Brand Engagement

U.K. Engagement Efforts, Led by Prime Minister Cameron, Far Surpass Progress in the U.S.

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Many in the U.S. might assume that we generally lead the world in business innovation. Of course that’s not true – case in point: engagement. With it’s government-initiated Engage for Success program aimed at promoting engagement throughout business there, the United Kingdom far surpasses the U.S. in its top-level acceptance of engagement as a critical business strategy. The sponsorship list reads like a who’s who in business, including U.K. executives of many U.S. companies. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the initiative came from the office of David Cameron, the current Prime Minister, as part of an overall strategy to increase the competitiveness of U.K. enterprise in the world marketplace.

Describing itself as a “movement,” the Engage for Success Task Force is supported by the government’s Department of Innovation and Skills because, according to information provided by the Task Force, engagement supports two key government objectives: achieving sustainable growth and helping people improve their well-being. Addressing the organization’s 2012 Summit, attended by top executives representing dozens of leading corporations, Prime Minister Cameron said, “Engage for Success is a movement that I helped launch last year to get U.K. workers more involved in the decision making of their companies and feel more passionate about their work. This meeting of leading companies and the publication of new evidence is an important step in achieving this and helping Britain to compete in the global race. With only a third of U.K. workers saying they feel engaged, I encourage all companies to get involved in this important initiative.”

Cameron’s vision that engagement could provide a key competitive edge was substantiated by a detailed report commissioned by the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills in 2008 to determine the foundation for this assumption. The 150-plus page report was authored by David MacLeod, a leading change management expert in Britain with significant top management experience, and Nita Clark, Director of the Involvement and Participation Association, and formerly an advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

In the preface to the report, Peter Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, wrote, “A recession might seem an unusual time for such reflection – in fact, the opposite is the case. Because Britain’s economic recovery and its competitive strengths in a global economy will be built on strong, innovative companies and confident employees, there has never been a more important time to think about employee engagement in Britain.”

One of the report’s key findings: “We believe that if employee engagement and the principles that lie behind it were more widely understood, if good practice was more widely shared, if the potential that resides in the country’s workforce was more fully unleashed, we could see a steep change in workplace performance and in employee well-being for the considerable benefit of the U.K.”

The report, and much of the information on the EngageForSuccess.org website, will sound familiar to anyone involved with the Enterprise Engagement Alliance, which has an almost identical mission here in the states, with one exception: The U.K.’s Engage for Success movement appears to have overlooked the need to engage people across the enterprise, including customers, distribution partners, vendors and communities. Missing in much of what we have reviewed is the need to focus engagement on satisfying the needs of customers first, which in turn ensures that everyone else in the organization focuses on what ultimately will drive prosperity for all. Most of the task forces in the U.K. initiative include people in human resources, when the research on which the Enterprise Engagement framework is based indicates that connecting engagement to customers is essential to generating the economic benefits necessary to create the virtuous circle of prosperity. Engagement is an enterprise-wide initiative that involves breaking down silos between marketing, distribution management, employee engagement, vendors and even communities.

engagement PDFThat said, the Engage for Success movement appears to be a model for collaborative effort, with multiple opportunities for participants to share information in various areas of engagement, and a dedication, says the organization’s literature, to being “highly inclusive and open to all.” The EngageForSuccess.org website provides extensive information at no cost. Click here to get the organization’s corporate brochure.

While the U.S. now has several organizations dedicated to various aspects of engagement, none has such unqualified support coming from the highest levels of business and government. The founders of the Enterprise Engagement Alliance, created in 2008 with the support of a few generous companies, has an almost identical mission and dedication to being open and inclusive – hence the term “alliance” in our name and our model of making our education free to people online – but we have no high-level, world-famous backer, and we’re not sure we’d ever want an initiative to be driven by a political leader in the U.S., where politics are so divisive.

Nonetheless, the EEA continues to expand its free online education program, is producing an enhanced second edition of Enterprise Engagement: The Textbook and is overhauling our Enterpriseengagement.org portal to focus on providing a central library of links to news, research, case studies and other resources in all areas of engagement, available both in the U.S. and worldwide, starting early this spring – and free to all.


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