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On the CIPD blog “low productivity nation Wynne Derek Wynne (head of engagement, at Cirrus) argues that “despite all the evidence, levels of employee engagement are still low in many organisations” and if we get that right, we can help lift the wider economy.

The blog goes on to suggest a number of factors common to ‘companies that get it right” such as;

  • Employees tending towards being deeply engaged where there is a very clear shared purpose and values.
  • Work has meaning – it’s about more than money.
  • The culture in these organisations tends to be open and supportive, and levels of trust are high.

To my mind Wynne is half right right about the UK’s constantly low employee engagement figures and the common factors that underpin them. But is staff engagement enough?

IMHO HR has a catalytic role to play and this will come not from focusing numbers and processes but on bold, imaginative inventive approaches.  From an engagement level just as new managers and leaders coming into an organisation are often the cause to unplanned changed likewise HR can embolden the embedded manager to search out and deliver in new ways.

Wynne is not alone in this view.  A couple of days ago I met with the MD (founder) of an EU enterprise that has been growing fro some ten years and yet they have stalled.  The issue is, what can HR bring to organisation like this, employee engagement, technical know?  Well,. yes all of the above but to my mind energy that will drive forward the people agenda is an essential ingredient and also a willingness to take risks. Risk taking helps to generate debate and that leads to ideas (and encourages will follow).  On the employee engagement front stop looking backwards at generation X generation y or for the enlightened, generation me – instead, ask and target the next  generation.

HR is often good at  modernising old ways and entrenching established cultures that yield anchors upon which employees depend but what about creating new cultures that add energy to a tired workforce?

Lean has been done, almost to death with most organisations being leaner than gold medalist Tiki Gelena and only half as effective. Forget lean, (retain the idea of keeping costs low) but start bolstering the skill base by L&D and mixing ages, races and sexes to stimulate thought, optimse and yes, hire fresh new talent  with brand new ideas with half a goal of not renewing old service contracts, bring them back in-house (especially in areas where they interact with customers) but above all find your passion or another role.

Finally, since financial crisis began in 2007, Britain’s productivity growth has dropped by some 2%.  Some HR commentators argue that making a tiny change withn any one company is not going to have any impact on the UK economy.  To those I say remember the story of the Star Thrower (from the essay of Loren C. Eiseley); find your starfish and make a difference to the one!