Speaking with co-chair David MacLeod at the CIPD Annual Conference in Manchester, Clarke said encouraging and listening to employee voice could prevent organisational disaster because “someone always knows” what’s going on.
Citing the recent scandals in the NHS and banks, Clarke said: “It’s cheaper to listen to employees than to invest in expensive PR once the proverbial has hit the fan.”
MacLeod urged the audience to read the Salz report (on the failings at Barclays bank) and the Francis report (on the NHS Mid Staffordshire scandal). He said many of the failings in those organisations occurred because HR “wasn’t forceful enough”.
He said for employee engagement not to be classed as a passing fad, “the HR community needs to rise to the challenge”.
Clarke added the “death” of trust and deference in wider society gave HR “a huge opportunity”. “HR can bring together the big, macro-challenges with the in-house challenges,” she said.
"This context should give us confidence that we are talking about the right issues in the right way. It’s an opportunity for HR, but also a responsibility."
Both Clarke and MacLeod received OBEs earlier this year for their work around employee engagement. They are both ranked on HR’s Most Influential UK Thinker list.