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Engagement needs a simple definition

Julia Edmonds, managing director of Lexington Catering, says companies should embrace a clear definition

HR teams should try to make their definition of engagement simple and easy to understand, according to Julia Edmonds, managing director of Lexington Catering.

Speaking at the Purple Cubed Engagement, Enablement, Empowerment: The Outcomes Breakfast Club, Edmonds said her business has tried to embrace a clear definition. “In terms of culture we try to keep it very simple, because a simple message is easier for people to engage with,” she said. “We define it as 'happy people at work'.”

She explained that this concept has been part of Lexington Catering from its inception. “A business cannot deliver a great service without people,” she said. “Everyone on our board bought into it, and it has been embedded in our culture from the very beginning.

“People work best when they feel good about themselves,” she added.

Robert Purdy, director of IT customer management and delivery for EE, warned that businesses must be authentic when implementing engagement strategies. “One reason people roll their eyes [at engagement] is that it can come across as artificial,” he said. “You can’t just go up to someone and say ‘I’m going to engage with you’.

“We have a simple definition. Engagement is about accepting people as individuals.”

Purple Cubed managing director Jo Harley said that a barrier for many organisations is not knowing exactly what engagement is. “If you’re not getting up in the morning looking forward to what the day will bring then you won’t be doing your best for you or your company,” she said.

Henry Stewart, founder and CEO of training business Happy, stressed the importance of having buy-in at all levels. “I don’t think it works if middle and top managers aren’t committed to it,” he said. “At Google they asked what the most engaging thing a leader could do was. The answer was being a good coach – above vision, showing an interest in people and communication. It’s all about the people.”