Employee involvement is of course fundamental to the success of any business process improvement initiative: without the close involvement of those who are involved in an organisation’s process, it would be futile to try to identify opportunities for improvement, let alone to try to implement them. So it was with some interest that I read the results, in this Sunday’s business management article in the Observer : “Are more firms listening to their staff or are they just paying lip service?” (22 August 2010, pp38-39) – commissioned research on how the FTSE 100 companies report on employee engagement, and of how they ranked the top 30.
The research on employee engagement and the findings
The full report carried out by Transparent Consulting, with assistance from Snap Surveys, Call Britannia and Tomorrow’s company is available from www.transparent-consulting.com/engagement-index/. It evaluated the FTSE 100 companies’ annual reports up to June 2010, and compared them to the 2006 Companies Act requirements, which include the need for companies to report on their impacts on employees.
Amongst the report’s key findings are, that: “Companies and sectors which prioritise customer satisfaction are also the ones that seem to find it worthwhile to give attention to employee engagement.” (Banks, insurers, utilities, telecoms and media were the highest-scoring sectors.) Such organisations are thus addressing some aspects of the two key components for effective business process improvement: customer relationship management, and employee involvement.
The report’s detailed data make for an interesting review of the FTSE 100 companies.
Examples given of how companies engaged with their staff fell into the following categories:
- Communication – 80% used company intranets or newsletters; 13% sent senior executives ‘back to the floor’ (e.g. Marks & Spencer, Tesco, J Sainsbury, Kingfisher); only 4% conducted exit interviews when employees left.
- Employee surveys – nearly 70% conduct regular surveys, with 41% of the total conducting annual surveys, and some conducting quarterly ones (Lloyds Banking Group, British Airways, BT and J Sainsbury).
There are also other important aspects of employee engagement covered by the report such as diversity policies and Health and Safety practices. Pharmaceutical companies: GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca are also mentioned in the report.
Case studies on employee engagement and customer satisfaction from BT, Sainsbury and Centrica
The following extracts from the Observer article’s description of the case studies in the report speak to aspects of employee engagement and customer relationship management that could support a business improvement culture:
- In BT, each manager gets a report on their team’s collated responses to the employee engagement survey, and is expected to work with their team to address the results.
- Sainsbury operates a process for collecting ideas from employees and putting suggestions into practice. They also have a “daily huddle” where employees talk directly to managers, and senior managers / executives are expected to visit their stores on a weekly basis to talk to front-line staff. Sainsbury also have an online “community” to collect employee feedback. Finally, they also conduct monthly customer surveys.
- Centrica ensures that clients’ opinions about their service are fed back to their employees.
As Simon Caulkin points out in his aptly titled accompanying commentary to the Observer article: “Britain’s companies can’t afford to continue wasting the human capacity in their grasp”, it’s time for companies and financial analysts to think beyond economic efficiency, and recognize that “in a knowledge-based economy it’s worker’s ideas and inventiveness that matter most.”
Companies’ focus on employee engagement and on the tools to facilitate and measure this engagement are important, but will only work if the people involved are: doing the jobs that they enjoy; supported in the skills that they need to do them effectively; ‘empowered’ (or have control over) how they do their jobs and can improve them; and have a belief (endorsed by their managers) that what they are doing is worthwhile.
Although neither article, nor the report mention this, a strong awareness of what is important to the success of the organisation, including up-to-date information on the needs and views of customers, are all key complements to effective employee engagement, and to the success of Lean and Six Sigma initiatives.
Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge and change management. Follow the links to find out about how Elisabeth Goodman and RiverRhee Consulting can help your team to work more effectively for greater productivity and improved team morale.
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