Pillars of Engagement

Our Best Employer Pillars of engagement will provide you with resources, strategies and activities that will help you develop and implement your employee engagement strategies.

Values and purpose

Why is a company's purpose one of the biggest drivers of employee engagement?

A company's purpose is its whole reason for being business. It goes beyond the organisation's goals or ambitions to the deeper reason as to why it even exists in the first place. It is the purpose it is there to serve, beyond financial gain.

So how is purpose different to a company's vision? How does it impact on company values? And how can it improve employee engagement and set the tone for an organisation's culture?

Because a company's purpose is the very origin of why a business was created, and what it stands for, it is also the starting point for developing the company's vision and values. A company's vision and its mission statement is based on what the business aims to achieve and where it sees itself going in order to reach its purpose. A company's values are the expected behaviours and attitudes which act as the building blocks to achieving its vision and succeeding in the organisations purpose.

Your company's purpose is what will keep your business focussed and should be what all decisions are ultimately centred on. Greg Ellis, former CEO and Managing Director of REA Group describes the company purpose as the 'philosophical heartbeat of an organisation'. This is because a compelling purpose drives businesses forward and unites and engages its employees. Having a vision and a set of company values which are based on a clearly defined purpose will also be far more authentic, as everything relates back to the ultimate reason why the business exists.

Together, your company's purpose, vision and values will also form the basis of your organisation's culture. It enables you to set a guide as to the methods, practices, standards and behaviours you want to establish across your organisation. A solid business purpose, which is clearly communicated, also ensures there is a consistency and transparency to employees understanding what they are aiming to achieve on a day-to-day basis. It brings people together with a common goal.

Why does purpose matter?

Leadership expert Simon Sinek is passionate about a company's purpose and talks engagingly about how business leaders should always start with the 'why' and find a way of clearly articulating this through the company vision and values. In his book 'Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone' he regularly refers to the fact that people don't buy into 'what' a business does, but 'why' they are doing it in the first place. The purpose is the reason why something matters and this is one of the most powerful drivers of employee engagement.

Research shows that, for employees, a sense of working towards a higher purpose in business, particularly if it is inline with their own values and beliefs, increases engagement in their job and the business. Increasingly, employees are looking for a sense of meaningfulness in their work, and if they can identify with the business purpose and the values of their leader, then they are more likely to be engaged.

A clear purpose also supports a strong employer brand, as employees are attracted to the 'why' behind the business and to working for a values-driven organisation. While what a business does, and how it does it, are both important, it is ultimately the purpose which people will find meaningful and which will inspire a sense of belonging.

Recommended ideas and actions

  1. Does your organisation have a purpose? Check whether your employees can relate to it and if they can articulate it. This will help you to understand if it is being effectively communicated and reinforced as part of your people strategy, and if it is uniting and engaging your teams.
  2. Does your senior leadership and executive team still champion your purpose? Those at the top of the organisation need to lead by example to ensure the business purpose is being permeated across the business.
  3. Could you integrate purpose into your performance reviews? To further reinforce the company's purpose, you can also look at ways in which it can be linked to performance reviews and reward and recognition schemes. Just as business decisions should be assessed to ensure they are contributing to achieving the company purpose, staff performance can be reviewed and rewarded in the same way.
  4. Does your organisation need to define its purpose? If your business doesn't yet have a defined purpose in place, this is the best way to start your engagement journey. There are lots of resources available to help you. Start with the 'why' and use this to create your companies vision and values. Sit down with the people behind the business and write out a clear, concise statement about why your company exists in the first place. This essentially comes down to asking yourself 'what gets me out of bed in the morning?'.

Appendix and resources

  • Read Simon Sinek's book 'Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take action'
  • Watch this video of Simon Sinek's presentation on 'Start With Why'
  • Visit Snacknation for its guide to employee engagement and company purpose section
  • Talk to a consultant at Pure. Our expert team can help and advise you on discovering and creating your company purpose or reviewing it to ensure it remains impactful and clearly communicated.
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Employee recognition and incentives

How can employee benefits and incentives drive engagement?

In today's competitive environment, building a strong, stable and resilient workforce is an essential element for the future of any business.

Company reward and recognition schemes can have a significant impact on an organisation's culture, engagement levels and success.

Understanding and supporting the financial wellbeing of your employees is key.

If you apply Maslow's Motivational Theory and Hierarchy of Needs to employee engagement, an organisation's benefits package and reward scheme provides employers with a variety of additional opportunities to fulfil both the basic and higher level needs of its employees.

Traditionally many employers have believed that the provision of a Pension Scheme and Life Cover were sufficient. However, as the competition for good employees has increased, firms are now implementing far broader packages, looking to use these benefits to give employees a sense of safety and security and meet much wider financial needs. This broader approach can help improve engagement by clearly demonstrating the firm's values are aligned with their employees and that the right support is in place when the employees need it most. This in turn helps to improve engagement as employees feel more secure, valued and looked after. It can also help to reduce stress levels which is a key factor in employee absenteeism and presenteeism.

Benefits such as health, life and medical cover provide reassurance and financial security if an employee becomes too ill to work, or if they were to die. Lifestyle benefits which encourage wellbeing and support healthy practices help to prevent these situations arising and help to improve better wellbeing, be that mental health, physical health, financial or social wellbeing. In the event of ill-health, wellbeing benefits can help employees to get back to work quicker or help them to access valuable counselling support, at difficult times.

Increasingly employees are looking to employers for help in managing their finances or making their money go further. This could be saving to get on the property ladder, avoiding debt or having enough money for when they retire. Financial rewards can also aid the achievement of higher-level esteem and self-actualisation needs, for example through the achievement of a desired salary status.

While monetary based and lifestyle benefits are important and effective, they are unlikely to meet all the needs of your employees. It is when they are combined with recognition-based incentives that they are most likely to take an employee beyond basic satisfaction and through to full engagement. Research has found that 59% of people would rather work for a business where they felt recognised than be in a higher paid job without any recognition. Schemes which enable employees to be recognised and rewarded by their colleagues and senior leaders can help to build positive relationships, increase a sense of belonging, and create a long-lasting sense of achievement.

Why do benefits, recognition and incentives matter?

An employee benefits and recognition programme is an important way to invest in your people and to demonstrate your organisation's values. Going beyond the expected and traditional benefits, such as pay levels, holiday entitlement and pension schemes, can help to remove financial and wellbeing worries. It is the underlying support these schemes provide which can really make the workplace a 'better place to be' and help meet immediate needs. It allows employees to be more focused and engaged at work, as well as increasing their sense of feeling valued and supported as a whole person by their employer. In turn, they can be used to reinforce and reward the positive behaviours you want in your organisation and will help bring your company values to life.

It is well known that recognising and rewarding employees for excellent work helps to ensure they feel valued for their efforts; creating a culture of high performance, increasing employee engagement and improving recruitment and retention. These packages can be a real point of difference when businesses are competing to attract top talent as well as to retain high calibre, engaged employees. It demonstrates that you are an organisation which values its employees and understands what matters to them in all areas of their lives. By budgeting and prioritising effectively this is something which organisations of all sizes can achieve. Studies show that most employees wrongly believe they will need to work for a larger employer to get these levels of support and benefits.

As technology further enables the delivery of these benefits there is an increasing opportunity for smaller companies to build a benefits and reward structure which can help grow their employer brand.

Recommended ideas and actions to take

  1. Benchmark your benefits. Do competitor organisations have more attractive schemes in place?
  2. Ask your employees and profile your staff. There is no one size fits all solution. People's priorities will vary depending on where they are in life. Look at a profile of your workforce and survey your employees to ask what they would most appreciate.
  3. Align to company values. Consider what your benefits, rewards and incentives need to achieve for your business and how they can be aligned to your business goals and to bring your company values to life.
  4. Budget and prioritise. With Auto Enrolment, pension contributions will make up a significant part of your benefits package. However, additional benefits like life cover, income protection, critical illness, cash plans and discount clubs can be secured for a small percentage of the payroll.
  5. Check for the best provision. The market for employee benefits, the technology and supporting services are constantly evolving, so don't miss out! For example, virtual GP services where employees can quickly secure an online appointment, can be a must have.
  6. Regular reviews. It goes without saying that people's needs and wants will change. For example, a recent survey by Sodexo revealed that millennials would rather receive experiential rewards over financial gifts.
  7. Ongoing reward and recognition. Instead of focussing on rewarding staff on an annual basis, or during performance reviews, look for innovative ways to thank, praise or reward employees throughout the year.
  8. Engage expert support. Developing a relationship with an Employee Benefits Consultancy will help you through these steps and to benchmark your benefits, prioritise and establish a suitable budget.

Appendix and resources

  • Becketts Financial Services is a Chartered and award-winning firm of Financial Advisers based in in Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich. They have a strong, specialist team of Employee Benefit Consultants who can guide you through the right steps for your organisation and deliver an employee benefits programme that is valued by your people and reflects your organisation's values. If you would like further information please contact Austin Brydon on 01284 773767 or email austin.brydon@beckettinvest.com.
  • Read the previous Pillar of Engagement article on values and purpose
  • Check if it is time to review your approach to employee reward and recognition with this blog post by professional recruitment specialists Pure, founders of Best Employers Eastern Region
  • Read more about applying Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to employee engagement with this online article
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Develop your managers

Develop your managers to maximise employee engagement

For many employees, their manager is the embodiment of their organisation and its culture. That's why I'm always fascinated when people invest time and effort in developing their professional knowledge, skills, qualifications and experience, and yet question whether to invest in developing their management skills. Whether they are scientists, engineers or accountants, most professionals develop their career through a professional route. Success in their professional area then leads them to progress to a manager role. At which point, they are given the responsibility of managing a resource which is hugely important to the business, especially with many employers saying people are their most valuable asset.

Despite this, very few professional disciplines include people management as part of their professional development schemes. There is a myth that being successful in your profession automatically equips you for management. In my experience very few people are born with the ability to lead and manage. Most managers have learnt to manage their people by trial and error, watching what other people do, or by doing what they have seen their own managers doing. A lucky few have had the benefit of formal management training and often they are the much more effective managers as a result!

Managing people is not the same as managing a project or a system. People are complex, they have minds of their own and they can get up and leave if they do not feel they are being managed well. We have all heard the maxim that people join organisations and leave managers! Research on employee engagement shows that most people want to feel that they are making a difference in their role, that they are being challenged and that they have the opportunity to learn and develop. They also want to feel valued and appreciated by their organisation and supported to do a good job. A person's relationship with their manager is a key factor in achieving all of this.

If people are managed well, and developed, they have the potential to become even more valuable to the business. Therefore to maximise employee engagement in your organisation, developing your managers is a very sound investment. In my view, it is essential. Ideally, invest in them prior to promotion, or as soon as they are in the role, so they can benefit from support before they start to develop 'bad habits' which are often difficult to unlearn!

Why does it matter?

Good managers engage their people, they have the confidence and skills to tackle people problems before they become too tricky, and they develop people so that they become even more valuable to the business. Good managers mean people want to stay working for their organisation; because they are appreciated, they are developing their careers and they have a great boss! Good managers develop employees who are confident to take responsibility, to be accountable for their actions and to deliver high performance for the business. The more sophisticated your managers, the more they will be able to contribute to a high performance and inclusive culture. A culture where people feel valued and appreciated for who they are and what they bring to the business.

There are a number of key skills that managers need to be successful. For example, before they can coach effectively, they need to learn to listen well. Before they can manage a poor performance situation, they need the confidence to give and receive feedback. Before they can delegate effectively, they need to be able to define the task, assess the risks, decide on the skills, knowledge and standard needed, and then possess the ability to communicate what is expected. Managers without these delegation skills are more likely to try and do things themselves, believing it to be the quicker option. Unfortunately, whilst this might feel expedient in the short term, it causes longer term problems. Managers get overloaded, staff don't develop the skills they need and the cycle continues.

If you want your business to be successful, and you genuinely value your people, you can demonstrate this by investing in your managers and supporting them to develop the skills and confidence needed to manage people well. This is a win / win situation. Managers benefit from feeling more confident to do their jobs and staff benefit from being managed better and are consequently more engaged. In turn, the business benefits from higher productivity levels which come from having more engaged employees and a reduced staff turnover. It's a no brainer in my opinion!

Recommended ideas and actions

  • Look for potential development opportunities. How well do you feel your managers are managing your people now? What do your engagement survey results or exit interviews tell you?
  • Encourage managers to practice. Managing people is a skill and people need to practice before they can deploy skills confidently and competently. How can your managers practice? Do they reflect on their experiences or ask for feedback?
  • Introduce a mentor scheme. If your senior managers are good role models of the leadership and management skills you want others to develop, consider setting up management mentoring programme. Your senior managers can act as learning buddies and mentors for less experienced managers.
  • Give managers a safe space to practice. People often know the theory of management but do not have the skills or the confidence to put it into practice. Skill development takes practice, repetition and feedback. You need to be able to have a go, fail and have another go before you can improve and develop a skill. Our People & Performance development programmes provide mangers with both the safe space and the time to practice their skills.
  • Invest in supporting managers to develop their emotional intelligence. The most effective managers really know their people and take a personal interest in them. This is often because they have been given the opportunity to develop their own self-awareness and emotional intelligence as part of a management / leadership programme. This helps people to understand how they see the world, what is important to them and most significantly that not everyone is like them!
  • Start internal discussion groups. Consider introducing a 'book club' where managers commit to reading a leadership book or watching a Ted Talk and then discussing this over a coffee or lunch. The real benefit comes from people committing to try something new as a result. When you next meet, start the discussion by talking about what management approaches people have been experimenting with since the last discussion.

Appendix and other useful resources

  • This article was written by Christina Youell, Director at People & Performance which comprises a team of professional coaches, facilitators and organisational development consultants. Christina works in partnership with Lynn Walters Executive Director at Pure, to develop and deliver Executive coaching and leadership programmes. For an informal chat about your organisation's needs and how we can help, contact Lynn.walters@prs.uk.com or call 01223 666455.
  • Read more about the development programmes provided by professional recruitment specialists Pure, founders of Best Employers Eastern Region, including the Board Ready Talent Scheme and Women's Leadership Programme
  • Gain book club inspiration with this article on “10 books that will give new managers the self-confidence necessary to lead, motivate, and inspire their team”. Books include:
    • Leaders Eat Last – Why some teams pull together and others don't, Simon Sinek
    • The Rules of Management, Richard Templar
    • Everything I need to know about being a manager I learned from my kids, Ian Durston
    • First Break All the Rules, Marcus Buckingham
    • Becoming a Better Boss: Why Good Management Is So Difficult, Julian Birkinshaw
    • Why Should Anyone Be Led By You? Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones
    • Act like a Leader, Think like a Leader, Herminia Ibarra
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Health and wellness

Creating a workplace culture that's good for mental health and great for employee engagement

Good mental health is founded on the avoidance of stress. And stress is not random. It arises because one or more of our physical or emotional needs are not being met. Just as we all have physical needs for the likes of food, drink, sleep and movement, we also have emotional needs that must be met to avoid stress. Considering how much time we spend in the workplace, this environment has the potential to either help or hinder our chances of meeting these needs.

Employers committed to supporting the fulfilment of people's emotional needs, and to addressing any barriers, will go a long way to preventing stress and mental ill health from occurring in the workplace. Not only that, by creating a culture which enables people to have their needs met, they will also support the overall development of healthy, engaged and highly motivated staff.

The emotional needs that must be met to avoid stress, and therefore prevent mental ill health, are:

  • Control or autonomy over our lives, the design of our work, targets and objectives
  • Community or a feeling of being part of something bigger than ourselves
  • Respect or status, which means feeling valued, receiving concrete feedback on our contribution to those communities we are part of, and feeling recognised for what we do
  • Security, feeling safe at home and secure in our jobs at work
  • Achievement, being stretched or challenged, which is different to being stressed
  • Emotional connections, having people who accept us, warts and all, for who we are
  • Attention, both giving and receiving the right amount
  • Privacy, being able to get time away from life's modern distractions, to calm down and to reflect
  • Meaning and purpose, being able to see how we are contributing to the wider world, feeling like there's a point to getting out of bed and coming to work.

If you take a workplace where people are told what to do, and where employees are not given much freedom to be creative and to find their own solutions to challenges, stress could be caused by the emotional need for control not being met. Similarly, an open plan office could make employees feel there is nowhere to temporarily get away from colleagues, reducing the chances of fulfilling their emotional need for privacy.

Whereas a workplace with a great culture for supporting mental health and emotional wellbeing is one where everyone can see the relationship between their job and the overall meaning and purpose of the organisation. Employees will feel they have high levels of control and enjoy a great sense of community. It will be a business where people predominately go home on time, not staying late each night, challenging their emotional connections with people outside of work. But, during particularly busy times, employees will all pull together and help each other out, working late occasionally because they want to, rather than because they are scared of not doing so.

In short, a great workplace culture for health and wellbeing comes from an environment which enables people to meet their emotional needs in healthy ways; leading to motivated, committed and engaged employees.

Why does it matter?

Statistically, one in four of us, in any given year, will become stressed and then unwell with a mild or moderate mental health condition such as low-level depression, anxiety, insomnia or anger management issues.

Research by Deloitte for its 'Mental health and employers: The case for investment' report estimated that poor mental health costs UK employers between £33bn and £42bn each year. This cost to business is not just due to employees taking time off, or generated by increased employee turnover, but also by presenteeism. Defined for the Deloitte report as 'attending work while ill, in this case with poor mental health, and working at reduced productivity' it is estimated that mental health related presenteeism costs employers up to three times more than mental health absence.

However, the positive findings of the report showed that employers who took a proactive approach to developing mentally healthy workplace cultures, and those which provided support at an earlier, preventative stage of the employee journey, delivered a better average return on investment. A proactive approach to creating a mentally healthy workplace culture showed a return on investment of 8:1. This compared with 5:1 for more reactive support such as making counselling available through occupational health. The report authors believe the return on investment for creating positive cultural changes around mental health and emotional wellbeing is actually even higher than that, but 8:1 is all they can prove for the moment. This shouldn't surprise anyone. Not only do we reduce sickness and absence rates when we create a culture which is good for mental health, we are also improving performance, increasing motivation and engagement, and tackling presenteeism as well.

Recommended ideas or actions to take

As the Deloitte research showed, the best way to create workplaces which are truly good for mental health, and in turn truly engaging for employees, is to take a proactive approach. While more reactive support, such as counselling is important, and can help many people, taking proactive steps will help to achieve a genuine culture change across the organisation.

It can be difficult to know where to begin when it comes to creating an environment which supports good mental health and which meets people's physical and emotional needs in healthy ways. There are plenty of free or low-cost resources out there, for example through the Chamber of Commerce, the County Council's Public Health website, or through various national charities and organisations. For example, Suffolk Mind can help organisations to get started with its Wellbeing Performance programme. This begins with an emotional needs audit to measure how well employee needs are being met across a business and includes a Wellbeing Culture Workshop to help develop the leadership team's understanding of what an emotionally healthy organisation looks like. Fire Security Ltd in Haverhill successfully used Suffolk Mind's Wellbeing Performance programme to gather the information it needed to make positive changes. Based on its initial audit findings which showed that privacy, community and control needed a boost, and that some employees didn't always feel valued, the company took a number of measures to help address these unmet needs. The changes were not excessive or expensive, but still made a big impact. They included clearer job descriptions, better targets, increased holiday allowance and the introduction of an affordable private health care scheme. It also created better breakout facilities to encourage greater community working. As a result, Fire Security Ltd benefitted from sickness and absence rates halved in the first year of the project.

Appendix and resources

  • Understand your employees' wellbeing by taking part in the Best Employers 2020 survey.
  • Visit the Suffolk Mind website to find out more about the support available to organisations of all shapes and sizes.
  • Read the full report by Deloitte on 'Mental health and employers: The case for investment'.
  • Follow Jon Neal, Chief Executive of Suffolk Mind on Twitter (@jonneal_uk) for regular insights and updates on the mental health agenda.
  • Email workplacewellbeing@suffolkmind.org.uk or call 01284 338811 for more information about Suffolk Mind's Wellbeing Performance programme.
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Teamwork and giving back

Why is Teamwork and giving back important for employee engagement?

Teamwork and healthy workplace relationships are integral to any successful business. Connections at work boost employee satisfaction, increase engagement and help employees to feel like they are a part of something greater.

As well as providing an obvious benefit to those in need, giving back is equally instrumental in boosting employee engagement. In addition to helping to underscore the values of an organisation, collective social responsibility (CSR) also introduces an element of human connection to the purpose of life in the workplace. Not only are CSR days a great way of team-building and for improving relationships with colleagues across other departments, but by encouraging staff to use the skills and energies they possess beyond the scope of their day job, employees feel more invested in the environment in which they live and work. Additionally, when company values correspond with their own, individuals will often go well above and beyond what is expected of them. Expressions of ethical principles can also act as a draw for fresh talent to the organisation, easing the challenges of recruitment.

Put simply, when an employee feels that their contribution is significant and meaningful, and makes a difference beyond the confines of their workplace, they often bring renewed energy in to their day to day endeavours. This then encourages a feeling of pride in their organisation, imbuing employees with a sense of identity and accountability. This feeling of connection means that employees are more likely to pledge their loyalty to the organisation.

As a result, companies that facilitate opportunities in the workplace (and beyond) for employees to make meaningful connections through teamwork lead the pack for productivity. At Birketts, we encourage staff to take an active involvement in projects benefiting the community in which we live and work. All staff are entitled to take one day a year to participate in a community project and our employees have taken part in a variety of events including Walking with the Wounded and the Chelmsford Dragon Boat Race.

Why does teamwork and giving back matter?

The biggest motivator for employers and employees alike is a sense of purpose. If a company has a clear culture, ethos and mission, this unites all staff in the same goal. As long as the purpose is authentic and compelling, it will engage all levels of an organisation. This is where something like collective social responsibility comes in – a 'good cause' which brings people together. At Birketts we regularly see the positive effects of CSR first hand –modest opportunities like painting a community centre hall in Saxmundham serve to bring together employees of all levels whose paths would otherwise rarely cross.

Collective social responsibility also gives staff a sense of higher purpose and creates a sense of achievement. For most people, contributing to a charitable cause falls in line with their personal values, therefore increasing their engagement with their work life. It helps to promote meaningfulness, boosts self-esteem and inspires a feeling of belonging. When staff identify with the values upheld in the workplace, their contribution to the company is likely to increase and the likelihood of absenteeism is reduced. Further opportunities to boost morale can come from external recognition (press) and internal recognition. Birketts issues a regular internal CSR newsletter featuring articles penned by volunteers, detailing the initiatives that they have been involved in. This not only facilitates ownership over charitable projects, but provides a platform for recognition.

Teamwork matters because companies where friendships are common perform better. Having positive working relationships makes employees more enthusiastic about their work and leads to a higher sense of satisfaction and deeper engagement. At a practical level, teamwork also fosters better behaviours. When there is a wider pool of knowledge to draw from, tricky projects are more likely to be efficiently dealt with. Content employees with a healthy approach to teamwork, also communicate better, support each other and share their workloads more effectively.

Recommended ideas and actions

  • Practice what you preach. When there is alignment between the values you hold and the actions you take, it promotes trustworthiness and encourages connection – employees can clearly see how their efforts contribute to a bigger picture and feel positively about the organisation they work for. At Birketts, we don't limit ourselves to giving legal advice. We are proud to provide financial backing to deserving causes, having donated £200k to local charities, cultural and community projects (2018/2019) through our staff committee.
  • Develop a plan for strategic alignment which will enable you to clearly define your organisation's mission, vision and values. Identify opportunities for teamwork by reaching out to local communities and charitable organisations that you feel are a good fit with your values. Project leaders should be identified across the organisation at all levels. It is worth noting that encouraging diversity within project ownership often makes the organisation more resilient as a whole. Also ensure your suppliers and partners help further your values rather than conflict with them.
  • Undertake regular reviews and don't be afraid to innovate. Survey your workforce on what they value. Actively promoting a positive and healthy working environment which balances a rewarding career with a chance to take part in enriching and fulfilling activities (such as volunteering) is the key.
  • Budget doesn't mean bust. Philanthropic engagement is an easy and cost-effective approach to creating extra opportunities for teamwork amongst your workforce. CSR days, mentoring, involvement in voluntary organisations, participation in local pro-bono initiatives, organisation wide collections (such as foodbanks or clothing donations), environmental projects, and diversity initiatives are invaluable for bringing an organisation together at all levels. It isn't about the amount of money raised but about the number of people who become involved in these events. Organisations can do their part by emphasising the significance, as well as the satisfaction, of participating in CSR days. When staff are encouraged to recognise the importance of taking a direct stance to support the community in which they work, teamwork is encouraged and both community and company flourish. At Birketts, we take pride in participating in fundraising events like the annual Benjamin Foundation Sleep Out initiative, where employees in our Norwich and Ipswich offices spend the night outside in support of homeless youth.
  • Create opportunities. Supporting good causes feeds our human desire to contribute to something greater and speaks to an individual's humanity. Empowering employees to generate their own leads and pursue their own ideas for supporting charitable, cultural and community projects can bring a whole new facet to working life. CSR days can be both motivational and inspirational, giving employees a chance to gain recognition outside of their work life, socialise and make a positive contribution. As well as CSR days, Birketts encourages its staff to put their legal skills to good use as part of more sustained projects, for example by offering their professional services to locally based charities, not for profit groups and the voluntary sector, free of charge.

Appendix and resources

  • Take inspiration from Deloitte's survey and find out what your employees really value.
  • Visit How Millenials want to work and live to get an idea of what your workforce really wants.
  • Check out how the trend for social enterprise set to shape the future of the workplace.
  • Birketts is a full service, top 100 UK law firm, based in the East of England, with offices in Cambridge, Chelmsford, Ipswich and Norwich. This article was written by Alexa Downing, Marketing Communications Executive, Birketts LLP. For more information contact Alexa-Downing@birketts.co.uk , and read Birketts 18/19 Financial Year Annual Review for examples of teamwork activities.
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Workspace and Environment

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Why does it matter...

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Actions to take...

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Appendix and resources

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Creating well-defined roles

How can the creation of well-defined roles support employee engagement?

When analytics company Gallup explored what aspects of people's work lives were the biggest drivers of their performance and engagement, the statement which came out on top was simply: 'I know what is expected of me at work'.

How this has changed, within our new world of remote working and self-isolation, remains to be seen. However, employee engagement is even more important at times like these as it centres around people feeling fully connected to their role and to their organisation, and for that connection to be established people need to be completely clear about what is expected of them. A welldefined role gives employees a feeling of confidence and security that they know what they need to do and clarity on what is expected of them. They know what success looks like - as an individual, as part of a team and for the business as a whole.

The creation of a well-defined role goes beyond just expected tasks and outcomes. It also encompasses the 'how' behind the role by aligning job descriptions to the company's values and the expected behaviours that make up the organisation's culture. Perhaps even more importantly, it will also set out the 'why' behind the role, so employees understand what the organisation's purpose is, the reason why it exists, and the part they can play in achieving its vision. Leadership expert Simon Sinek is passionate about companies having a clear purpose and being able to share with employees 'why' something matters to help drive employee engagement. This is further supported by Gallup's research, which included - 'The mission or purpose of the company makes me feel my job is important,' in its top 12 statements of workplace engagement.

Clarifying expectations gives employees a clear framework from which they can judge how and where they can exceed expectations and allows them to recognise when to feel justifiably proud for going above and beyond. Employee autonomy is strengthened through the ability to make informed decisions, based on knowing what exactly what they need to achieve and the behaviours expected of them. People are also much more likely to recognise when they might need extra help, resources or training, and can ask for support before mistakes happen or delays occur.

The Gallup research also highlighted how regular recognition for doing good work and having someone who encourages your development are further drivers of engagement. These are both elements which most commonly fall to managers to deliver. If everyone in the organisation has a well-defined role, managers will have clarity on what is expected of those in their team. They will be more equipped to provide regular, fair and consistent feedback and able to identify opportunities for individual or team recognition. They will also be more likely to spot where people may need support and more able to pinpoint and encourage those ready to progress.

Why does it matter?

Ambiguity about roles and responsibilities can fuel a culture of fear and insecurity. It is extremely difficult to feel safe and secure in your job if you have doubts about what you are meant to be doing and whether people think you are doing a good job. Employees are likely to be distracted by worries about potential negative feedback and questions on their performance. They may take on too much and spread themselves too thinly, or not realise what else they could be doing to progress and make a difference. They are likely to lack the confidence they need to manage their workload effectively as they won't be able to make informed decisions on what should be prioritised.

Creating a well-defined role gives employees clarity on what a good job looks like, an understanding of what tasks are their direct responsibility and the confidence to know when they are performing well. It enables them to recognise and celebrate achieving success as an individual and as part of team, which in turn encourages employees to go the extra mile and enhances their commitment and loyalty to the organisation.

From an employer perspective, well-defined roles enable individual responsibilities to be aligned to company-wide goals and ensures a commitment to meeting these expectations. Keeping these at the forefront of your employees minds, in our self isolating world, will fuel productivity and engagement by creating teams where everyone recognises how their role plays a part in achieving success and also how they can support their colleagues. The Gallup research showed that the employees who could most positively answer the number one engagement statement of 'I know what is expected of me at work' were most likely to come from productive teams.

Recommended ideas or actions to take

  1. Create full job descriptions. Check whether your company's job descriptions include a clear outline of the aims, responsibilities and key priorities of each role. Include details of expected outcomes required, of how success will be measured and about how performance will be reviewed and feedback given. Give examples of what success in the role will look like and consider setting KPIs.
  2. Clarify company values and expected behaviours. Make sure employees understand how the company values align with their job description and the behaviours expected of them. For example, include a reference to employees focussing on delivering 'quality', 'integrity' and 'clear communication' if these are examples of the values of your business.
  3. Reinforce clarity. Keep the 'how' and 'why' at the forefront of people's minds with materials that further clarify what is expected of them and which share examples of best practice. For example, here at Pure we have our own 'Pure book' which is given to all colleagues and sets out more about our company's vision, our six company values and our higher purpose. We also use Jostle as our company intranet platform. This has given us a central portal to recognise and reward colleagues for exceeding expectations and for making a difference by living and breathing our company values. Platforms such as Jostle can also provide businesses with tools and advice on creating effective job descriptions.
  4. Set employee goals and targets. Give clarity to employees on what is expected of them by setting goals and targets for both the short and the long term. Set shared expectations that these, and the individual's role, will be reviewed on at least a quarterly basis. Make sure the employee is clear what they will be measured on and look for ways to include the company values as measures for recognising good performance and celebrating success.
  5. Give regular feedback. Make sure feedback is given regularly and is not just confined to official staff reviews. Support managers with any training, coaching and guidance they need to provide both formal and informal feedback on a regular basis. Equip them with the skills they will need to effectively acknowledge good work, set employee goals, provide ongoing support and feedback, and to carry out staff reviews.

Appendix and resources

  • Read more from Gill Buchanan, COO at Pure, with this article on how company values can support employee engagement and provide opportunities to measure success.
  • Read this article about Gallup's research which resulted in the top 12 statements ofemployee engagement.
  • Watch this video by Leadership expert Simon Sinek about the importance of company purpose and giving employees a reason as to 'why' work matters
  • Understand how connected your employees feel to their role and their understanding of the company's vision, values and purpose by taking part in the Best Employers 2020 survey.

Workspace and environment

How improving your organisation’s work environment can boost employee engagement and productivity

Studies show that employees who are happy in their work environments are more productive, less likely to leave and also take less time off sick. And giving them some control over how, when and where they work – for example being able to work from home some days, choose where they sit when they’re in the office or go to private areas or breakout spaces if they need to – also boosts engagement.

Why does it matter

It’s pretty simple – happier employees mean better results. And one easy way you can make your office-based staff happier is by giving them a nice place to work, or letting them do it from their own home (or somewhere else entirely, like a local café, park or library). One good thing that’s come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it’s proved to us that with the right tech, people can, and will, work productively from places other than traditional offices. Organisations no longer need staff to sit at a fixed, on-site desk from 9 to 5.30 – they can provide better work environments by giving their people the choice to work at home or in the office (for example when they need face-to-face time with managers or team-mates). And when they do need to come in to work, more and more employers are providing multi-functional spaces that work in both new and traditional ways.

This new attitude to office space is something that Saffron Housing Trust – a not-for-profit housing association providing homes and services to people in Norfolk and Suffolk – has whole-heartedly embraced. Employing 226 people working in various locations but with two main office hubs, they’d been thinking about making some changes to their traditional office-based workplace to improve employee engagement for a while. Their premises were tired and needed renovating, and they were looking to bring people together in one office rather than scattered across different sites. People weren’t using existing shared spaces – in fact, they were only using around 50% of the available desk space. Then the pandemic hit and the offices were closed. The outbreak meant they had to accelerate their plans for change, and bring in new flexible ways of working.

What happened next?

Saffron started by rolling out Microsoft Teams, which they did in just a week. This meant their workers could join meetings from home or even while out on the road. They also decided to consolidate their office space to one main site. The original plan was for 98 desks, but the pandemic made them realise they didn’t need so many people to be on site, every day. So they now have 28 hot desks – no one has their own anymore – which they’re using to create better collaboration between different departments.

By surveying their staff to find out what they wanted from their work environment, and with the help of Claremont, a workplace consultancy, Saffron went on to create comfortable spaces for different purposes. These included meeting booths, standing and team tables, quiet areas, lounge space and casual seating, as well as traditional meeting rooms. And they used natural light throughout alongside pale colours and furnishings that inspire and invite people in. They also included a big open space for when whole teams need to physically be in the office together – something they previously would have hired an outside venue for.

The future

Saffron are trusting their teams and line managers to decide who comes into the office and when, and to define their own working patterns. They understand the importance of staff coming together, whether that be for team meetings or just for face-to-face social interaction with others.

Recommended ideas or actions to take

Changing your workspace and environment isn’t something you should undertake lightly. You’ll need to do your research, and plan carefully.

  1. Decide what kind of culture you want to create. For example, if you’re looking to encourage more collaboration between teams, they you might want to consider hot desking or breakout spaces where they can get together. Or if you’re looking for more creativity, then let people take time away from the office through remote working to inspire new ideas – it’s amazing what a change of scenery can do.
  2. Talk to your staff and stakeholders. Find out how they use the current space, and what they’d like in an ideal world. Engaging them in the process will help any naysayers get on board as well. You could also talk to a workplace consultancy for professional advice and ideas on ways to improve your existing space.
  3. Plan your space. How many people are you likely to need to accommodate each day? And what if your company starts to grow? It shouldn’t just be about desk space either – remember to include areas for meetings and recreation.
  4. Don’t dismiss working from home. The pandemic has shown us that working from home means that people are just as productive – if not more so – than if they go to an office every day. It eliminates the stresses of commuting, and saves businesses money in rent and bills. And it helps people improve their work-life balance, which means happier and more productive employees.
  5. Remember the little things. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a refurbishment to improve your workspace and increase engagement. At the very least make sure the office is clean and that you’re keeping on top of general maintenance and repairs. Invest in things like plants, decent furnishings and decoration, and quality office equipment (standing desks are a good idea too). Give people free hot drinks and snacks. If you’ve got a bit more budget consider spending it on good lighting and ventilation, and cutting down n noise pollution.

Appendix and resources

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How improving communication leads to happier employees and improved engagement

We all know the importance of open and honest communication in our personal lives. But some employers forget how important it is to avoid leaving their employees in the dark about aspects of their business or future plans. Doing that can lead to low employee engagement and, worse still, people losing faith in the company they work for.

Why does it matter?

It’s pretty simple – open communication creates trust. And this leads to a well-connected, supported and engaged workforce. As recruitmentconsultant Pure’s a COO and founder, Gill Buchanan puts it: ‘Communication encourages best practice, improves morale and wellbeing, and supports engagement within an organisation.’

How can communication drive employee engagement?

To answer this, we’ve been speaking to Fountain, a digital growth consultancy based in Norwich. Open communication is something that’s always played an important role there. But the sudden shift to remote working during the pandemic really brought it to the fore.

‘We’d been using Slack as an internal communication tool for several years,’ says Rebecca Lewis Smith, Co-founder and Director. ‘But the pandemicmade it absolutely central for both work and social interactions.’ Fountain’s leadership team also understood the importance of being open and honest with their employees. So they organised regular video updates for the whole team – because they knew that being kept informed about the company’s progress would help people navigate through uncertain times.

Pure did something similar, making sure all of their people – whether they were furloughed or not – got regular updates about the company.‘We wanted to make sure everyone felt included in any successes and part of the team, and were engaged with the company as a whole,’ says Gill. So they created a newsletter with information about what people were doing on furlough (like volunteering, childcare, DIY and lots of baking) alongside details of what was going on in the business. That meant everyone knew about Pure’s successes and could also stay on top of key trends.

Communication during the pandemic wasn’t just about news filtering from the top down either. Fountain wanted to make sure their employees felt able to let them know if they were struggling. The company could then take steps to ease work pressure and increase wellbeing checks. ‘Transparency is at the heart of how we do our work and communicate with our clients,’ Rebecca told us. ‘So setting this as the standard internally was very much in line with our values. Our aim is to always talk to our employees with honesty, transparency, care and vulnerability. And we encourage them to do the same with us.’ Pure organised regular one-to-one check-ins for people with their line managers using Microsoft Teams. And they also added more informal catch-ups with other people in the business too – an important team-building tool.

Slack allows businesses to set up channels for teams, projects and collaboration groups, etc. But Fountain have gone one step further and also use this to create non-work channels. Like #smallnicethings, where Fountaineers can share things that have made them smile during their working day. And while this might seem frivolous to more traditional employers (or worse, a waste of work time and resources), these channels play an incrediblyimportant role in maintaining and building connection between colleagues, whether they’re in the office or working from home – something else thatincreases engagement.

Pure also understand the importance of encouraging communication about things other than work. Gill says: ‘It’s important to treat formal and informal communication (i.e. more fun activities) as equally important. During the pandemic we had virtual gatherings including race nights, exercise classes and even cocktail making.’

Recommended ideas and actions to take

Every company is different. But openness and honesty are something that surely all employers will want to encourage both from and to their people. Hereare some ways you can do just that.

  1. Encourage coaching and mentoring. If you’ve got the people power, think about assigning every employee someone they can regularly meetwith (whether that’s face-to-face or virtually) to be a sounding board for any issues they want to discuss. The coach can also check in on theirwellbeing. Fountain do this with coaches meeting their coachees twice a month. After a session the coach fills in a simple form making a note ofany actions they’ve agreed, and also giving a wellbeing score for that day. This gives the company a map of wellbeing across the agency, and helpsthem decide whether to take action to help an individual, a team or everyone at the same time. Back to Rebecca: ‘This regular one-to-one communicationhas made a big difference to how in touch and supported our colleagues feel. It’s also helped us have ongoing conversations about developing new skills and bringing in innovative approaches.’
  2. Embrace technology. Even if you don’t have much budget to spare, there are lots of different types of tech out there which can help you up your communication game. For example, there’s a free version of Slack which still has lots of features. And while we’re starting to get back into the office, don’t forget about video-calling – regular company updates from leaders over Zoom or Teams can be a great way to let people know about challenges or opportunities your company is facing without having to organise a big face-to-face. As Rebecca points out, video brings ‘the human side that can so easily be lost if messages are only conveyed in writing’. At Pure we use Jostle, an interactive intranet that’s also available as a mobile phone app – so it’s really easy to access.
  3. Gather feedback. Ask your people how they’re feeling about specific projects, future plans, challenges… anything you think it would be useful for you to know about. This is another area where technology can help – Google Forms is just one online surveying tool you can use to easily gather feedback from your team. If you’d rather get some human help with this, eras ltd can help – they offer an online survey and psychometric platform specifically to support organisations with people solutions. And you might also want to look into the Best Employers survey 2023 – it’s a great tool for understanding culture and engagement in the workplace.
  4. It’s not all about the results though.Just the action of gathering feedback creates an atmosphere of openness. And that will help people feel comfortable letting management know if something isn’t working or there’s a way to do it better.
  5. Don’t dismiss the ‘frivolous A good work-life balance is a big part of successful employee engagement. Letting your people use work channels foractivities that aren’t directly related to their jobs can contribute to this. Less serious communication – whether that’s people sharing good news or funny stories from outside work, or even just a silly GIF now and then – helps them connect with each other emotionally and improves collaboration. And that can only mean good things for their working relationships.
  6. Appendix and resources

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