Engagement as a vehicle for change

Change can no longer be thought of as a “programme” to be gotten through and survived only to return to “business as usual”. Building an engaged workforce that appreciates this and has an expectation that matches today’s culture of flux, innovation and growth is where the future potential lies.


Engagement – more specifically the role of employee experience –  as a vehicle for transformation is the next frontier.


Our people are our most valuable asset. It is our people who – if supported, empowered and mobilised in the right way – can be the difference that creates and maintains a competitive advantage. Employee engagement is no longer a “nice to have”, nor should it be the sole domain of start-ups, techs and non-traditional industries.


Businesses with strong employee engagement see a 17% increase in profit growth, and a 19.2% increase in operating income, as against those with poor levels of employee engagement. But they are also characterised by an agile and nimble workforce, poised to respond and adapt effectively, and at speed.


Engagement is a vehicle for transformation. It is a catalyst that fosters an alliance of agile innovators who thrive in the continually learning, evolving, and changing business environment that is today’s norm.


In this new reality, engagement is an ongoing process that sees employee experience experts at the decision-making table bringing a clear, unrelenting, strategic focus to what, how and when, engagement delivers for the business. It lives close to the commercial focal points of the organisation and has the authority and credibility to shape and redefine corporate culture.


This strategic focus understands that “engagement” is more than discretionary effort, or “happy” / “satisfied” employees. Instead, excellence in employee experience fosters a culture where groups of people deeply committed to their employer, their teams and their roles show up daily to deliver. The truly engaged employees developed with this approach are personally invested in identifying and leading key improvements in outcomes – not because they’re directed to but because they have the capability and autonomy to try, innovate, and adapt. And they are the people who emotionally identify with, and share the values of, the organisation. This is the formula for success.


Smart organisations in tech (IBM and Intel), pharma (BMS and MSD), new finance (PayPal and Pramerica), and services (ESB and Musgraves) understand the value in investing in this type of employee experience. Characterised by an ongoing and meaningful dialogue with their people, delivered in a genuine, transparent and open way, this reality sees employer and employee work together to shape the change when it is anticipated rather than at the point of delivery.


Visibly evident is a common frame of reference, shared by a vibrant community of employees with a focus on mutually beneficial and commercially successful outcomes. A sense of personal and authentic belonging is cultivated and celebrated, as is personal investment in the business. This sets the scene for a high-performance, sustainable, culture that is not only capable of change, but will seek it out as a non-threatening reality that’s an adaptable challenge.


An entire ecosystem that nurtures this form of employee experience is open to the timely and transparent sharing of information. With a constant focus on development and growth, it enables a two-way exploration of the impetus for, and impact of, change well before it happens, then supports and drives the necessary change in a people-focused way.


This is what “good” looks like in the world of today’s employee experience. And that takes a new kind of thinking.


In this new world of employee experience, we need to understand that engagement is not a singular construct – it depends on where a business is starting from; what its growth and strategic objectives are; its culture – to determine what will “work” within the DNA of the organisation and what the corporate immune system will tolerate; and lastly the organisation’s appetite for and capability to deliver in a transformative way.


New tools are needed. Leadership coaching on the psychology of communication and engagement, capability-building in areas that were once the sole reserve of communications professionals, and a more behavioural approach to engagement that blends psychology and communication is required, along with a progressive mindset and a willingness to prioritise employee experience.


This is the world of employee experience in the 21st century.


Caroline Collins

With a background in strategic communications and psychology, and a PhD in culture change, Caroline helps businesses have conversations that matter. She has over 15 years’ experience working in strategic business development, corporate communications including employer brand and marketing, and employee experience.


She’s worked in-house, for herself, and as a consultant with some of the largest blue-chip corporates in media, pharma and most recently, financial services. Her experience spans across national and European programmes in the private, public and NGO sectors.


She has authored two books, edited two more and more recently contributed as a guest author on impactful ways to communicate science to the general public. She has been a speechwriter and contributed to an address given by Bill Clinton on his visit to Ireland in 2005.


In her current role as Group Head of Engagement & Communications with Irish Life, Caroline works with a team to support a business of nearly 3000 employees, and a client-base of over 1 million customers.