by Juliet Hancock

Using values to enhance employee engagement

Only around a third of UK employees say they are actively engaged at work.

64 per cent of people say they have more to offer in skills and talent than they are currently being asked to demonstrate in their work. (Feb 2013)

Values have a key relationship to employee engagement.

Employee engagement is a major topic in national and international conversations and a term which is increasingly being used by organisations because of the impact it is known to have on other key effectiveness measures (see here).

Engaged employees bring greater productivity to their work and feel more personally and professionally fulfilled. If the values of staff are being met in terms of their needs and motivators, they will be more ‘engaged’, and productivity will increase.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) describes employee engagement as ‘being positively present during the performance of work by willingly contributing intellectual effort, experiencing positive emotions and meaningful connection to others’ (CIPD 2013).

The CIPD measures employee engagement in its employee outlook survey every quarter ( This explores employee attitudes in the fast-changing world of work in the UK. This and other similar national and international employee engagement metrics indicate that engagement levels in the UK are typically 30-35 per cent (up to 50 per cent in the voluntary sector). This means that only a third of UK staff are actively engaged at work, and 20 million workers are not delivering their full capability or realising their full potential at work. This provides huge scope for an increase in productivity and satisfaction if engagement is enhanced

The figures for the USA are similar, with 70 per cent of workers not engaged (Gallup).

ORC International ( defines engagement in terms of ‘say, stay and strive’ principles:

  • SAY = Employee advocacy – whether employees are inclined to speak positively about the organization to colleagues and potential employees and other people externally
  • STAY = Employee commitment – reflects an employee’s commitment to the organisation in terms of whether they wish to stay with the organisation, develop their career there and really be a part of the organisation
  • STRIVE = Discretionary effort – the extent to which employees are willing to go the extra mile and put discretionary effort into their work.


Values are at the heart of successful employee engagement. ‘Engaging for success’ lists four enablers shown below ( Each of these ‘enablers’ has a link to employee engagement and as a manager you have a key role in influencing all of these.

Engaging for success’s four enablers What do I need to do as a manager?
Visible, empowering leadership provides a strong strategic narrative about the organisation, where it’s come from and where it’s going.

Use your values to motivate and tell a story, both internally and to the outside world.
Translate the narrative into what’s important for your business and how staff contribute to this. It’s not a one-off job. You need to keep asking how this is reflected in what we do and why, and how we deliver our services. Collect feedback and constantly review how this fits with your strategy and performance at every level of the organisation, from Board downwards. How is it reflected in your values and behaviour and what people say about these?
Engaging managers, who focus their people and give them scope, treat their people as individuals and coach and stretch their people.

Understand what is important to each member of your team –what they need, what they aspire to and how they perform best.
Managing is more than giving out instructions and deadlines. Explain how what is important to the organisation and you as a manager links to the work of the team and how you do it together. Understand how to meet the different individual needs of your team members within what is important to the organisation.
There is employee voice throughout the organisation, for reinforcing and challenging views, between functions and externally, and employees are seen as central to the solution.

Show in your personal and organisation values and practices that staff are listened to and their views matter.
Talk to your staff at every level and at every opportunity, both through formal channels and informally, to find out what they think is important and whether it is being met. Use focus groups and other opportunities to engage staff in what values are important, how this is being demonstrated and what is getting in the way. Use staff surveys and other feedback mechanisms to find out if staff think the values are being met. Follow up on negative feedback and engage staff on ideas for improvement and solutions.
There is organisational integrity – the values on the wall are reflected in day-to-day behaviours. There is no ‘say–do’ gap.

Hold managers to account, not only for results, but how these are delivered.
Lead by example.
Behave in accordance with your values as a manager and in an appropriate way that promotes the values of the organisation.
Be visible.
Ask for personal feedback and act on it. Recognise and reward/promote examples of behaviour which match the values you are seeking.
Act when you see behaviours that do not reflect the values that are important to your organisation and you as a manager in it.
Be accountable.

Current measures of staff engagement are still developing and are not consistent. In organisations, staff surveys remain the most common form of assessing employee engagement. Many staff are cynical about these and surveys are not very effective because often they are not followed up. They are seen as ‘top down’ or done by HR, and do not always identify the things that are most important to people.

Meaningful employee engagement needs to reflect the needs of staff and what is most important to them, not just the organisation. Leaders and managers need to be seen to take this seriously and, as happens with customer satisfaction surveys, to measure and follow up on the findings.

By listening to what is most important to staff - in other words, their values, and the extent to which these are met - action can then be focused on the areas that will make the biggest difference to individual and organisation engagement, productivity and effectiveness.


Employee engagement – the evidence

Organisations in the bottom quartile for engagement scores average 42 per cent more accidents than those in the top quartile. In addition, organisations with engagement scores in the top quartile

 - Have twice the annual net profit of those in bottom quartile
 - Have revenue growth 2.5 times of those in the bottom quartile
 - Have 18 per cent higher productivity than those in the bottom quartile
 - Average 12 per cent higher customer advocacy
 - Show employee turnover 40 per cent lower than those with low engagement.

It’s also worth noting that 59 per cent of engaged employees say their job brings out their most creative ideas (three per cent for least engaged).

Sadly, UK productivity was 20 per cent lower than rest of G7 in 2011.