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Engagement is nothing new but it feels different this time, more urgent

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I recently had the pleasure of attending the Engage for Success international subgroup, where 30 HR guests worked in small teams to share experiences and capture what Standard Chartered Bank’s head of performance and engagement, and co-chair of the subgroup, Caroline Sharley described as “nuggets” to help companies build employee engagement across geographical boundaries and cultures.

The energy in the room impressed me. Here was a hotchpotch of organisations, from Deutsche Bank and Barclays Capital to NGO WaterAid, showing engagement in action: a collection of people pulling together for a common purpose. And what a purpose. For employee engagement makes all the difference, to both individual business and to the UK economy as a whole.

This is why we have turned this issue over to the subject - analysing the latest research, looking at the local and global picture, showcasing engaged businesses both big and small, and compiling the business case to take to the board.

Reading through all this, what strikes me is that engagement is nothing new. But somehow it feels different this time round, with a more urgent impetus behind it.

One could argue it is the recession that's put engagement back in the spotlight as organisations dealt with downsizing, re-engineering their businesses and helping employees stay energised and productive.

Or is it that the now-normal chaos of today's world, with its lightning speed of change, new technologies, breaking down of traditional models and boundaries, forces a focus on engagement? Unless organisations can get the best out of their people, in terms of productivity, agility and the ideas so many of them have but often fail to share, they are unlikely to survive.

I also think we cannot under estimate the part Engage for Success founders David MacLeod and Nita Clarke have played. While modestly describing themselves as facilitators, rather than leaders, they have brought real evidence and practice to a concept we all know intuitively to make sense for business, but which is so difficult to do in reality. By focusing on measurable examples of engagement that have delivered performance improvement, and enabling these to be shared through a number of channels, they have helped to articulate why employee engagement matters.

But it is also thanks to so many of you, our readers, that employee engagement is revitalised. The 30 people I met at the international sub-group are just a few of the 1,000 who have got involved with Engage for Success already.

So well done to all of you who are already involved. This is not just about ensuring the sustainability of your businesses but about improving productivity in the UK as a whole. Now that is a purpose worth getting behind.