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As we get underway with the launch of our 2018 UK & European Employee Engagement Awards, we at the Engagement Zone will be interviewing judges for the upcoming event. Today, the Engagement Zone sits down with Kate Reilly – Director of People and Organisational Development at PPL.

EZ: What does employee engagement mean to you?

KATE: Any organisation wants to be able to attract and retain talent within their workforce. To be able to do so there are a number of factors that will help make this possible. Along with engagement, development and working environment, there is ultimately pay and benefits. Ultimately as an employee I want to enjoy the job that I do, feel challenged, progress my career, feel like I have been developed, be managed appropriately, be treated fairly, communicated with, feel valued, work with nice people and have opportunities to engage with others and where possible have fun!

EZ: What are your three tips to companies looking to drive engagement in their organisations?

KATE: We live in a world where reviews on clothes, holidays etc. are at your fingertips and as consumers, we are asked constantly to provide it. With the likes of LinkedIn and Glassdoor, I think we can expect to see more reviews on employers which makes employee feedback ever the more important. If Glassdoor becomes the trip advisor for potential new employees then it could become the enabler or the blocker in attracting good candidates. In organisations where engagement is not top of the agenda then external reviews for all to see can be a great catalyst to ensuring that it is prioritised.

Feedback really is the most powerful tool, if you don’t know what the issue is how can you fix it? Sometimes it can be as simple as educating the individual as opposed to fixing something as often issues can arise out of a lack of understanding. To truly understand how engaged your employees are and how they are feeling carrying out an engagement survey every year or 2 years is not enough. Feedback needs to be in the moment on a regular basis and can be informal or formal be that in 1:1’s, exit interviews, turnover stats, absence rates, complaints etc. It really is about how you create the right culture to ensure that employees feel that they can provide that open and honest feedback and there needs to be a commitment from the organisation to act on that feedback where necessary.

Employee engagement has been proven to positively impact on organisation results with high levels of employee engagement shown to lead to improved productivity, quality and customer satisfaction and of course for commercial organisations increased profit and in addition to this, there are more public reviews than ever on organisations. The role of HR is going to become more important than ever. They will need to create and facilitate an environment that ensures that their organisation is an employer of choice to ensure that they have engaged employees and that they attract and retain talent and that they can demonstrate this has increased productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction to continue to build momentum.

EZ: What do you feel are the biggest pitfalls that companies should look to avoid when executing their engagement strategy?

KATE: The biggest pitfall is to take on board feedback or carry out an employee survey with no intention of changing anything. Before engaging in any form of engagement strategy there needs to be a commitment from the highest feel within the organisation.

EZ: Why do employees fail to buy in when companies try to ramp up engagement?

KATE: Normally due to a lack of trust or belief in the company and that they will actually make measurable or relevant change. When PPL first commenced its engagement survey in 2011 only 41% of the workforce thought action would be taken as a result. Since then we have demonstrated and communicated what has been done as a result of the survey and this figure is now over 70%.

EZ: What skills are most useful for everyone to have when trying to move towards a culture of engagement?

KATE: Being able to deliver effective feedback and being open to hearing feedback are skills that would benefit everyone. You can’t always change or give employees want they want however it is important that they feel they can talk about their frustrations and often spending the time to explain the rationale as to why something can’t be done is enough. “Engaged employees” doesn’t always mean that you have to give them what they ask for.

EZ: You’re a judge for the Employee Engagement Awards. What will you be looking for in the entries?

KATE: Companies who have focused on either their overall Employee Engagement or one aspect of it and used the data points that they have and direct feedback employees to make a change or implement something new that has the desired results it set out to have. I would also expect to have a positive knock-on impact that they can demonstrate be on that on company performance, absence levels etc.

Sometimes it can be quite a simple solution it doesn’t necessarily have to be all bells and whistles so it is important to consider the cost versus the return of any initiatives. To say something has been a success is simply not enough it will need to be backed up with measurable results.

EZ: How important do you think it is to connect Employee Experience to the Customer Experience and why?

KATE: By harnessing talent and ensuring each person understands their contribution and impact on the wider organisations priorities you can ensure both success and opportunities for growth in the future, individually and for the company. Ultimately PPL wants to be the employer of choice that has engaged employees who we retain and are motivated. In particular, a high level of employee engagement has been shown to lead to improved productivity, quality and customer satisfaction (and for commercial organisations, increased profit), whilst reduced absence and lower staff turnover. We launched a Licensee and Member Survey at the end of 2014. Following the launch of a benefits review, we received our highest score ever in License Experience in August 2015 and we also received our highest score ever in Member Experience in August 2015. Our overall Member Satisfaction scores continue to correlate to our levels of employee engagement.

EZ: Favourite song to crank up after a tough day at work?

KATE: At the moment – The Greatest Showman – This is Me!

EZ: Best place in the world you have visited?

KATE: Australia – I absolutely loved being in Queensland and Sydney

EZ: The place you’d most like to visit?

KATE: South Africa

NOTE: Entries for the UK & European and ANZ  Employee Engagement Awards are now open. For your chance to be recognised as a great place to work, click the link here.