Boosting your bottom line through employee engagement

By targeting your lowest-paid staff rather than those at the top you could begin to see real progress

Improving employee engagement by offering benefits, flexible working and progression opportunities is part and parcel of any HR strategy, but much of this practice is passive, reactive, or targeted at the top.

Examples we’ve found from forward-thinking companies such as Starbucks, Royal Mail and Sodexo show the business benefits of understanding the interventions that are most valued by low-paid workers.

With growing recognition of the plight of working families ‘just about managing’, as well as the staggering 3.7 million workers actually living in poverty, we are calling on business to offer good work, not just work.

What do we mean by good work?

We think a ‘good job’ is one that provides security, rights and a fair income. A good job also offers the opportunity for personal development and progression as well as a supportive and inclusive workplace environment.

When we know that someone with financial concerns loses on average six days of time at work each year, providing good work for all stops being a nice to have. There’s a clear business case for action.

Take Starbucks, which has introduced a rental deposit scheme to help employees in its inner-city stores manage the high costs of housing and is seeing retention rates improve.

Russell Butcher, senior manager for education, qualifications and skills at Starbucks, says the results show how a focus on improving people's working lives will reap rewards:

“At Starbucks we know the role businesses can play in affecting the many aspects of their employees’ lives. By looking at your business and asking ‘is there anything we could do to help?’ you’re likely to find solutions to some of your most pressing business concerns. We recognised the cost of living is higher in certain areas and that’s why we launched our deposit rental scheme Home Sweet Loan, which has now benefitted more than 100 of our employees.”

An action plan for change

Sound theory but where to start? Our new Good Work for All action plan, launched with support from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, gives you the evidence base and practical steps needed to make changes.

It’s a plan focused on three key areas: offering fair pay and benefits, reviewing the security and structure of roles, and ensuring all workers have access to the skills and development opportunities needed to progress.

And all of this is underpinned with a fairly standard methodology for change – requiring an understanding of your workforce, strong leadership, and effective communication and line management.

We believe change is achievable, and as a nation we can make steps towards achieving Good Work for All. It’s where you focus your attention that will make all the difference.

Catherine Sermon is employment director at BITC