“Two-way” engagement leads to better productivity

Improving communication and psychological wellbeing in the workplace could lead to a more productive workforce according to independent consultant Jeff Grout, the former UK managing director of specialist recruitment firm Robert Half International.

Speaking in the opening keynote speech, Communication for a highly-engaged workforce, on 2 May at the HR Solutions & Employee Benefits Conference 2007, held in Manchester, Grout said communication with staff was critical to developing engaged employees. But he warned that it should be “two way” and not just about organisational objectives. “If you want to find out what staff are thinking you have to make it safe and easy [for them] to respond,” he said. Anonymous staff surveys and suggestion schemes are two ways of achieving this.

Professor Ivan Robertson, managing director of business psychology firm Robertson Cooper and also emeritus professor of work and organisational psychology at the University of Manchester, advocated the use of employee opinion surveys to help identify stress hotspots within an organisation, in the closing keynote session of the day on psychological wellbeing. He explained that these could lead to improved staff productivity.

Ashley Judd, head of HR at Lancashire Constabulary, went on to explain how he used this approach to find out why sickness absence levels were high at the force in 2003. As well as analysising the statistics, he commissioned a Quality of working life†survey of staff, which revealed areas within the organisation causing psychological pressure. Once these issues had been addressed, sickness absence levels in the organisation fell, resulting in the equivalent of 30 extra officers on the streets per day.