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The untapped potential of employee engagement

Engaged employees are productive employees. They are those who perform at their best and as a result create greater business value, including reduced employee turnover, better customer experience and increased revenue. However, engagement is an outcome, not an input, and requires a consistent approach. Employee engagement is a result of many elements, from a physical work environment, through learning and development to more intangible aspects such as a manager that listens and cares about employee wellbeing.

The cost of a disengaged workforce

According to the Office of National Statistics employee productivity has now been declining for four consecutive quarters. UK employees are 27 percent less productive than their counterparts in Germany, meaning that UK businesses are missing out on £130bn of potential economic output annually.

When employees are engaged, they show high levels of enthusiasm, energy and motivation, which translates into higher levels of performance, creativity and productivity. This not only results in increased revenues, but also higher levels of employee wellbeing. On the other hand, low engagement levels result in high levels of employee turnover, counterproductive work behaviours and burnout.

Engagement is a personal matter, and therefore addressing how people feel about work is the essential first step. Despite the importance of contextual drivers of engagement, such as organisational structure and culture, how people feel about work also depends on their own character traits. In fact, two individuals in identical roles may have very different engagement levels. Due to its personal matter, it is important that leaders approach it on an individual level and actively listen to their team members to bring the best out of people and build a consistently engaged team.

Creating psychological safety

Highly engaged teams treat problems and mistakes with curiosity and shared responsibility for outcomes. This approach drives innovation and growth, creating an environment where people can express their ideas and thoughts without social retribution, and one of psychological safety.

People want to look good, especially in a hierarchy, which often leads to being quiet as they don’t want to rock the boat or being seen as contradicting the status quo. Psychological safety allows people to speak up, be actively part of and feel emotionally connected to the business. As a result, leaders who give their employees a voice, listen to them and act on what they are hearing, get emotional buy-in and increased engagement.

The Boeing story is one of many examples of how increased employee engagement leads to greater business value. Boeing, turning to their employees, has set up panels to listen to their employees about their suggestions on saving money. Giving their employees a voice resulted in $30 million in savings over six months – after all, it was the employees who were closely connected with the business and products that had the most effective solutions.

At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering learning solutions that help leaders and their teams to drive success, focused on practical tools to help solve real life challenges. In most cases we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off the shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. To find out more, please contact Simon at

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