The two principles of great employee engagement

The CEO of Britain's largest family-run recruitment agency has a simple approach to employee satisfaction.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 12 Feb 2019

Employee engagement, like culture, comes in many forms.

For some, it stretches as far as free fruit, branded mouse mats or a complimentary cocktail at 5.30pm on a Friday afternoon. Others choose a more holistic approach, making the workspace into a manifestation of company mores, with games areas, communal lunch times and mindfulness Mondays with llamas and puppies.

It can go a bit far, but if there’s one thing that’s certain it’s that businesses with happier, more engaged staff perform better.

It's a mantra that James Reed, the CEO of the UK’s largest family owned recruitment agency REED, lives by. He takes a simple approach to making sure his 3,400 employees feel appreciated, based on two principles.

1. You can't just leave it to HR

"We do a satisfaction survey every month and every member of staff gets the opportunity to fill it out at least twice a year. All of the comments come back directly to me. It sounds obvious but it means that it bypasses the intermediary and I, as CEO, can understand exactly how everyone is feeling, and what the business needs to do to listen.

"For example I knew instantly that all the employees in the Liverpool office had an issue with the toilets, so my response to that was to move the office and now it's doing better as a result.

"I wouldn't necessarily have known that otherwise because it would take me some time to get around all of the offices personally."

2. Start from the beginning

"We try to make the business in a sense part of the family. We celebrate people that have been with us 10 or 20 years. Loyal employees get paid sabbaticals or are invited to lunch at the Ritz. We celebrate people who have given a real length of service to the company.

"But I want everyone to feel included in that family when they they join.

"We run a business school in the Cotswolds. It originally started out as a college for accountants, but we extended it to offer induction, management and graduate training schemes to our own teams.  

"We hire 60 graduate trainees a year and they all pass through the school in cohorts of 20. When people do a course in the same location for a space of time, they become pretty close - it’s a bit like what happens when people go to university.

"There is a real camaraderie around it and it's really helped to instil a sense of togetherness in our teams. It creates a bond between them and the business which means they stay longer and feel a bit more connected to the company.

"We are lucky that we have that resource, but it's about creating those opportunities at a different scale that fits with your organisation."

Further reading

For more information on the secret to a successful cultural transformation and top tips for engaging employees, read these pieces:

James Reed's new book The 7 Second CV: How to land the interview  is out now.

Image credits: AndreyPopov/getty images


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