As many of you will know, UK businesses of a certain size have reporting requirements related to employee engagement and representation. In a nutshell, the regulations refer to Directors’ Reports, which now need to make clear:
- How the directors used or reflected employee interests when making business decisions.
- How the directors have engaged with their employees.
- What impact those interactions have had on business decisions.
This is inspired by ongoing efforts by the government to improve employee voice in the boardroom (and perhaps a response to the ever-widening gap between executive and worker pay). It doesn’t apply to everyone: you need to have at least 250 employees and either a turnover in excess of £36 million annually, or a balance sheet that exceeds £18 million.
Here’s why we should all be delighted by this.
First of all, more conversations can only be a good thing. Yes, we would say that, because we believe that more conversations are almost always a good thing. But the numbers back us up: feedback helps us to improve and develop; the more we talk, the more trust and candour we create, which improves working relationships; understanding people’s needs in an ongoing way (and acting on them) improves work engagement, which improves performance, which in turn improves productivity and profitability.
The key is to use the feedback you capture to improve work outcomes. It’s a topic we have explored elsewhere but, in short, work engagement is the key driver of productivity. Ask the right questions; capture engagement data in a continuous way (to ensure that your results aren’t distorted by personal ups and downs); demonstrate that you’re taking action and that that action has a meaningful effect on working processes, resources and relationships. Those things do more for employee engagement than any number of peripheral experiences. They show a willingness to make work (not workplace experience) better.
Most organisations now run some sort of employee engagement survey or employee feedback programme. The mistake many make is in not translating that data into meaningful action. The government has come at the issue from the other direction, highlighting the importance of employee voice in an atmosphere of accusatory headlines around executive remuneration. But whether organisations are doing this because of good intentions or legislation, the opportunity remains the same: to boost performance by listening to their people.