MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Get more from your staff in 2010

How can you keep your employees engaged and motivated this year? Here are David MacLeod's tips.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

As millions return to work, management teams will be hoping that 2010 is a better year than 2009. But are the UK’s employees really equipped to support their companies' business goals in the year ahead? Recent research on behalf of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) suggests not. When asked how they felt about returning to work after the Christmas break, only 27% of those surveyed felt totally prepared for and positive about the year ahead; while 42% felt they worked harder in 2009 than 2008, but didn’t think their boss appreciated the extra effort. Employers face a real challenge to motivate their people to 'hit the ground running' in 2010 – so MT asked David MacLeod, adviser to BIS and co-author of the recent Government report ‘Engaging for Success’, for his top tips on staff engagement.

1. Define a clear and compelling goal
Some organisations start each year with a shopping list of opportunities, which they try to communicate to their people. In a recent country-wide BIS survey, only 24% of employees said that the management at their company had clearly communicated business objectives for 2010. Meanwhile, 32% have no idea if a clear vision for their business exists. As a leader, you must be clear on your priority for 2010, and crystallise this in compelling messages that you use consistently in communication with your people. Don't try and communicate too many things at once.

2. Involve employees in the year ahead
Start the New Year by seeking views from your employees on the challenges faced by the business. Give colleagues the chance to make suggestions and raise any concerns. Discuss and give feedback on the points they raise. This will increase their involvement and could give you new ideas to help develop the business in 2010. 

3. Get personal
Employees need to know what the organisation’s plans mean at a personal level. Yet recent BIS research showed that only a third (35%) of employees understood what their personal objectives were for 2010. All employees need a clear 'line of sight' between their own role and company goals so they understand where they fit in. They need clear and compelling objectives to help them make the contribution expected of them.

4. Commit to regular communication 
Make a commitment to regularly share information with employees regarding the performance of the business during the year, and to discuss any issues or challenges openly and honestly. This is important in a strong economic climate but even more so when times are tough: open communication regarding company performance and how this affects the individual is crucial to maintaining the trust on which an effective employer/employee relationship relies.

5. Analyse your behaviour
As you begin the year, take a step back and assess your own behaviour and how it might be interpreted by those around you. Identify areas in which you should change the way you're behaving to better engage your people.

6. Avoid micromanagement
Make a resolution to give your people more autonomy in the way they operate. Work with them to agree objectives and set parameters, but give them licence to shape the way they approach and deliver on these. Micro-management is an unnecessary, painful, resource-intensive and de-motivating way of trying to get the job done.

7. Be visible and supportive
Employees need to know you're available to give guidance, that you will offer support and that you're interested in their feedback and ideas at all times. Keep the lines of communication open.

8. Don't assume understanding
Regularly check in with your people regarding their understanding of business goals and the contribution they are expected to make. Don't, for instance, assume "I've e-mailed it so they know". Talk to your people to identify any misunderstandings or concerns.

9. Review communication channels
Is your organisation using its communication channels as effectively as it could? For example, are you confident that team briefing systems, employee publications and/or company intranets are reaching, engaging and supporting people around the company? If not, review the range of channels you have in place and ask whether they are delivering what the company needs. 

10. Recognise the contributions of your people

During 2010, make sure that you regularly recognise employees for the contribution they make. Lots of research shows the impact that this can have on individual motivation, well-being and performance. You could establish a formal award scheme, introduce 'spot prizes' for business improvement ideas and/or create more team-building events during the year. There are a number of ways in which you can positively impact motivation and productivity.


BIS is developing a range of practical guidance to help management teams engage their people more effectively in their business. This will address how an organisation can best explain to employees where the organisation is going and why; the skills and support that engaging managers need; how to best encourage and harness employee voice; and how to ensure there is no gap between what organisations tell their employees and what they do. This will be available in spring 2010. In the meantime, more information is available at http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/employeeengagement

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