"Engagement is not an HR activity, although HR should be responsible for measuring it," Norman said. "And it's not a survey. Engagement is about leadership living the values."
Norman, who is credited with turning the retailer Asda around at a time of near bankruptcy, said that much of that transformation was down to completely transforming company culture and making the business less hierarchical. He added that this was something that all other UK businesses needed to think about.
"Hierarchy is dead," he said. "Offices [for more senior people] and all that have to go. Job titles are meaningless." He encouraged total transparency and said leaders should reward staff for coming forward and telling them what should be changed about the company. "There should be no such thing as people thinking 'it's not my place'," he told delegates.
According to Norman, the workplace and how people feel about it has changed for good. "Young people come to work in search of values and they want a workplace they can believe in," he said.
All of which makes engagement more important, he said. "Engagement is not a fashion," Norman continued. "It's a change in the business and people and their attitude to work. As employers, our attitude should be that work and where you choose to work is voluntary. What matters is good communication, people feeling involved in the business and being treated with fairness."
He concluded: "People come to work to shine and it's our job to make them shine."
The Engage for Success event was held in London yesterday as part of the Engage for Success movement, led by David Macleod and Nita Clarke, which aims to improve the way people work in the UK.