Employee Engagement – Linkages with the Sears Model

Writing about web page http://thedesignconspiracy.typepad.com/weblog/2006/05/the_sears_model.html

Engagement is the measure of people’s willingness and ability to give discretionary effort at work.

Highly committed employees try 57% harder, perform
up to 20 percentile points better and are 87% less likely to leave that
employees with low levels of committment.
Corporate Leadership Council

How does engagement impact the performance of an organisation? According to Towers Perrin, 2004

  • I can impact quality: Engaged 84% – Non-Engaged 31%
  • I can positively impact customer service1: Engaged 72% – Non-Engaged 27%
  • I can positively impact cost: Engaged 68% – Non-Engaged 19%
  • I am likely to stay with my employer: Engaged 59% – Non-Engaged 24%

(It’s not all about the parties, the intranet and the newsletter.)

In March and April I went to two conferences with the express
purpose of getting my head round the concept of employee engagement –
and I deliberately chose two conferences on the same subject from
different disciplines.

  1. The Ark Group’s 2nd Annual Connecting Employees to the Business through Engagement Conference (HR- emphasis)
  2. PR
    Week’s Delivering Motivating Messages and Driving Change Awareness
    Through Relevant Channels to Create Measurable Staff Perceptions and
    Ensure Engaging Internal Communications (PR-emphasis)*

Now, first of all I want to do a small amount in defence of PR. Good
PR from a systems approach inherantly involves two-way communications
and boundary spanning.

But good internal communications, no matter how motivating your
messages or how much you pass feedback up to managers, is only one part
of employee engagement. And while the HR bods seem to have got their
heads round this – the PR bods seem to have a long way to go.

So, this begs the question, what definitively makes up the employee experience – which leads to engagement or lack thereof?

According to Adrian Britten, Head of Colleague Engagement at the Co-Operative Group:

  • Policies, Processes and Procedures
  • Leadership
  • Line Manager/ Management Behaviour
  • Development/ Talent Management
  • Reward and Recognition
  • Workplace/ Physical Environment
  • Job Design
  • Communications
  • Shared Understanding

Some additions from the Institute of Employment Studies include:

  • involvement in decision making
  • the extent to
    which employees feel able to voice their ideas, and managers listen to
    these views, and value employees’ contributions
  • the opportunities employees have to develop their jobs
  • the extent to which the organisation is concerned for employees’ health and wellbeing.

The CIPD adds the following:

  • having opportunities to feed your views upwards
  • feeling well-informed about what is happening in the organisation
  • believing that your manager is committed to your organisation

Wikipedia goes even further:

  • Employee perceptions of job importance
  • Employee clarity of job expectations
  • Quality of working relationships with peers, superiors, and subordinates
  • Perceptions of the ethos and values of the organization

See Charles Woodruffe for another list

So – what are the relative priorities? What’s the recipe?

At least both camps can agree on one thing: line managers are the key.

They shape an individual employees view of the organisation.

*Catchy Conference Title of the Year Award Winner

1 – See related webpage linked at the top for the Sears Model

6 Responses to “Employee Engagement – Linkages with the Sears Model”
  1. Chris May says:

    think something that’s not really emphasised in your list of “what
    leads to engagement” is “responsibility” – giving employees not just
    the ability to “feed their views upstream” (presumably to some almighty
    manager, who may or may not choose to take any notice of them), but
    giving them the ability to actually make the changes that
    they feel are approriate themselves, and giving them the responsibility
    to deal with the results of those changes.

    IMNSHO, there’s nothing more likely to lead to employees who are disengaged than a working environment where the ability to actually do
    stuff is stifled by layer upon layer of management, all wanting to
    exert some control over their underlings and their crazy ideas.

  2. Casey Leaver says:


    And this is where all this
    comes in: creating an environment where people can innovate, and take
    calculated risks where appropriate, and take responsibility for making
    improvements both to their own working environment and the institution
    as a whole (whatever the driver).

    So perhaps the flipside of responsibility is accountability and opportunity?

  3. Chris May says:

    A “suggestion scheme” is moving dangerously close what I was talking about avoiding ; in an ‘engaged’ organisation, if I have an idea for how to improve something, I don’t suggest it, I do it.

    But the rest of the comment is in line with my way of thinking; in
    return for being granted the power to implement a change, I have to
    accept the accountability for the consequences of that change. That all
    tends to lead to me taking ownership for whatever it is that I’m doing, rather than just doing it because the boss told me too.

  4. Casey Leaver says:

    Aaah – but there are schemes and schemes…

    My currently poorly-articulated thinking is around (and please don’t
    get hung up on the terminology) a solutions-focussed facilitated
    quality circle approach.

    See Three Ideas in One (20KB)

    The idea is around supplying people with a tool and a process for fixing things themselves.

  5. Chris May says:

    would you want to “supply” * people with a tool and a process? Don’t
    you trust them to choose the tool and process that will work best for

    Look at how Google do it, for an example. Every employee can spend
    20% of his/her time working on things which they think are cool, or
    useful, or in some way beneficial to the organisation. There’s no
    ‘approval process’ required, no ‘bidding for funds’, you just get on
    and do it. If you can’t do it on your own, then it’s up to you to
    persuade some other people to devote their 20%s to your cause. If you
    can’t, maybe it wasn’t that good of an idea anyway…

    Out of this 20% have come apps like iGoogle and GMail, so it clearly works for some.

    * for which read “mandate”

  6. Casey Leaver says:

    in that sense, Google are still supplying people with a framework –
    it’s just that their framework is very simple – it’s 20% of your time.

    In answer to your question – yes. And that’s why I propose two entry
    points into the ideas fund: route A, through the framework, for people
    who need more support and more of a framework, and route B for people
    who are happy to come up with their proposal a different way.

    I do also see one of the benefits of route A as being that a
    framework can help to get people from different bits of the
    organisation working together on a mutual or institutional issue
    (people that they might not even know are involved in the process
    further down the line). The kind of ‘issue’ that I have in mind is the
    byzantine and snaking student admissions process.

    (I have a vested interest in Dave Hall’s BPM
    project for similar reasons – although my interest is in reworking
    processes before documenting them as well as in the funky eWorks

    This is a very useful discussion – although I realise that I’ve
    partway fallen into the trap of discussing my ideas as though they are
    far more concrete than they are. They do need this kind of testing and

    One final idea that I want to chuck into the pot though is an
    individual’s personal environmental situation within Warwick. You work
    in a creative role and you work in an area with a fair amount of
    autonomy. The Google 20% rule probably works well for you. What if you
    worked in a more hierarchically-organised part of the institution with
    close supervision? Or a part of the University that is more
    target-driven in terms of proportioning time e.g. set teaching hours
    and publication targets? Could an optional framework and corresponding
    support help you more then?

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