Employee engagement – not just the soft, fluffy stuff

Posted on: 04-10-2018 by Ruta Sapatkaite


Employee engagement – not just the soft, fluffy stuff

This month at MES HQ we are relishing the renewed and refreshed optimism that follows our annual strategy day. It is my absolute favourite thing to organise every year, and despite what my mum says ‘well if you aren’t in the office it’s not really work is it?’ it sure is A LOT of work!

This year with a full house of 25 employees we trekked to deepest, greenest Kent and enjoyed 2 days at Port Lympne Reserve. For 3 of the 25 MES’ers this was their very first working day with us, and what a way to start!

Here we spent a day with facilitator Ombretta Mancini exploring how we could ‘live the MES values so that our clients experience them’. Still sound fluffy? Well it is a bit, but hold that thought – here is a link to an article by Forbes with a tonne of research and evidence to back up that investment in staff engagement is worth doing if you want to retain great people and attract new superstars.

We spent the afternoon reflecting on all of the learning and development activities which have been completed at MES this year. In our 2018 learning and development strategy we committed to 60 hours as a minimum which any MES employee could expect to receive towards their personal learning and development alongside ad hoc individual training or coaching specific to their role as and when helpful. Here is a breakdown of how we are ensuring our team gets to their target for 2018:

  • One Skills Audit Survey (to identify gaps in skills or knowledge so that we could arrange training)
  • Four company meetings (following our quarterly board meetings to ensure good feedback and visibility)
  • Eight company catch-ups (an informal catch up to bridge the gap between more formal quarterly company meetings)
  • Evidence (anecdotal or quantitative) showing increased uptake of L&D activity among individual members of staff
  • Examples of charitable activity
  • Implementation of an Insights Discovery group wheel (MES first started working with Insights Discovery at our strategy day in 2014)
  • One Strategy event over two days (what I opened up this blog talking about)
  • Staff attendance (and participation) at the MES ‘Challenge 2020’ conference
  • Twelve Team Time sessions (these are internally run mini training sessions)
  • Twelve external guest speakers to present to MES staff on relevant subject matter

So far we are well on track to achieving this with almost 50 hours dedicated to learning and development as of September.

But why bother?

Well from a selfish perspective it’s pretty important to me that I enjoy my job. Let’s face it there will most often be aspects of the day to day working life that are not our favourite thing to do, but nonetheless we find ourselves tasked with these things. So to balance this out and especially for those who are office based every day I, and the business feels that it is important to punctuate the day with some out of the box learning activities. As we grow it becomes too easy to start operating in our own little silos and not sharing knowledge or experience so our team times create the chance to share what we see and learn around us. From these we regularly discover new ideas and solutions.

You don’t need to look far to find many studies and research showing the benefits of getting employee engagement right. The people at Insights tell us this

The CIPD also reports extensively on the nature of employee engagement and its relationship to motivation and performance.

As a company that has the word ‘engagement’ right there in the middle of its name, we would be on very shaky ground to not be seeking to get it right in our own home first. And this is what we do, every year in every team without exception. We could probably do more but we have it front and centre as an aim for the benefit of staff, clients and prospective clients alike.

For some further reading around this subject the good people at Insights have also produced a white paper on employee engagement.

It should also not be lost on anyone the link between staff satisfaction and customer satisfaction – ‘happy team, happy customers’ is a mantra much used at MES but it is true – you can see the evidence in our annual customer satisfaction survey.

Isn’t it really time consuming and expensive to do these things?

Let’s not kid ourselves that to commit to a learning and development strategy like ours there is a commitment of both people time and financial investment to make it happen. To date, we have cut our cloth to suit. In the early years of MES we did not have a residential strategy day and I was organising the event on a shoe string budget (the cost of taking 5 people for a curry on Brick Lane in East London so around £80). Myself and Nick our MD even dragged our partners into writing clues for human monopoly which we played in teams running all over London in 2009.

As the MES family increased in size to serve our larger client base we made the conscious decision to reinvest in our biggest asset – our people. Alongside our Challenge 2020 conference the strategy day is the highlight of the MES calendar. We do it every year before our annual appraisals as we find that it kicks up lots of ideas and increases motivation before the final 3 months of the year. It also heavily influences the agenda, aims and ambitions we set for the business’s year ahead. In January each year we lay out our goals and targets, and their roots can always be traced back to our company strategy event.

The question for us is not ‘why do we do this?’, it is ‘can we afford not to do this?’…

What do our people think?

Here is a bit of feedback from one of our new recruits who joined us on day 1 of their induction at strategy day:

Conclusions from our 2018 staff survey were that an average of 96% net agreement (strongly or somewhat) with all statements about working at MES, such as ‘I am clear about the goals and objectives for my team’ and ‘I would tell people that MES is a good place to work’.

The key we have found, is to always be questioning and if something isn’t working don’t be afraid or reluctant to change things up. We offer a wide range of learning and development activities at MES as we know from the results of our 2018 that not every activity will suit everybody. Our 2018 staff survey also showed us that 88% of those surveyed at the time felt that MES does enough –so there is always room to improve.

How do we support our clients with employee engagement?

This year at the Innovation Expo we launched MES Empower, the newest in our range of engagement solutions. It is our staff experience system which empowers (see what we did here!) your people, teams and organisation to drive improvements at scale by harnessing real-time feedback and providing meaningful insights.

Here is what one of our clients has to say about that:

Our research and communities team have been supporting clients outside of the health sector with their staff surveys for many years, our most recent client being the Geological Society.

Finally, here is a photo from strategy day this year with some of us re-enacting our favourite animals from the safari.

For more information about MES Empower please contact Andreas.Norgren@membra.co.uk or to have a chat about employee engagement generally please contact Elouise.smith@membra.co.uk.

Blog by Elouise Smith