employee engagementInternal communications

Coffee time with… Glenn Elliott, employee engagement expert

By February 14, 2018 No Comments
Glenn Elliott Reward Gateway The Rebel Playbook

The fine art of managing employees is nothing new for Glenn Elliott. The former CEO has built multi-million pound businesses on the premise of “making the world a happier place to work” ­– and his latest book with HR expert Debra Corey ‘Build It: The Rebel Playbook for World Class Employee Engagement’ provides tips on how to build strong company cultures. He filled us in on why companies are getting it wrong with their staff, and why effective communications can help them get it right.

What is making employee engagement more important than ever before?

Connectivity and communication:  it just allows companies to move faster than they did before. Essentially, you’ve got the economy moving just as fast, so you’ve got your competitors innovating faster. You basically cannot afford to not have your staff on your side. That’s what employee disengagement means.

If you look at all of the stats, the average is about 30 per cent of people that are engaged. That means 70 per cent of people are basically plodding through the day, doing just enough, but no more. The problem with that is, in a fast-paced economy, one of your competitors won’t be doing that. They’ll be having a really highly engaged workforce moving faster.

Your new book looks at the key factors for driving employment engagement. What are they?

 One of the mistakes to say is, ‘my staff are disengaged, what should I do to them?’, when actually, it’s the company’s behaviour that is disengaging. People generally get all excited when they’ve got a new job. Then unfortunately, 18 months later, they’re kind of feeling a bit flat and looking for their next job. Then we complain that we have a retention issue but the truth is, we didn’t create a great place to work.

At my company Reward Gateway, we’ve spent the last years working on that and we’ve built a model called The Engagement Bridge. It’s the 10 parts of your relationship with your people that you need to consider when thinking about engagement. It’s not a prescribed formula; it’s a lens to look at your business through. There’s 13 strategies in the book and there’s a chapter for each section of the bridge.

Where does content play into the techniques and tools you’re proposing?

Open and honest communication is critical. It’s basically a philosophy of defaulting to transparency, investing the time to explain why the company is doing things, and working really hard to creating an environment where people can speak up and speak their minds.

With content, that’s interesting because the bigger a business gets, the easier it is to hit problems with social cohesion. When you’re a small team and you’re all in one room, you kind of have good social cohesion. But if you don’t invest in social cohesion, those relationships start becoming really stark.

You have to facilitate it – so when new people joined (Reward Gateway), after a couple of months when they’re comfortable, they might record a one or two-minute video about themselves – nothing to do with work.  We always posted those on our intranet so you can kind of get to know people.

I also had a full-time staff photographer. His job was to take pictures of our people and our clients at events and everywhere else. And now we have this massive library of 25,000 photos of all of our people. We’ll be using that photography and that content to tell the story of what they’re doing and promote the work in that department. We can also use content to help build those relationships and help people be seen.

In what ways has the rise of social media helped internal company cultures?

It’s helped hugely. When I’m talking to leaders or chief execs they think that social media has made it harder because there’s all these platforms (to manage). They just need to get over that. We’ve used Facebook Video Live often. It cost nothing. We’ve got our internal comms channel – a big intranet on Boom. We also have a closed Facebook channel called Boom for RG people.

Finally, from a comms perspective, we want to help HR people find a comfortable way to say what needs to be said in their organisations. But what advice would you give to HR departments that don’t want to be rebels?

They have to be brave. The payback you get in trust from building transparency is incredible. It makes your organisation run smoother and faster, and you start to feel it really, really quickly. But, the downsides are far more manageable than the costs of mistrust and misinformation. The key reason why people are disengaged at work is because (I feel) companies tend to lie to them through under-communicating, misinformation and not really telling the truth. And HR people are the masters of writing one thing when they really mean another. At the end of the day, normal corporate and HR business practice is disengaging. We have to rebel against it or we are not going to make any difference.

Build It: The Rebel Playbook for World Class Employee Engagement is out 23 February on John Wiley & Sons. 

For more tips on using content for your organisation, sign up to our free webinar on 21st February.

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