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How do we design and implement an engagement strategy?

Engagement strategies

To quote the CIPD "Engagement is something the employee has to offer: it cannot be "required" as part of the employment contract." It's about discretionary effort which employees can volunteer or withhold.

In other words, engagement is far more about culture than strategy. It's about creating and sustaining a working environment which motivates people to offer that discretionary effort. So perhaps the best engagement "strategy" begins with first taking a look at how your Company measures up against three of the things we know have a major impact on engagement.

Management style

This is the single most important ingredient in the engagement mix. So, perhaps the first question you need to ask is how effective are your front line managers as people managers?

Do they show an interest in their people? Do they value their contribution? Do they set clear expectations? Do they give positive feedback and recognition? Do they support people's growth and development?

If your response to these questions is less than positive your strategy may need to focus on changing line managers' attitudes and behaviours and developing in them the people management skills that underpin engagement.


Leadership is another key to engagement. And just as we know the qualities employees most value in their managers, so too we know the qualities they most value in their leader. Do they ensure that people have a clear understanding of where the company is going? Do they make sure that people have really bought into that future? Do they give people confidence in their ability to hold a steady course through difficult times? Are they seen as being involved in implementing the strategy? Are they visible? Do they connect with their people? Do they really "walk the talk" in terms of the Company's values? Do they win people's trust?

If there are doubts on these counts your strategy may need to focus on changing the senior team's attitudes and behaviours. A top-down style of leadership is not usually consistent with a culture that engages people.


For many employees the biggest barrier to engagement is a belief that career development opportunities are limited. Many companies see this as an inevitable consequence of flat structures. However, that assumes that career development is just about vertical progression. In fact our research indicates that for many people it's about having opportunities to change role, take on new challenges and develop new skills. So the key questions are: Do you give people the opportunity to develop their skills? Do you support lateral movement? Are internal openings properly advertised? Do people believe the selection process is fair and transparent? Do they discuss opportunity and progression with their line managers? Do line managers play an active part in people development?

If, on balance, the response to these questions is negative your strategy may need to focus on ensuring you provide opportunities for lateral development, implementing a transparent and equitable selection process, and changing your line managers' attitudes and behaviours so that they can play an active part in developing their people.

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