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Employee engagement
Employee engagement

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3 The contemporary emphasis on employee engagement

It is perhaps in recognition of changes in people’s work and the growing emphasis on the delivery of ‘services’ that the idea that senior strategic management should pay serious attention to employee engagement is growing.

It is sometimes suggested that this is just as important – if not even more important – during times of economic recession when there is risk of workers feeling alienated and insecure.

Employee engagement also represents big business for many consultancy firms that emphasise the importance of employee engagement and market their ‘solutions’. Virtually all the larger international firms have some presence and some product ‘offer’ in the area of employee engagement. For example, Gallup Consulting (2009) claims to maintain one of the most comprehensive global databases linking employee engagement to business outcomes. These include measures of retention, productivity, profitability, customer engagement and safety. The database is updated annually and the firm suggests that this enables clients to benchmark their organisation’s employee engagement levels against data collected in 45 languages from 5.4 million employees in 504 organisations in 137 countries.

Outside the normal commercial consultancies are organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES). Reilly and Brown (2009) of the IES report that employee engagement is far more than a new fad.

Another indicator of the perceived importance of employee engagement is the way various governments have mobilised initiatives around the idea. In the UK, the Department of Business established a national commission on the theme headed by the industrialist David MacLeod. The MacLeod Commission reported in July 2009. We would like you to consider their findings in the next activity.

We must, however, exercise caution in evaluating the claims of management consultants. They are in the business of selling solutions to problems. How can we be sure that their solution is sound? Indeed, how can we be sure that the problem exists in the first place? Bear these issues in mind as you undertake Activity 1.3.