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Review urges firms to engage with their employees

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An independent review has said that involving employees fully in the future of their firms will help businesses to innovate and take advantage of new opportunities.

The MacLeod Review of employee engagement, which was set up last September, has proposed that the relationship between employees and employers should be at the centre of business plans.

The report also urged that the government do more to support employee engagement in the workplace and that all UK firms, both large and small, should recognise the benefits of having their staff fully on board and involved.

Specifically, the review recommended that a sponsor group be set up to bring together representatives from business, the public sector, not-for-profit organisations and unions in order to boost understanding of the issue.

The government and its agencies, the review said, should work together to ensure their support is tailored to the needs of different organisations in different sectors of the economy.

A range of more practical support for businesses that want to raise levels of employee engagement should be available by March 2010.

David MacLeod, who conducted the review along with Nita Clarke, said: “This is about unleashing the potential of people at work and enabling them to be the best they can be. Whether we are in a downturn or in better economic times, engagement is a key to innovation and competitiveness.

“Employers in all parts of the economy can make a success of employee engagement through culture change, rather than investing significant financial resources.”

Business groups welcomed the report.

Richard Lambert, the CBI’s director-general, said: “It makes business sense to allow people to realise their full potential at work and to be on board for the whole journey. This report offers a refreshingly direct approach and suggests a sensible way to enable employers and employees to gain most benefit from the workplace relationship.”

The EEF backed the need to share ideas and emphasised the potential of highly skilled employees to improve the competitiveness of industry in the UK.

David Yeandle, the EEF’s head of employment policy, commented: “Although adopting employee engagement strategies is challenging for firms at this juncture, it is now more important than ever.

“In the short term all parties need to be pulling together in the same direction to get through the recession. In the longer term effective employee engagement will be vital to unlock the potential that lies within an increasingly innovative and highly skilled sector.”

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) noted that engagement levels across the economy are low and argued that the government should use its unique position to help.

Stephanie Bird, director of HR capability at the CIPD, said: “We firmly believe the calls for a national debate on the contribution of employee engagement to business performance are long overdue.

“Employers are keenly aware that in a recession it is vitally important to retain the loyalty and commitment of their workforce in order to be in a position to take advantage of the upturn. But they don’t always know how and many would welcome some help. It’s essential that these organisations get the support they need.”

Ms Bird added that the report puts employee engagement at the heart of business performance: “Employer response to the recession suggests that an ever-increasing number recognise people are indeed their greatest asset. Converting employee engagement into bottom-line results is what employee engagement is all about.”