What advice would you give to someone looking to develop their employee engagement expertise?

We’d love your contributions for our brand new ebook…

Back in 2013, we launched our ‘What’s your Top Tip for Engaging Employees?’ ebook. The response was fantastic; it’s been downloaded and read all over the world. The best part? It was made up of insightful, practical guidance and advice from the true experts – people championing employee engagement every day at work. We wanted to tap into our network once again, and ask you for your thoughts on how we develop the skills and expertise of those working in the sector.

We know that training and development for those working in this field is rarely a priority for organisations. In our recent Spotlight on the Employee Engagement Profession research, we found that just 29% of people working in the sector had received any kind of formal training.

We believe that engagement isn’t something you can just ‘do’- there’s a whole range of skills and expertise needed for those professionals who are working in the sector. We believe that this lack of investment in development is one of the contributing factors to what we call the ‘engagement gap’ –  despite an increasing focus on engagement, we are still yet to see significant improvement in employee engagement.

We want to help professionalise the employee engagement sector, and what better place to start than by asking you for your top tips, guidance and advice. We would love to find out from you:

  • What’s the most important skill(s) for an employee engagement professional to have?
  • What training or development has really made a difference to you?
  • What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the sector?
  • What do you wish you’d known when you first started in the sector?

We’d love you to send us your contributions. If you’re interested, please contact us answering the questions above. To get in touch, email us at info@peoplelab.co.uk, comment on this post below, or tweet us @peoplelab_

If you have any further queries, please do let us know. Thank you!

3 comments


By Ru on March 23, 2018

Not really a professional skill, training or qualification, but for anyone looking to get into the sector, I recommend reading Laszlo Bock’s book Work Rules, about the culture and systems at Google pre-2015 – and then read it again & take notes. Listen to ICology podcast to hear the experiences and opinions of other engagement & internal comms professionals. Read Richard Boston’s book The Boss Factor, and get really good at managing your relationship with your bosses at all levels. Most of the things that will theoretically be your job to deliver will be out of your control, measured in the wrong way, and you need to manage your expectations of the change you can deliver alone.
What do I wish I’d known when I first started? The above, and to know that many bosses give lip service to the idea of engagement, transparency and a meaningful workplace, but don’t follow through with their actions because they don’t really believe in or understand these things or can only think in terms of costs.
Watch your top level bosses and see if they genuinely trust and empower everyone – most do not, and there’s nothing you can do about that – improved engagement will be impossible without it.
Understand that the angriest employees are not disengaged, they are just engaged in a different way because they feel let down by the company in some way. Equally, the most positively super-engaged are often just engaged because they are those kind of people, not because the company deserves it – and they can quickly become the other type when they are let down. The people in the middle – the people who just turn up and do their job – they are underappreciated and need to be rewarded more, and our current methods for measuring their engagement are not working: they say that these people are disengaged. The workplace is pretty broken, but our measurement of this is, too.


By Richard Brazill on March 23, 2018

Human beings have a common trait. They want to belong and feel as though they belong something. In order to increase engagement or in this case the feeling of belonging, the most important next step is to ask. Find out what’s important to them. Find out what drives them, what brings them to work everyday, and the types of things that they want to belong to.

Part of the responsibility of management is to explain the reason the company they’re working for does what they do. It’s not so much that we may computers or design tires. The “why” if you will, must be larger than that. It has to speak to a human need beyond the obvious. It’s an emotional need and a reason for a company to exist. When the employee feels as though the “why” the company exists is large enough or aligned with their own beliefs, their engagement will increase remarkably. An example might be, it’s not that we design tires, we design safety equipment that makes it possible for families to arrive to their destination safely. This all starts the engagement conversation.


By John Knotts on March 23, 2018

What’s the most important skill(s) for an employee engagement professional to have? A good solid understanding and grasp of Systems Thinking is key to addressing employee engagement. If you research the past 60 years plus of examining the problem, from employee satisfaction to organizational commitment to now employee engagement, you’ll see that the issue not only hasn’t gone away, but it’s not changed either. This is because people tend to look for singular issues that they can change versus how the entire organization (strategy, culture, behaviors, etc.) Impact the issue. Secondly, this is fort and foremost a people issue and expertise in change management and a solid understanding of change readiness is important to being able to address the issues in any organization that are causing low engagement. There are many reasons why engagement in organizations might be low and I have found that those vary dramatically. Thus, trying to perfect the skills needed to solve to the issues might be impossible for one person–you will probably need to enlist the aid of others.

What training or development has really made a difference to you? I’ve been formally studying the issue since the early 2000’s during my attainment of my bachelor’s degree. However, my leadership and management education and training in the military prior and during the work on my degree helped a great deal. One of my final classes In my Management degree was an individual-led study In management. That project was focused on redefining then (about 2007) Organizational Commitment, using examples from various organizations where commitment was very high. In 2012, I went to work for an organization that had been using Gallup’s employee engagement survey, and that’s when I really began studying in earnest. They have a very high engagement–about 70% plus engaged at work. Nearly 100% of the 32,000 employees complete the survey, which is a testament in itself. Regardless of the level, they’re always addressing how to increase it. Four years ago, I started a PhD program and focused my study on employee engagement and the leader’s effect on it. I also studied the concept of toxic leadership in conjunction with low engagement.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the sector? Never chase a score! Almost always, organizations will dissect an engagement survey and address individual items hoping to increase overall engagement. This will barely move the needle. Remember, the issue is much broader than one thing. Employee Engagement is essentially made up of four things:
1. Satisfaction. Employees are satisfied with where they work — their basic needs are being met, the organization has a strong mission and vision that one can really get behind, and the leaders of the organization live the mission and vision.
2. Communicatuon. There is strong, open, and honest horizontal and lateral communication in the organization.
3. Development. Development and growth opportunities exist, leaders support individual development, and employees have assistance in following a development path.
4. Quality. The organization is committed to quality and the employees see it every day. Everyone does the same job the same way (i.e., standard work and visual management); management uses data to make decisions; and people are held accountable to quality work.

What do you wish you’d known when you first started in the sector? What I know today. However, I’m still learning.

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