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Issue 139 July 2009



Rules of engagement

I’ve been thinking about engagement—employee engagement, that is, not the sort that, if you’re lucky, comes with a diamond ring. It’s hardly surprising that the term crops up often in our pages, after all, what business doesn’t want its employees to be engaged?

As recent research from Hay Group has demonstrated, there are clear links between engagement and business performance. The study found companies with good levels of engagement had 4.5 times the revenue growth of other companies.

A recent article in People Management quotes the head of human capital strategy at the Bank of Scotland as saying employee engagement has never been more important than now. He says if an organisation wants to come out of the recession and attract the best staff, then employee engagement is a strategic imperative.

In fact, employee engagement is considered so important that last September the British Government announced a review into new ways to boost the performance of employees in the UK. It’s due to be published any day now and is expected to define employee engagement and examine the barriers to achieving it.

But what’s got me thinking about engagement is what’s happening to so many Kiwi workers at the moment. This week’s headlines say more than 1000 New Zealanders a week are joining the dole queue.

With unemployment now three times what it was a year ago, it seems the only thing that many businesses have been engaged in is actively disengaging from their workers.

Chances are that if they’re worried about being made redundant, or they’ve spent the last few months farewelling colleagues who have lost their jobs, then workers will be finding it hard to muster up any sense of engagement right now.

A Workforce.com blog says the latest ‘trust’ survey by PR firm Edelman shows levels of trust are lower than in the wake of the Enron scandal, the dot.com bust and the September 11 terrorist attacks. And a new report from The Conference Board research group in the US says trust, transparency and clear communications are vital to preserving engagement and productivity in the wake of layoffs.

The report’s author, Stephanie Creary, says: “The downsizing action itself pits a management team’s interests against employees’ interests—essentially promoting an ‘us against them’ atmosphere.”

I’d say it’s time to think long and hard about the rules of engagement.

—Lyndsey Swan

Feature articles

Cutting to the chase
When research showed a serious mismatch between how people thought about Warehouse Stationery as a retailer and how they saw the company as a prospective employer, it was clearly time to act. Jackie Brown-Haysom reports on a successful initiative.

Parenting and work: a two-way street
New Zealand has seen a growing trend for both parents to work, and home and work life are no longer as separate as they once were. Gill South investigates how working parents and their employers are approaching the challenges this brings.

Smoothing the way
As the recession continues to bite, more and more people are being made redundant. Providing them with outplacement assistance is not only the right step to take, it’s commercially prudent as well, says Shirley Keith.

Navigating through career transition
Businesses are making tough staffing decisions right now and more and more people are facing redundancy. How do you help staff make the best of a difficult situation, and create a successful transition for all involved, asks Jo Mills.

Hiring for team fit and stability
When it comes to values, birds of a feather really do flock together. Dave Winsborough explains that while assessing individuals for team fit may not be necessary for every team in your organisation, for many it’s the key to success and should be a part of the staffing decision.

Reducing employee costs … painlessly
Many companies are doing it, but the drawbacks of downsizing are clear, says Gordon Davidson. Instead of drastic action, he offers a range of cost reducing suggestions that may be small, but which add up to significant savings.

Training—why bother?
Stu Stubbs explores the reasons why staff training is a ‘no-brainer’, especially when funding is available. He also looks at why, when it comes to driver training, it pays to bother.

The value of respect
People are an organisation’s greatest asset—aren’t they? So why do our actions and decisions frequently contradict this, asks Danie Vermeulen. He looks at the role of mutual respect in building a business culture that breeds excellence.

Changing times for HR
If the turbulence we’re seeing now is a trend, then it’s time for a fundamental change, says Professor Roger Collins. And if we’re serious about the performance of our organisations, then that change has to begin with HR. Lyndsey Swan reports.

Mind the gap
Workplace communication was the theme for two speakers at a recent health and safety conference. Jackie Brown-Haysom reports on Taruni Falconer’s talk on intercultural communications and Penny Holden’s on communication for leaders.

When discipline makes you ill
What can you do if you think an employee is trying to avoid disciplinary action by taking sick leave on the grounds of stress? A sensitive approach is needed, warns Shima Grice, but don’t be afraid to follow your process.


Just the job: Personality at work
Personality is not something we ‘have’ but rather it is something we ‘do’, says Kaye Avery. And that means we can adjust and modify our personalities.

Employment branding: Creating conversations
The true competitive advantage in our new economy is a smart, dedicated, informed and engaged workforce, says Kate Billing. She explains that, in today’s increasingly sceptical world, meaningful communication is the foundation to engaging your people.

HRINZ news: A personal view of accreditation
Professional membership of HRINZ is increasingly being seen as a highly regarded standard of professional attainment for HR practitioners. Major Jim Pope provides a personal perspective of the accreditation process and the benefits he has gained from being an accredited member.

Learning & development: E-learning in industry
E-learning is not the ultimate panacea for staff training, say John Clayton and Richard Elliott. But it is part of a smorgasbord of methods that can be mixed and matched to meet the business needs of an organisation.

Strategic HR: Driving better business
Businesses which understand the importance of their ‘human resource’ have a better chance of surviving the rough weather, says Steve Kennedy. He explains how smart HR can drive better business.

Wellness at work: Clear link evident
Corporate wellness plays an essential role in employee engagement and strong organisational performance, says Bridget Beattie. She discusses the findings of a new study.

Public sector: Procedure—get it right
Despite a finding that the suspension of a head teacher was warranted, the Employment Relations Authority found her dismissal was not—because procedure was not followed—and she was reinstated, says Paul Robertson.

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