Andrew Marsh, chair of Vistage for the North East and Northumberland, NED for numerous businesses and charities; and successful entrepreneur, spends his days helping business leaders achieve goals and find opportunity. Following on from his diversity article last month, Andrew is this month looking at the importance of a robust policy and approach for Engagement rather than simply paying lip service here and there.
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“In the Diversity, Engagement and Inclusion conversation each are as important as each other, and intricately bound together, but for the purpose of this article I am focusing on Engagement.

“So what is Engagement? In essence, Engagement is how you communicate and create an environment for people, namely employees, customers and stakeholders; and how you encourage them to interact with your company or organisation long term.

“Engagement isn’t just a one-way street. Good engagement not only creates a channel for sharing, it should also create a channel for listening to inform further engagement. And it isn’t just about creating the right environment, it’s about what you do with that environment and why. People will only engage repeatedly if they feel the feedback is positive, and if their engagement action was made easy by you.

“Engagement isn’t just about the language and communication tools you use. It is also a physical act like providing ramps for wheelchairs, changing rooms for babies, hearing loops, braille, prayer rooms, suitable washroom facilities… the list goes on for physical engagement but at its core, it is about how you allow people to consume your offering, on their terms.

“Once you start with engagement you must continue it, and that is very important when it comes to internal engagement with your team and throughout any recruitment process.

“The subject of Engagement is so wide, that it takes on the potential of a whole book, not just an article, so for the rest of this article I am going to concentrate on talent engagement.

“Talent engagement is currently a real challenge, following both the pandemic and Brexit, the UK has become a job seekers market. There is a shortness of skilled people, and those who are skilled can command silly salaries in certain sectors. So, it is paramount that as an employer you use as many engagement tactics as possible to keep your team loyal and connected. Being an attractive employer takes much more than ticking boxes, so let’s explore what you can do.

“Firstly, everyone deserves to be comfortable where they work, so look at your facilities – are they clean, modern, fit for purpose? Are work stations good for posture, is the lighting right, do you have good kitchen facilities? Is hygiene high and is everyone in your employ’s needs taken in consideration? I once heard a story about an employee who returned from maternity and had to express in the disabled toilet, storing her breast milk in the fridge where people’s lunches and milk was stored – was that employer engaging with her as an employee to make her feel valued at a time when she was probably very emotionally stretched? It goes without saying that company lost that employee and her talents.

“Holidays are also very important to most people. Does your policy meet needs for adequate time out and seem fail? I am hearing of more and more companies that close between Christmas and New Year but expect their team to knock those days off their annual holiday allowance, with no option. Imagine how great they would feel and how much more engaged in the New Year they would be, if you gifted them those days you are closed as a thank you!

“Many people engage more when entrusted with responsibility and accountability. By having ownership, many employees find their motivation and determination to do well. By trusting, you encourage a long-term engagement and a trust that is given back to you. It is a win-win situation.

“Respect is also important – both ways. Open forums and honesty create a mutually respectful engagement. Showing you are human, and you have understanding also goes a long way, as long as there is a fine line understood that isn’t crossed bringing too much personal baggage or too many mistakes into play.

“Regular team and one-on-one focus meetings foster an excellent opportunity to engage with each other’s needs and expectations. Bonding and co-created visions help team structure and make people ‘belong’ which is key to commitment and engagement.

“Rewards should also be personalised to encourage ongoing and dependable engagement. Not everyone is motivated by the same goals. For some it’s money, for some it’s a positive experience, for some it’s time off, for others it’s acknowledgement. Find out what makes your people tick personally, and they will engage right back. Showing you care, that you take time to know them and want them to feel good, is priceless.

“A Vistage 2020 survey stressed that engagement had to be ongoing to be successful. And if it is done right sales, staff retention and profit all took a positive turn of up to 20% organically. Donald Rheen also talks about how employee engagement increases profitability, but it needs measuring to make sure the outputs justify the inputs, and that it isn’t just taken for granted which is when profitability starts to drop off again.

“Support organisations such as ScaleUp Capital are investing in engagement platforms, and CEOs across the UK are visibly driving cultural change to tackle staff turnover. According to a recent Deloitte survey, 28% of UK employees either left their job in 2021 or plan to this year. According to an article in Investment Times this month, the same trend can be seen across the globe, with the ‘quit rate’ reaching a 20-year high.

“All that added together means we must accept that it is time to acknowledge our engagement as a whole needs to improve area, and as leaders we have to step up and be the ones to drive it!”

If you need help improving engagement throughout your company or your board, then do get in touch with Andrew on


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About The Author

Andrew Marsh is chair of Vistage for the North East and Northumberland, a NED for numerous businesses and charities; and a successful entrepreneur in his own right.

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