purpose of your • organisation Strategy Context Voice Senior managers Line managers Employees create a vision give the local have the that says “this context: “this opportunity to is where we’re is where you say “this is what going and this is fit in to the big I think and these how we’re going picture.” are my ideas.” to get there.” Making connections between employees, line managers and senior managers. WHAT IS THE PEOPLE FACTOR? 5But many aspects of the Understanding how to psychological contract between motivate employees employers and employees are implied, rather than explicitly agreed Macleod Engagement Driver 2: in writing. For example, the courts “Engaging managers who offer have established that all employment clarity, appreciation of employees’ contracts also include the following effort and contribution, who treat terms: people as individuals and who to maintain trust and confidence • ensure that work is organised through co-operation efficiently and effectively so that employees feel they are valued, to act in good faith towards each • and equipped and supported to other. do their job.” How are these contracts of Motivating and engaging your employment enforced and workforce means recognising the managed? Research has shown that bond between employers and it is managers at the first tier of line employees. This takes the form of a: management who have the greatest influence on developing the levels legal contract of employment, • of trust and co-operation that are which sets out terms and critical to good employment relations. conditions relating to practical, but very important issues such as pay The personal interaction between and holiday entitlement line managers and the employees psychological contract, which they manage is particularly important • describes the more complex web in maintaining the psychological of promises and expectations we contract through: all form at work. performance management – • especially if linked to pay and On a practical level, the Employment reward Rights Act 1996 requires employers to provide most employees with work-life balance and flexible • a written statement of the main working terms of employment within two training and development and • calendar months of starting work. coaching For more information on contracts of employment see the section on communication and involvement • ‘contracts’ at openness and conflict management • employee representation. • THE PEOPLE FACTOR 6Acas and the Chartered Institute Tips on how to communicate: for Personnel Development (CIPD) 3 set aside regular time for have produced a resource tool for meetings and informal line managers. It sets out what discussions competences line managers need 2 to enable them to get the best out 3 stick to agreed systems – of their staff. for example, weekly team meeting should be weekly but also… How the line manager handles each of these areas will strongly influence 3 … be responsive and adapt the way an employee feels about to changes – if there is an their place of work and how well they emergency you may need to do their job. For further information hold a meeting today and not and advice see the Acas guide tomorrow ‘Front line managers’ at www.acas. 3 don’t make assumptions – ask questions to learn what people think not to have your The art of communication own views re-affirmed 3 the personal touch is Macleod Engagement Driver 3: important – ask an employee “Employees feeling they are if they enjoyed their holiday able to voice their ideas and (and wait for their reply). be listened to, both about how they do their job and in To communicate effectively you and decision-making in their own your managers need to have: department, with joint sharing good interpersonal skills: are you a • of problems and challenges and good listener? a commitment to arrive at joint solutions.” a clear idea of what you want • to communicate: you may be re-enforcing organisational There is an art to communication. messages or responding to Of course, it helps if you have an personal issues effective policy in place for how you will inform, communicate and consult access to training: many • with your employees but good organisations find that the right communication is more than just a training can help to develop process. the people management skills that are at the heart of effective communication. WHAT IS THE PEOPLE FACTOR? 7Effective communication is key Many organisations work closely to managing change, resolving with employee representatives and conflict, tackling absence, dealing trade unions in well-established joint with disciplinary and grievance consultative groups. These groups issues, promoting equality – it is the can give employees the chance backbone running through everything to influence the decision-making you do. process and put forward ideas for solving problems. Less formal Part of your communications strategy one-off workshops are also a good will need to focus on reinforcing way of giving employees and their the organisational narrative – telling representatives a voice in the major people where your business has issues affecting an organisation, got to and what you are working such as pay and terms and towards and how. But remember conditions of employment. that communication is a two-way process – employees may become For more guidance on how to set up turned off by the company voice if workshops and how to develop an they feel they are not being listened internal communications’ strategy to or they don’t have any direct input see the guide ‘How to manage into management decisions. change’. For more information on working with employee Employee voice can be expressed representatives and trade unions see in many ways – individually in one the guide ‘Representation at work’ to one meetings with managers, (both available at in teams, or via employee publications). representatives and trade unions representing the interests of employees. THE PEOPLE FACTOR 8The Innovative Workplace, Employee Engagement Project Case study: Brush Electrical Machines Ltd Brush Electrical Machines Ltd (BEM) manufactures generators for steam 2 and gas turbines and employs 700 staff in Loughborough. What was the problem? The company had recently undergone a takeover. The new management had instituted a ‘lean production’ system, resulting in a series of redundancies. Further redundancies occurred when BEM merged with a company at the same site. Staff revealed a lack of trust between employees and management and a feeling that staff did not feel valued or listened to, as reflected in the low response to a recent staff survey. As one employee said: “I just felt I was in a dead end, no one was listening and nothing was happening.” What did they do? Acas helped set up a steering committee and eight focus groups, each of ten employees, to improve lateral communication across the site. Involvement in the project was initiated by employees feeling that they, together with middle managers, were not being listened to during the ongoing periods of major change arising from the various takeovers. The final evaluation revealed that employees felt they were being listened to and their ideas acted on. The production of a newsletter really helped improve communications. A further round of redundancies has raised the issue of trust once again but the company partly attributes its ability to increase production and ride out the economic downturn to the employee engagement project. As the Managing Director said: “Employee engagement must not be an initiative, because that implies it has a beginning and an end. It’s just something you do, part of the way you run the business.” WHAT IS THE PEOPLE FACTOR? 9Your attitudes and values clarity: we try to provide strong • leadership that gives a vision of Macleod Engagement Driver 4: where we are going and explains where everyone fits in to the “A belief among employees that bigger picture. the organisation lives its values, and that espoused behavioural All of these sound very good on norms are adhered to, resulting paper but does the behaviour of in trust and a sense of integrity.” people in your organisation support these values? Do managers practice Many of the values we share at work what they preach? describe the way we expect to treat each other. Some of these values Ten key steps for running an are explicit and may be written down effective staff attitude survey: in policies, others are implicit and 1. get top management reflect accepted social or cultural support norms. 2. align the survey with your Some common organisational values business strategy include: 3. involve employees in the equality and fairness: we respect • design each employee irrespective of their 4. decide on how you will race, sex, age, sexual orientation, carry out the survey – will religion or belief, or disability it be done online or in paper two-way feedback and • format? encouragement: managers 5. encourage everyone to give positive feedback when take part appropriate and encourage staff to give their best 6. ensure confidentiality responsibility: everyone is given • 7. decide what questions responsibility for aspects of to ask their work and managers are 8. benchmark the questions to accountable for the decisions they compare results make 9. analyse the results openness: we welcome the views • and opinions of employees and 10. report back and take action. their input into decision-making whenever possible See Appendix 1 for a sample survey questionnaire. THE PEOPLE FACTOR 10Some behavioural trends are easy enough to spot – for example, do employees routinely express their views at team meetings? Do you see achievements being celebrated? 2 Other forms of behaviour are more subtle and harder to scrutinise. For example, managers may always ask members of staff for ‘any questions’ at meetings but is the atmosphere conducive to free speaking and do staff feel that their views are really valued? Attitude or staff surveys can give you a good idea of how employees feel they are being treated and how relationships between managers and staff are conducted. WHAT IS THE PEOPLE FACTOR? 11The Innovative Workplace, Employee Engagement Project Case Study: Liquid Control Ltd Liquid Control Ltd design and build machines for processing liquids and pastes. They employee 20 staff and are based in Northamptonshire. What was the problem? The company had recently been taken over. Although managers were given the freedom to run the business themselves, decisions tended to be made by just a few individuals. Management recognised that to grow the business, and achieve the ISO9001 Certification they sought, the workforce needed to be involved in decisions about ‘what, when and how’ things were done. As a fifth of the staff were about to retire, the company were also anxious to capture their skills and knowledge as well as develop greater multi-skilling on the shop floor. What did they do? Acas facilitated the setting up of a focus group, with representatives spread across all levels of the company and helped carry out an employee survey. The survey raised a whole range of issues – from the lack of social activity at the company to duplication of work caused by poor communication between departments. The company developed an action plan for improvements, such as carrying out a skills matrix to identify training needs and put in place measures to help knowledge sharing. As a result of this initiative, 50% of staff have now completed NVQ level 3 courses ranging from computer skills to customer service. Communications at the company have been improved by introducing development appraisals and holding quarterly meetings to keep everyone informed. As the Operations Director said: “We are looking to get people involved in decision-making and more integrated in everything we’re doing.” THE PEOPLE FACTOR 12Developing good employment relations 2 Today, the employment exchange The employment exchange looks a little different. No one really Work is based on a system of expects a ‘job for life’ anymore, but give and take. In the past many 3 many employees, and employers, do employers were able to offer expect flexibility, dignity at work and employees permanent job security an honest, open dialogue about how and employees often gave long-term to get the best from the individual loyalty and commitment in exchange. and the business. The employment exchange The employer gives... The employee gives... Equal opportunities Loyalty and commitment Understanding of Fair pay big picture A willingness to Information and genuine consultation develop skills Flexible working Good conduct Safe working Good performance environment Direction and sense of Ideas and opinions purpose DEVELOPING GOOD EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS 13positive attitudes and behaviour. To Acas has guides to help you make this happen, employers need to: manage many of these key issues – visit focus on the workplace factors • publications. We also run training that are most linked to positive events in your local area – visit commitment (see box on p15) such as pay, communication and performance management Many of the commitments an get the balance right between • employer makes to their employees formality and informality. There is are to do with policies and the risk in smaller organisations procedures – for example, they that the sense of give and take are often obliged to set up and can become rather informal and maintain effective systems for be taken for granted. The opposite managing discipline, consultation, can be true in large organisations, health and safety, and flexible where employees may feel working arrangements. Many of the the exchange is dominated by commitments employees make relate rather bureaucratic policies and more to behaviours and attitudes procedures – for example, they might make a commitment to take pride in their recognise the different ways that • work. employees engage with their workplace. Some employees may In smaller firms this exchange love coming to work to chat with may take place directly between their friends, others might have a the employer and the employee strong conviction that what they because policies and procedures are are doing is worthwhile often less formal and there is more develop teamwork. Ideally you • direct personal interaction. In larger may aim to make a connection organisations the exchange will often with every employee in your take place between employees and organisation. Realistically, their line managers. developing teams can often be the best way of increasing morale, If this exchange is working effectively performance and commitment. it can help to trigger high levels of employee engagement, with employees demonstrating very THE PEOPLE FACTOR 14Explaining the reasons behind the What drives engagement? decisions you make – and involving employees in these decisions The factors that are most linked to wherever possible – will help to positive commitment are: develop trust and co-operation. 3 employee trust in management Performance reviews can be a good way of developing this 3 satisfaction with the work itself 3 dialogue between line managers 3 satisfaction with involvement and employees. You can use in decision-making at the performance reviews and appraisals workplace to check that your employees know what the business is trying to achieve 3 quality of relationships and the part they play in reaching between management and these shared goals. Performance employees management also gives you a 3 satisfaction with the amount chance to monitor performance, of pay received develop skills and give employees the chance to express themselves. 3 job challenge 3 satisfaction with sense of Effective performance management achievement from work. can contribute significantly to all of the four main drivers of employee John Purcell, Building employee engagement identified in the engagement, Acas Discussion Paper Macleod report: leadership which transmits vision • Deal with the key issues: focus and values how the individual on managing performance contributes: performance meetings As an employer you are not always and appraisals are a good place going to be able to give every for line managers to re-enforce employee what they want. For the connection between individual, example, your employees may want team and organisational goals to work flexibly but it may not be appropriate for your business. Many line managers who empower • rather than control their staff, employees have the right to apply showing appreciation, respect to work flexibly – such as carers of and commitment to developing adults and parents of young children and rewarding capabilities: – and you have to give serious managers can motivate employees consideration to their request. If you with positive feedback where it is turn down the request you need to appropriate but also by recognising give a sound business reason. areas where training or support may be needed DEVELOPING GOOD EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS 15 employees who feel they can find out how employees feel – in • • voice their views and concerns. small firms this may mean talking For performance management informally with colleagues, in larger to work effectively it needs to be organisations a more formal staff based on an ongoing dialogue attitude survey can be a useful between manager and employee tool. not just quarterly meetings Engaged employees take an behaviour throughout the • average of 2.69 sick days per organisation which is consistent year; the disengaged take 6.19. with stated values leading to trust Gallup Survey and integrity: a good one-to-one reporting relationship can help to cement organisational values, It can be tempting for employers particularly around issues such as in larger organisations to respond equality and diversity. to problems at work by putting in place more policies and procedures. You can read the Acas guide on Written policies and procedures are ‘How to manage performance’ at very valuable – particularly those dealing with discipline, grievances and attendance – but a large part of Get the balance right: reflect on good management is intuitive. If an your organisational culture employee has just returned to work Organisational culture can be very after a period of sickness absence, hard to define. It can describe it is clearly a good idea to meet and everything from the way your discuss how they are feeling and, if organisation is structured to the necessary, look at their ‘Statement of atmosphere in the canteen or the Fitness for Work’. corridors. Similarly, good managers can often As an employer you are directly judge to what extent an employee responsible for some elements wishes to voice their concerns. of workplace culture – you can Some problems or issues can determine when meetings are held be resolved with a quiet word or and how information is cascaded informal discussion – an employee up and down through the various may be satisfied that you have given management or operational levels. your time to listen to them. At other It may be harder to influence the times, you may need to give them atmosphere at work but you can: the opportunity to express their set the right tone – try to make • concerns at team meetings or in a yourself visible and accessible to more formal setting. your employees THE PEOPLE FACTOR 16The Innovative Workplace, Employee Engagement Project Case study: East Midlands Strategic Health Authority The East Midlands Strategic Health Authority is responsible for ensuring the local delivery of national NHS policy and employs 350 people. What was the problem? The Heath Authority planned to introduce a new employment record 3 system, which would allow staff and management to access their own records. However, as the Head of Organisational Development said: “We soon realised that for this project to work effectively we needed a huge culture shift in terms of how we communicated with staff and involved them in what we were doing.” What did they do? The company worked with Acas to set up a focus group to look specifically at the new employment records package and another group to look at broader employee engagement issues. Concerns emerged about the need to train line managers to use the new system and about a general lack of internal communication and consultation with users. The employee forums have proved very successful, as one employee said: “We can put our opinions over, so if we’re not happy you’re voicing your views in front of everyone and you’ll often find other people have the same problems or thoughts as you.” The senior management team at the health authority have embraced the new approach to engagement and acted upon the recommendations of the employee forums: “We listened to what people said and re-shaped the training as a result” (Head of Organisational Development). The project has meant that staff now take greater ownership of their data and their personal development, HR information is more accurate, and data handling has become more efficient. DEVELOPING GOOD EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS 17The following five issues provide a quick litmus test for the state of your organisational culture: Reward A junior employee has an idea for improving the work of the team. The employee’s manager presents the idea to the senior management team who widely praise the idea. Would the employee get any credit in your organisation? Meetings Managers are in meetings so much that employees give up trying to ask for advice or guidance. What proportion of your time is spent in management meetings and how much time do you set aside for keeping in touch with colleagues and staff? Responsibility Are staff allowed to make decisions about how they do their work or is there always a manager looking over their shoulder? Ask your employees if they feel trusted to work things out for themselves. Accountability Senior managers tend to shape the direction the organisation is going in. If things go wrong do they explain themselves and take the flak or are they seen as being immune from criticism? Purpose The small details of working life – such as car parking, canteen facilities or dress codes – may not seem as important as your style of leadership, but they can undermine your organisation’s sense of purpose and direction. Are you aware of the issues that most concern your staff? Recognise the different kinds of emotional attachment: employees • engagement may feel loyalty towards an Employee engagement generally organisation that has helped happens when your employment develop their career or they may relations are good. It is not an simply have a supportive network absolute – organisations will have of friends and colleagues different levels of engagement and issues: employees might have a employees will be engaged in their • strong sense of conviction about work in different ways. For example, what they are trying to achieve at employee engagement may be work based on political, moral or driven by: social beliefs. THE PEOPLE FACTOR 18

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