TJwow webinar: How can companies keep their workforce engaged?

TJ hosted a webinar yesterday (Tuesday 12th October) via Adobe Connect, to discuss how to balance the tension and needs of the learner, L&D practitioner and the organisation needs.

The question was posed because this month’s issue of TJ is focused on engagement and this question aimed to cover aspects of engagement that centre around learning and development in organisations today.

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The three experts who took part were Janet Webb who is a learning and organisational development consultant, Andy Holmes who is head of engagement at HR in Flow and regular contributor to TJ and Sukh Pabial, head of organisational development at One Housing Group.
Webb said striking a balance was important when designing a learning programme and that organisations should respond to the needs of the learner as well as industry trends and not be afraid of change.
“Yes learners may know what they need, but they might discover what they need while the training is going on, so we need flexibility to notice where people are at.”
She suggested companies should produce pre-course work for all training to encourage line managers and learners to have those important conversations prior to learning. 
“This would prompt managers to think: ‘Why am I sending this person on a training course? What am I going to get out of this? How will it help me to do job better?’ So stimulating the conversation beforehand will get you better engagement and the learner can share this insight with the manager.”
Research shows engaged employees perform better than others, they are more likely to recommend their organisation to others, take less sick leave, and are less likely to quit, according to the CIPD report: An HR director’s guide to employee engagement. It found that engaged employees experience increased job satisfaction and more positive attitudes and emotions towards their work. This suggests that enhanced levels of engagement benefit both individual and employer.
Andy Holmes spoke about restructuring learning and how L&D practitioners should move away from “delivering objectives against a checklist.”
“We want to deliver to what learners need to be informed and be engaged.
“It’s our role to challenge. It’s not always an easy thing to do, but it’s up for the stakeholders to build up a rapport. We are failing in our role if we just take orders. We are a professional function and truly define what the learning is so work out what the learner needs and then work out the best cost effective solution.”
Employment engagement expert David MacLeod, joint author of the highly influential report, Engaging for Success, argues engagement will remain a background issues unless managers – the people who impact on a daily basis – are made truly accountable for achieving it. 
But are mangers too busy to involve themselves in the learner’s progression? 
Sukh Pabial agreed that it was important to keep the conversation going with learners and suggested departments should collaborate with other another. 
He said: “There is tension between traditional L&D functions and HR functions. We need to make L&D practitioners better understand how we do the work we do collaboratively and work better with other business functions.
“It’s quite easy for us to deliver what we have been commissioned to do, but if we work with HR and Marketing and understand what the business leaders want then we might deliver better solutions. Through that, engagement improves and people see the solution are in line with the conversation of the business.”
In conclusion, enhanced levels of engagement benefit both individual and employer, which is demonstrated in the report: Reconnecting with employees: quantifying the value of engaging your workforce (2005), by Towers Perrin, a professional services firm specialising in HR and financial consulting. 
The company surveyed over 85,000 employees working for large and mid-sized organisations in 16 countries and found that companies with high employee engagement levels also experienced a higher operating margin (up to 19 per cent), net profit margin, revenue growth and earnings per share (up to 28 per cent) than companies with low employee engagement.
Employers can create an engaged workforce to achieve sustainable high performance by recognising this as a strategic issue, reviewing their communications and listening to staff members.  


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