5 tips to build employee engagement


It is more than 10 years since the pioneering work of David MacLeod and Nita Clarke highlighted the gains to be achieved by securing the positive engagement of your workforce. In the intervening period, everyone from the CIPD to ACAS – and dozens more - have extolled the benefits of engagement as a means of gaining commitment and extracting discretionary effort from employees. The links with well-being, both physical and mental, are very strong.  

So why is it that so many organisations are yet to get this right? Research shows that positive Employment Engagement will:

• Boost Productivity

• Increase customer satisfaction

• Help retain your best people

• Enhance Company culture

So, what is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement is generally regarded as a workplace approach resulting in employees of an organisation giving their best each day, being committed to their organisation’s goals and values and motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being. Increases in productivity, customer relationships and satisfaction, in conjunction with reduced absence levels, can be evidenced by organisations which are serious about engagement; those which invest in making it happen, and which value the concept as both a key and explicit organisational objective.

However, those organisations in this highly positive arena are, sadly, it seems only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface many organisations ‘talk a good game’, or at least a good intent, but fail to put in place the foundations for effective engagement to prosper. 

How many organisations do you know (maybe even your own) that have tinkered with well-being events for staff, or introduced a set of values that have no strength or top-level support behind them? Could your average employee describe the neatly written Strategic Plan? Have you seen Employee Surveys undertaken, which have then failed to produce action plans of any worth? Or worse still, the results are used to construct a fallible narrative, in which “70% of staff think this is a good place to work”, whilst steering clear of that fact that only a small minority of staff believe the top team to be effective. I know I have. 

Re-engaging your team/workforce after COVID-19

It is no secret that when the UK re-opens for business, there will be an enormous task for leaders and managers in re-engaging and re-energising their people. Much of this will come down to what are often called “soft skills”, a label which sometimes dismisses their importance. I believe soft skills are really hard to get right, and those that do them well, stand out for the right reasons.

When I was in the ‘Corporate World’ I like to think I had a decent reputation for this set of attributes, so I thought I would capture some recent musings. Remember, your people are the beating heart of your business, so it’s never too early to think about any people strategy, and in this unprecedented environment, your people will look to you to lead the way.

The COVID-19 pandemic will have brought all sorts of pressures for your people. From having the kids home from school 24/7, to caring for - and maybe even losing - loved ones. People are stressed by COVID-19 and its consequences, and for many, the return to work will bring additional uncertainty and worry. You have to recognise that, so why not think about my top five tips outlined below.

My Top Five Tips for re-engaging your team:


Show you care about your people. Ask about their experiences, ask how they are coping and how their families are doing. Be openly caring – but be authentic. Ask yourself what they may have been through, and how might they be feeling?


Some have it more than others, but dig deep. Watch out for signs of stress – reacting to an issue like they would not have before; being too quiet and removed; getting easily upset. Allow your people some latitude – please don’t take the approach that they’ve had 6 weeks off, so what’s the issue (I know some who might, even when home-working has been involved!). 


Please, have some patience. Don’t be a bull-at-a-gate. You cannot drive your people to make up for lost time too quickly. Accept that your Rome won’t be re-built in a day, and that this will be okay.


Not the “make ‘em run up a mountain” sort – just organise some get-togethers, organise a couple of coffee hours where your team can come together and re-unite. Be part of the discussions – you will have had your experiences too, why not share them?


Like never before. Welcome everyone back, whether from furlough, homeworking, or just to normality again. Show empathy in what you write and say. Share plans to get things back on track and share the progress you make towards them. Highlight a couple of stories from within the team, people love a real-life account. Say THANKS, and then say it again.

So, there they are. The five essentials - in my opinion - that will get your people back to full scale productivity for the long term. Despite the enforced break, people engagement remains a marathon, not a sprint, so sustain it and don’t let it be a one-off.

Putting your people first is something that seems to be said constantly – but we have to get serious about doing it. Invest some top-level time and effort to find out what makes your workforce tick and what they would like their experience at work to look and feel like – then deliver against realistic promises which will make your people realise that you mean it. Now we are talking culture change! Happy engaging.

Robert Baker - Owner/Consultant, Afon HR

This blog is part of the Change Maker Blog series. The Change Maker programme is a series of blogs, podcasts and virtual learning sessions to help people and organisations to navigate through a time of unprecedented change. To find out how the Change Maker programme can help re-engage your teams, start the conversation with us or click here to find out more

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