A Review of the report by David Macleod and Nita Clarke.
Written by Peter A Hunter
Download the complete report from: http://www.davidzinger.com/employee-engagement-macleod-review-this-is-required-reading-3523/
Engaging for Success is a wonderfully promising report.
It was commissioned by the then UK Secretary of State for Business in the autumn of 2008 to take an in-depth look at employee engagement.
The report, in its introduction, sets itself out to report on the potential benefits of engagement for companies, organisations and individual employees, and as it states later, it is not meant to be a “How to Become Engaged” guide, which is a pity because one of the themes that runs through the report is the confusion over what engagement is and the effect that it has on performance.
The report has been created with reference to surveys of many individuals and organisations and the compilation of statistical evidence is awesome, but most of it appears to have been gathered from the same people who are suffering confusion about what engagement is.
There is no feel in this report about what a phenomenal difference an engaged workforce makes, no understanding of the market dominance that comes with engagement or the flexibility, imagination and pride that an engaged workforce generates.
The engaged workforce is the result of an extremely simple change in the way that managers manage and the result of this change is an earth shattering performance that cannot be competed with by any organisation running a conventional “Command and Control” management strategy.
We had in this report an opportunity to get rid of the confusion that surrounds the concept of engagement. What could have been an extraordinarily insightful initiative got bogged down with phrases of faint praise like this quote from the report:
“Work is good for physical and mental wellbeing”
This sounds like a line written by Harry Enfield for Mr Cholmondly-Warner, instead of the most exciting thing that has happened to our understanding of how to manage our workforce since the brilliant work of Douglas McGregor in his 1960 book, “The Human Side of Enterprise.”
To still be confused about what we should be doing after fifty years later is not encouraging.
An employee at the phone company O2 is quoted as saying:
“One thing that really stands out at the moment is the help and support we get from the management team. They’re really listening to their people.”
But in the feedback from their Head of “Employee Involvement and Experience” there does not seem to be any acknowledgement of just how key this simple statement is.
It is as if what management are doing happened by accident, instead of being the cornerstone of a deliberate policy to change the way the workforce feel about what they do, to engage them.
Later in the report we are told that barriers to engagement are “confusion and misunderstanding,” but at the same time the report quotes Professor John Oliver of the Northern Leadership Alliance as saying:
“Ninety Nine percent of failure to engage staff is due to management behaviour,”
There does not seem to be any confusion about that statement.
The barriers to engagement are created by the behaviour of the managers!
On the first day at work every employee is engaged. They are happy to be there, they know the skills that they have to bring to work and they are looking forward to being able to use them to make a difference.
The workforces natural engagement and desire to be effective is killed off by the things that management subsequently do to them.
The authors of the report tell us that there is no Silver Bullet that will cause people to engage. Perhaps that is because they are looking at the wrong end of the gun.
Instead of looking for the bullet that will make people engage they should have been looking for the bullet that would stop people from disengaging, because that one is blindingly obvious.
Find out what managers are doing that causes the workforce to disengage.
Then stop them from doing it! Vic Bayliss, the Director of Customer services at Westminster City Council got it in a nutshell. He said that:
“Staff have seen this as a programme that is being done with them, not to them.”
In this report Vic shows a rare perception that is unfortunately not shared by the bulk of the contributors.
I sincerely hope that this report does not have the effect of turning the concept of Engagement into the level of another “Management Good Idea” that will be used, as has been stated on several different occasions in the report, as a way to get the workforce to accept what management want them to do.
When used in this way it becomes a cheap trick alongside many other “Management Good Ideas” that failed as soon as the workforce realised that management were just trying out another way to manipulate them.
Real engagement is the result of an ongoing collaboration between management and the workforce that produces the sorts of comments that were quoted by the O2 employee, not the result of a single initiative, survey or desire to manipulate.
Peter A Hunter
Author – Breaking the Mould