How HR directors can create award-winning employee engagement strategies

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Done differently, yet done correctly, an outstanding engagement strategy can have a direct impact on the financial success of the business

Back in 2014, my team and I were proud to receive the HR Excellence Award for Outstanding Employee Engagement. Among a strong category shortlist, we could only dream of receiving an accolade for the work we had carried out at Dorchester Collection; especially as the corporate people team had only been in place for 18 months.

When people ask me why I believe we won, I explain that it is simple – we do engagement differently. Many HR professionals will claim they do the same, though only a few really do.

Over the years, the term employee engagement has, like its HR parent, evolved. Gone are the days of wishy washy ‘initiatives’ and fluffy buzzwords. We are now dealing with a much more mature, experienced and (dare I say it?) strategic behemoth. Done differently, yet done correctly, an outstanding engagement strategy can have a direct impact on the financial success of the business. And we should know, because we’ve proven this is the case.

However, in my experience, too few HR professionals are empowered and enabled to tackle this new vision of engagement. Instead they have to fight for budget, argue their case daily and are drowned in swathes of policy. What results is lackluster engagement strategies, or innovative approaches which fail to be measured correctly.

Sadly, we can’t lay all of the blame on business leaders who don’t understand the role people strategy has in their organisation. Because, actually, the perception of HR has evolved dramatically, especially over the past five years. There has been a seismic shift in how HR is viewed in a business and how it can truly add value.

Some of this blame, instead, must lie with us – the HR professionals. Our inability to flex and evolve HR approaches in a world which is ever-changing; the fear which surrounds data usage in the department; and our own self-deprecation makes it easy for others to lambast the work that we do.

This is why we must stand up and recognise those who are willing the take the leap of faith and do engagement differently. Those who can close the loop between guest and employee engagement. Those who measure and tangibly prove the impact great engagement can have on the bottom-line. Those who truly place people at the heart of their organisation. Those who are driving and standing at the forefront of this new wave of employee engagement.

Some will ask why we, the Dorchester Collection, are sponsoring this category. In answer to them I lay it here. It’s our legacy. As previous winners, we wholeheartedly believe in the importance of strategic employee engagement. Without it, our business would not be the success it is today. By supporting and recognising those in the shortlist, we as a people team and an employer, are demonstrating to all the fundamental and lasting role outstanding engagement can have on business performance. We look forward to seeing the incredible approaches led by this year’s contenders.

Eugenio Pirri is vice president, people and organisational development, Dorchester Collection. For more details on the HR Excellence Awards please go to the website

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