Friday, 28 May 2010

Employee engagement

I attended an event about employee engagement that AIM research together with the Chartered management Institute and Institute of Business Consulting organised. See

Employee engagement and communication from the boardroom to the shop floor and back, is half relevant to my research because it's about a specific aspect of engagement - that between employees and managers.

The panel experiences were interesting and from incredibly good presenters, the sort that speak, rather than read their PowerPoint bullet points to you.

Speakers were:
  • Robin Field-Smith, who was an army Deputy Director and a police Inspector
  • David McLeod, who is a Non Executive Director of the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Justice he is also an academic
  • John Bigos, the Managing Director who transformed Duck Tours. Today the business is turning over in excess of £1 million and attracting over 100,000 passengers a year.
  • Stephen Martin, the undercover boss
McLeod pointed out that it used to be that when a manager said, "Jump!" an employee asked only, "How high?" whereas now, the new, younger employee asks, "Why?" He says there's a paradigm shift that means people now have different values, and expect a different culture, and so management must adapt to this because it's no longer a command and control environment. He also compared two levels:
  • transactional - the old way
  • transformational- a way of doing business that requires a mindset that starts with respect and value. I understand that - engagement requires respect and valuing each others' values.
John Bigos had lessons about people all pulling together. Imagine that rope with a team of people tugging in the same direction, away from whatever problem they faced. Although he was a comparatively inexperienced speaker who would benefit from a speakers club like Toastmasters, he had content to his speech that inspired emulation if you were a business owner, and a wish to try his Duck tours, just to see how his employees would react to you.

But it's Stephen Martin I envy. What a superb opportunity for research! From what he said, and the way he presented it, he and his company benefited lots. It was the contact with workers on the ground that he prized. I'd like some other bosses to have that prize. Our Vice Chancellor, Martin Bean here at the OU can't do that with our associate lecturers though, because the ALs work at home, out of sight, at all times, like Sundays and bank holidays, the same times that the OU students study. I guess our VC doesn't work Sundays and bank holidays, and he's very recognisable, so couldn't go undercover.

My ramblings have gone from the academic interest in employee engagement to a personal interest in my teaching experiences with the OU. May be my research will be relevant beyond academic interest in employee engagement to a wider understanding of engagement.

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