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Employee engagement task force

It was great to see that the Prime Minister is personally backing the work of a new task force on employee engagement.

The new group, led by David MacLeod, has a remit to “ensure that a range of practical opportunities are made available for organisations wanting to learn about engagement. It will share good practice, generate debate and offer support via a new website”.

This is a major step forward in the engagement movement as it is still largely misunderstood and undervalued by most managers.

So it was no surprise to see that the press release issued by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, includes a lot of talk about the need to continue to spread the message. However, the message seems a bit mixed. For example, David Cameron emphasises engagement and growth, with Employment Relations Minister Edward Davey arguing that, ”it’s right the private sector should lead this taskforce”. This implies that, as engagement is now all about growth, it does not apply to the public sector. However, Nita Clarke ignores the growth point and suggests that instead it is the way that the workforce “is positively encouraged to perform at its best” that is key. Interestingly, MacLeod talks about engagement leading to ‘better for less’ in the public sector, something that would seem to be equally important as private sector growth.

The emphasis on private sector leadership and membership of the task force is compounded by the heavy orientation towards the HR profession; thirteen members are HR directors and only two are communication professionals. This flies in the face of evidence from the earlier MacLeod and Clarke report and a CIPD report that found that the three main factors that influence employee engagement are:

– Having opportunities to feed your views upwards
– Feeling well informed about what is happening in the organisation
– Thinking that your manager is committed to your organisation.

Given the obvious importance of internal communication for employee engagement, it is disappointing that people from the communication profession have been given a very minority voice on the task force. Is this indicative of the lack of voice the internal communication profession has in management, despite the good work that the CIPR is doing through a very active internal communication sector group? Maybe more communicators will be involved when further appointments are made to the task force. I hope so.

Despite these reservations about the message and task force membership, the new initiative is to be applauded. In times of austerity, employee engagement is more important than ever and it’s a good time to re-emphasise the benefits both to organisations and employees.

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