STEP Employer Partnership Forum examines best practice in employee engagement

Speakers and others at our EPP ForumLeading industry practitioners speaking at last week’s STEP Employer Partnership Programme (EPP) Summer Forum discussed how to understand employee engagement, and put new ideas into practice. Particular topics for discussion included flexibility in the workplace, and understanding gender diversity and inclusion. The day was chaired by STEP CEO, Mark Walley and hosted by RSM at its London office. 

Feedback forms and focus groups

Janine Mayor noted employees can easily become disengaged or disillusioned with their roles, and that employers need to find a way to ensure that their people ‘walk into work each day wanting to give their best, and connect with the goals and values of their organisation.’

Key questions should include, ‘What are the relationships like in my organisation? Do people buy into where the company is going? and, Are they engaged with the business and recognised for their achievements?’ Janine recommended employee feedback surveys to understand their needs and wishes, noting that while managers cannot provide everything employees want, through training and good communication, they can effectively respond.

A clear and regular internal communications programme in place will let individuals know they are listened to, supported and recognised. In turn, they will feel part of, and engaged with, an organisation’s journey and goals.

Lorraine Wheeler TEP gave a case study of how her company is putting such steps into practice. She particularly highlighted the use of focus groups.

‘The views of the staff are the key benchmark for what needs to change in any company, and senior staff need to buy in to those views and the changes suggested,’ she said. ‘Focus groups bring inclusivity and also showcase cross-sections of the workforce, and the different needs of different employee demographics.’

Employees must have a ‘safe space’ in which to raise concerns, she added, and management needs to address them. ‘To engage them, they have to be involved, listened to, and taken seriously,’ she said, adding, ‘and then they need to see the results.’

Flexibility and gender diversity

The gender diversity conversation is more important than ever in 2019, as Bonnie Steiner TEP and Rina Goldenberg Lynch stressed in their discussion of workforce inclusion.

They discussed the unconscious bias still existing against women: assumptions that they can’t lead effectively, aren’t ambitious, or will abandon their careers once they have had children.

‘Gender diversity policies are vital to promote change, not just from the ethical perspective, but from the business perspective,’ Bonnie explained.

Aside from the moral implications of a bias against women in the workplace, as well as the possibility of legal complaints against gender non-compliance, the two presented the business case for companies promoting women to boards, from recruitment and retention, to business development and attracting new clients.

Moreover, a balanced male-female board will always show improved decision-making and corporate governance through the different perspectives brought to the table. 

Caroline McCague discussed the importance of increased flexibility: not just for women in the workplace, but for all employees striving to find a work/life balance, noting that too many organisations focus on the physical presence of employees in the office, rather than their goals and productivity.

‘Flexibility should be a strategic tool to supplement engagement, productivity, performance and cultural change,’ she said. ‘Creating a supportive working environment is about helping people to work in different ways as they all work towards the same organisational goals.’

Reviewing the day, Mark Walley said: ‘the Employer Partnership Programme is really important to us at STEP, as it reinforces the relationship between us and the employers of our professional members. We have a shared commitment to the professional standards that we develop, to the training and education undertaken to reach those standards and to the professionalism that is required to become and remain a member of STEP. Together, those elements provide consumers the confidence they seek and is why they come to STEP members for their advice.

‘Events such as the Summer Forum are a fabulous opportunity for EPP partners to come together, share best practice, discuss the issues that they are dealing with and take away actions they can implement right away. The levels of engagement were huge: thank you to all that joined the discussion.’

Helen Swire is News Editor at STEP.

What can you do to improve employee engagement?

Christopher TaliaWe all know that employee engagement is important, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get right. Next month’s STEP Employer Partnership Programme (EPP) Summer Forum will look at this key area, and help you devise a strategy that works for your organisation.

Employee engagement can mean different things to different people. Some will see it as recognition, others as financial reward. No matter how you view it, employee engagement holds three distinctive characteristics: realising employee potential; clear and shared organisational goals; and promoting employee wellbeing.

Many organisations fall short of achieving one, or all of these factors, leaving employees feeling under-appreciated, and in turn, unwilling to perform at their full potential. So how can employers bridge the ‘employee engagement’ gap while ensuring business success?

The forum, Employee engagement: boosting employee capability and potential for business success, will be hosted by Platinum Employer Partner RSM, and will share valuable insights from the following industry practitioners:

All our speakers have substantial experience in different jurisdictions including Guernsey, Jersey, Switzerland and the UK. Each will share her own experiences, strategies and learning on how they have successfully developed and implemented programmes to support employee engagement.

Key topics will include: what employee engagement means, understanding flexibility in the workplace and understanding gender diversity and inclusion.

If you have ever wanted to know how you can increase both your employees’ potential and their engagement levels, then this is the forum for you. I look forward to seeing you there to learn more about employee engagement.

Christopher Talia, Programme Manager, Employer Partnership Programme, STEP (Christopher will officially join the EPP team from mid-July).

Embracing a new skills agenda

EPP forumThese days, the world seems to be changing faster than it spins on its axis. While the headlines darken each morning with geo-political and economic tumult, the sense of unease continues reading beyond the front pages. A bleak outlook for the workplace: robots will take over, professions will be rendered obsolete by new technology; a Fourth Industrial Revolution is less than a mouse-click away…

Participants in a global economy, we are available 24:7. How can we thrive in these modern times? Where do we find breathing space? How can organisations find time to develop its staff without taking them from business as usual activities? How can individuals cultivate a work-life balance or reflect on their place in the world?

Such questions were posed by the STEP Employer Partnership Programme’s inaugural Summer Forum last week in London. Hosted by BDO, the evening included high-profile speakers drawn from the trusts and estates industry and the learning and development world to explore these issues. Participants were given a powerful call to action to embrace a new skills agenda and innovate in their practice.

BDO’s Head of Private Client UK, Paul Ayres, opened the programme. Reflecting on the changing role of the tax practitioner, his observations will resonate with contemporaries in the tax world as those in other professional services:

How can your organisation meet changing client requirements? How do you promote yourself in a world that increasingly denigrates the value of professional advice as the internet perpetuates the fallacy that everyone can be an expert? How can you make an agile response to constantly changing governmental and regulatory constraints? How can you keep ahead of legislation, embrace technology, maintain global competitiveness and deliver your services at the right price point? How do you retain your trainees, who are entering the workforce now with very different expectations of work from their supervising partners? How do you give the same quality of training you experienced, when the advent of digitisation has rendered obsolete the opportunities to develop the practical and client-care skills embedded in the training contracts of old?

Leading learning and development specialists Liggy Webb, Jonathan Winter and Jane Hart gave impassioned responses as to how we interpret these challenges. We all wish to be more flexible and confident in the way we approach challenges in life, both at work and at home. Liggy Webb delivered strategies for resilience – emotional sunscreen to help us confront those challenges head on and keep us sane.

Jonathan Winter discussed how careers really work, blowing away the cobwebs on the traditional model of the career trajectory that most have entered the workplace with, debunking myths about how we think about work and leaving us with seven habits crucial to future-proof a career.

Jane Hart, closing the programme, addressed the changing world of work and urged delegates to embrace new technologies, adopt learning tools and strategies that embed a culture of learning within individual, team and organisational outputs. Drawing on examples of pioneering practice from players like Google, she deftly illustrated how this can be done without the onerous burden on budgets human resource training often presents. A lively Q&A offered a stimulating debate on these ideas.

By the close of the evening it was clear that those employers who adopt a proactive approach to change and empower their employees similarly will thrive. Those investing time, as well as financial and intellectual capital into their workforces will reap the land of plenty in the future. Embracing new models of learning and working, and viewing technology as an enabling force, not a threat, will help them withstand the social seismic shifts and lead the new skills agenda for the modern workplace.

Madeleine Jenness, STEP Education Manager