· Features

Are you engaged?

Now more than ever, employee engagement is at the top of the strategic agenda for all sectors across the UK. Initiatives that focus and improve engagement within the organisation should be welcomed and encouraged, as there is a proven correlation between employee engagement and how a company excels.

As a consequence of the economic downturn, employers have been forced to make decisions they wouldn't have done otherwise, often destabilising employee morale. Previously, people were encouraged to strive to achieve great things in the workplace and fulfil their potential. However, the recession has provoked lack of security as well as resentment and unrest among many employees, as a consequence of pay cuts and the need to work longer hours for less.

I know only too well about the importance of engaging with employees to strengthen their own performance and also the company's bottom line in the long term.

At Response, we provide outsourced contact centre services and software to a wide portfolio of blue-chip clients such as Sky, Hiscox and government agencies, including the US Embassy in London. With 1,800 employees across three locations in Glasgow, Response manages over 1.8 million customer interactions each month on behalf of its clients. The relationships we have with our employees, our clients and their customers are critical to our growth.

We recently introduced a new leadership team, recruited as part of a wholesale overhaul of our management structure. Focused on building rewarding relationships, not just with our employees but also our clients, we are on course to challenge outdated employment practices.

This is central to everything we do and will drive our primary aim of creating value and relentlessly pursuing improvement by delivering outstanding experiences through powerful insight, innovative customer solutions and exceptional people.

Our efforts are beginning to pay off and we are heading in the right direction to change some of the negative perceptions inherent with the call centre industry. We conduct a staff survey every six months and results from the most recent research highlight a significant change in attitude among staff, with very positive feedback in terms of how we engage with our workforce. This has stimulated a higher level of productivity and reversed levels of attrition and absenteeism.

The positive steps we have taken to challenge and overturn outdated employment practices and perceptions provide an excellent benchmark for others looking to create positive relationships between staff members.

The results from our staff survey validate the positive impact that Response's restructure has had, reinforcing the importance of employee engagement.

Compared to the last survey, there has been a 20% increase in those feeling inspired by their line managers

There is a 30% increase in the numbers who believe the leadership team has a clear vision in terms of key messages, goals and objectives for company growth

20% more staff feel rewarded for the work they do than six months ago

Being clear about the vision and direction of the business, improving the capabilities of our management team and communicating openly and honestly with employees, we are providing a framework that will help to reward and develop employees. By giving ownership to line managers and providing them with the tools, processes, training and coaching abilities they need to get the best out of their teams and also strengthen their leadership skills. Investing in your employees is paramount. Open and frank dialogue and regular one-to-one conversations will ensure employees receive constructive feedback, allowing them to do the job to the best of their ability and develop their skills to build their career. If they are engaged, then they will also engage with customers, crucial for any organisation.

We are determined to harness the huge potential of our workforce, not just to drive innovation and improvement but also to help our staff build long, rewarding careers. This is where employee engagement is vital. However, it is not without its challenges. As an employer you have to be prepared to do the legwork and make sure line managers are taking charge of building these important relationships with individuals. By carving out a coaching culture, this will provide the opportunity for growth, which in turn will improve attendance and operational performance, ultimately delivering success.

Julie McIntosh is HR director at Glasgow-based contact management centre, Response