Is staff engagement a management-speak fad, or is it something organisations should be taking seriously?
There are many definitions of staff engagement, but all share a common theme, especially when describing how people behave when they're engaged. Putting it simply, when staff are "engaged" they think and act in a positive way about the work they do, the people they work with and the organisation they work in.
We might hope this is automatically the case in the third sector, but it doesn't always happen. Research shows us that there are five key levers to staff engagement: involvement in decision-making; a healthy and safe working environment; great management and leadership; development and training; and ensuring all roles count.
These five levers are far from a fad and good management should always take them into account. But if we need a peg to remind us to pay attention to staff and their working environment and not take them and their motivation for granted, then so far so good. So here are some top tips for each lever.
Involvement in decision-making
Ensure staff understand the organisation, what it is trying to achieve and how their role fits in to the grand scheme. Hold staff awaydays where you genuinely ask for their opinions or input and communicate more than you think you need to about developments and successes.
Healthy and safe working environment
Basic health and safety should be a given. After that, organisations should provide the best terms and conditions they can afford in a clear contract of employment. Use staff forums to work out what terms staff value most and try to offer them. For example, do they want flexible working? Consider buying an employee assistance scheme if you haven't already got one. These provide 24-hour access to counselling and advice for staff about any home or work issues.
Great management and leadership
Always praise first where you can and give regular feedback to staff, whether complimentary or challenging. Ensure there are opportunities for growth and development. And deal with the slackers - they affect the team and the whole workplace, and others are always watching and waiting for you to do something as a manager. Use leadership roles to provide inspiration and overall value to the staff effort.
Development and training
Provide whatever you can whenever you can, even if only on-the-job learning or at-your-desk webinars. Staff appreciate being developed, and it helps them feel employable.
Ensuring all roles count
Make sure jobs are meaningful and have variety and autonomy. Ensure all staff understand how they link and contribute to the overall aims of the organisation.
Gill Taylor is a sector HR consultant