Category Archives: Employee Engagement

Why increasing discretionary effort in the workplace is the key of success

Why increasing discretionary effort in the workplace is the key of success

by Antonia Di Lorenzo


“If you don’t trust someone to spend the right amount of time at work doing the job, or to turn up dressed correctly for a meeting, then are you likely to be empowering them to act on behalf of a customer?” The answer to the rhetoric question by David Radford, market management director at insurers Allianz Retail, seems to be: “No, I do not.”

More recently a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) report on leadership noted that “the key to performance is through engaging employees in ways that produce discretionary effort and creating an environment which encourages greater employee empowerment and voice to facilitate the exchange of ideas and know-how.”

Discretionary effort is the level of effort people could give if they wanted to, above and beyond the call of duty. David Jukes, president EMEA at Univar, a leading global chemical distributor, says in regards that “the organisations with discretionary effort tend to be the ones that care more, that make things happen, make people feel better about what they do. It makes colleagues feel wanted and appreciated, and customers feel loved and special.”

It is evident how discretionary effort is associated with engagement, and in some cases, it seems to be the natural result of the latter. Marc Woods, founding director of SladenWoods management consultants and a gold medal winning Paralympian, highlights how in today’s organisations, perhaps more than ever before, people matter. People’s actions are the main contribution to the success of an organisation. It seems there is a gap between what people are potentially prepared to do, and what they actually do, depending on the environment they’re working in, the organisation’s culture, their relationship with their manager or co-workers. These factors can stimulate people to stop from doing that little bit extra or going beyond the call of duty.

Woods wrote a book based on the results of his research: “Why Some of Your Team Go the Extra Mile and Others Don’t Show”. He identifies six drivers that organisations can target if they want to create an environment that fosters discretionary effort:

  • autonomy and empowerment;
  • consideration of the individual;
  • self-sacrificial leadership;
  • fairness and equity;
  • identifying with your team;
  • trust.


In the context of discretionary effort, trust operates on several levels. One factor that impacts on trust, and therefore discretionary effort, says Alf Crossman, a senior lecturer in industrial relations and human resource management at Surrey Business School, University of Surrey, is the psychological contract between employer and employee, in other words, how employees believe they are entitled to be treated and the kinds of promises that people infer from their employee relationship. If on the one hand, people are prepared to give, then on the other, they expect to get something back in return.

According to Radford, even though the discretionary effort may be voluntary, it is important that organisations reward this behaviour to give the individual more consideration; on the other hand, they cannot take actions against who decides to not put in a bit more. It’s a matter of choice.

According to a study commissioned by Aubrey Daniels International (ADI), the only way organisations can earn discretionary effort is through the effective use of positive reinforcement,  that is any consequence that increases the probability of this behaviour. If people experience positive and immediate consequences, there will be more probabilities that people enjoying what they are doing will choose to go beyond the minimum required. After all, that’s exactly what happens in the everyday life, bringing the same attitude into an organisation, collaborating in building positive reinforcement.


Reese Haydon, Marketing Specialist at DecisionWise, points out how discretionary effort varies by tasks – some of them can be more engaging than other ones and stimulate us to put in a bit more (extrinsic engagement) – or by person – according to this school of thought, the nature of task does not matter (intrinsic engagement). It is believed that both the theories are true. Engagement is a choice made by two parties: employer and employee. If the employee chooses to go beyond the minimum required, the employer needs to create an environment where the first one can be more engaged. Discretionary effort and employee engagement seem to be a by-product of a two-part equation.

Woods recognises that there is massive potential value to the employee, being able to contribute to the organisation more than managers imagine and expect: “No matter what your role or position, you can help your organisation focus on and improve the key drivers that can unlock that potential. Why wouldn’t you want to create an environment in which discretionary effort is able to flourish? That’s the kind of organisation we all want to be part of.”

When people enjoy, they are motivated to find solutions, are creative, guarantee a high level of commitment, a long-term and consistent relationship with the organisation.

HR Tech Europe Conference: the new frontier of the HR role

HR Tech Europe Conference: the new frontier of the HR role

by Antonia Di Lorenzo

 Human Resources

Although there is no commonly accepted definition of Human Resource Management, the key point is to see the staff as a real asset in the organisation.

From this principle, the basic schools of thought are divided into two theories:

  • the RBT (resources-based theory) sees this resource as the sole source of a unique competitive advantage, enduring and inimitable. Therefore it brings the management of human resources to the centre of corporate strategy (see Barney 1991, Boxall and Purcell 2003).
  • The second school, also called “soft HRM”, starts from the analysis of Porter (1985) and sees the competitive advantage reachable only by product differentiation or cost leadership, therefore suggesting an integration (a “fit”) of human resource management policies with those concerning the general business strategy (see also Miller 1987).


The HR officer is the professional figure who deals with the management of the staff, from research to selection, from training and evaluation to administration. Their tasks can vary widely depending on the size of the company.

Agota Czeller, Human Resources Manager Intern in Grow3, is responsible for ensuring the quality of written correspondence with applicants and third parties, preparing reference letters and employment contracts, scheduling and conducting interviews, screening CVs, producing weekly departmental summary reports and working on improving the current recruitment process.

“HR priority is to make sure that all the employees are well looked after and their concerns are addressed and met appropriately. It is important to make sure that the company’s people needs are aligned to its strategic needs. People are the most important assets of a company,” she says.

According to her, the main responsibilities of a HR officer are:

  • To find the right person and someone who can fit into the organisation;
  • Once someone is in the firm, make sure that the employee’s needs are met and they are well, and that they stay for the needed time (to complete job) also;
  • HR looks after the training, learning and development needs of each person;
  • If a person needs to leave the organisation, they will make sure that this is done as professionally as possible;
  • All of this includes documentation and administration;
  • Communication.

In order to facilitate this last aspect, Agota confirms that “technology can be a tool which helps communication between different parts of the organisation such as HR and employees of different departments or employees and their line managers.”

“If, for example someone is working flexibly, some apps like skype can help keep in touch or if performance review takes place, then skype could also be used,” she says.

Regarding the relationship between the HR role and the new technologies, London will greet the HR Tech Europe Conference in March 2015, considered to be the fastest growing HR event in the world, for the third successive year.

It is believed it is the best European conference on HR and technology, delivering timely, thought-provoking keynotes, panels and networking opportunities with senior leaders from around the globe.

With regards to a potential innovative side of the HR role, our HR Manager Intern says: “I think HR can be innovated if we start to see its function as being strategic rather than only administrative.” She supports, “that means that HR – policies and practices – is one of the tools that can be used to ensure that a business is successful. If the employees are looked after, their well-being is good, then they will perform better, helping the company prosper.”

“In order to change the role of HR, we need to make sure that it is less transactional and more about relationships,” Agota continues, “although HR is aiming to be strategic, it must not ignore the needs of the individual. Organisational goals must not undermine employee goals, they should go hand in hand. Technology should be used also as a way to modernize recruitment, training, performance management.”

Among the confirmed speakers of the global event that is coming to London next March, we find the names of Peter Hinssen, Chairman and Co-founder of Nexxworks, one of the world’s thought leaders on disruptive innovation, Rachel Botsman, named the Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, and Costas Markides, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship.


“Your physical, mental and intellectual resources, continually growing and changing, are your personal capital.”

Brian Tracey – writer and expert in development of human potential.



Why choosing a multicultural environment for your business

Why choosing a multicultural environment for your business

by Antonia Di Lorenzo

                                                 group of young ecologists                                                                  

When I hear the adjective “multicultural”, I always think of an international dinner.

Imagine a long table at the centre of a huge living room, packed by people from different cultures. Everyone brings their own traditional food from their country: sushi from Japan, Mexican tacos, Spanish paella, French crepes, Indian rice, pasta.

By the end of the evening, probably full and drunk, you would have tried new dishes, which you may like or dislike. You would have had a new experience that allows you to explore foreign cultures, expanding your horizons towards worlds that you didn’t know, meeting people with different backgrounds who can teach you something.

Your dining experience resembles a community where each one gives their own contribution, in order to grow up together and improve themselves.

The result will be engagement, knowledge, open-mindedness, in one word: satisfaction.



Now let’s see the advantages of using an “international-dinner approach” to increase your business.

  •  Improvement of the problem-solving. As Jared Lewis explained in The Advantages of Multiculturalism in the workplace, being exposed to different points of view helps to create a sense of cultural awareness and to think outside the box when the employee will face a problem. Getting in touch with foreign cultures can allow you to realise how your mind is limited and how it influences negatively your way to solve the problems.
  • Team work. The employees who will work in a multicultural environment will be more inclined to respect diversity, collaborating and finding a compromise in face of adversities.
  • Knowledge. Discovering new cultures can widen your horizons. Firstly, when different backgrounds and experiences come together, you can expect a huge increase of possibilities. It can be also beneficial to stimulate creativity. Irina Chirileasa, Media Assistant, has examined in depth this topic through the eyes of GRSC Renewals Team members. This company has leaders from all Europe, who confirms working in an international environment can stimulate your hungry for knowledge and leading to excellent results. Cristiana Lupu, East Europe and CIS Regional Manager, Support Renewal Sales, GRSC, says: “Coordinating a team made up by members who come from different parts of the world is amazing! You learn a lot about what it means to live in a global society. Working across cultures tests your general knowledge, adaptability, contextual leadership and, of course, patience. There are tough aspects as well, for example balancing out the extreme cold drive for results with keeping the people motivated and driving each of them to the next step in their personal development.”
  • New contacts. Having employees from different countries means also passing the frontiers. Your new contacts network’s name is world.
  • Global Interactions. Having a high degree of understanding how other cultures do business leads the company to an international level. Global interactions take shape through different beliefs, philosophies and various ways of conceiving the marketplace.
  • Flexibility. The workplace always demands flexibility, but in a multicultural environment you need to be ready to adapt yourself to different cultures. This often means getting in touch with different approaches which, potentially, can affect positively your projects. Maria Avram, Germany Senior Manager, Support Renewal Sales, GRSC, explains that in a multicultural environment there is a wonderful exchange: “Along the way, my team learned from me to be more organised, disciplined, confident. I also learned from them to be more flexible and communicative, to be more tolerant and also that people change, not completely, but partially.”

Grow3 puts a lot of effort into creating the right conditions to build a multicultural environment, in order to realise these beneficial effects. Caitlin Doherty, Marketing Manager of Grow3, says: “ I think that multicultural is synonymous of global. To be global it is essential to feel global, creating an international community. It is an added value as well as a priority. This is one of the main values of our company.”

Multiculturalism means evaluating people firstly as ideas producers, without taking into consideration any background or origins. It can drive the business to progress and social innovation.

Ideas are the priority. They don’t have any colour or ethnicity. They belong to people who with their ideas are able to create a community.



General Engagement: THE POWER OF VIDI

General Engagement:


By Catherine Bernales


Susan L. and Emma S. are both marketing consultants. They live in the same city, studied in the same university, but work in different companies. While their jobs seem to be very similar, the truth is that they are quite far from having the same levels of engagement at work.

Susan works in an international company and earns a competitive salary. Her organisation provides her regular training opportunities and promotion prospects. On the contrary, Emma is part of a small team in a young company. She earns an average salary, has low training opportunities and her office is old and a bit cramped. However, her organisation owns a strong corporate culture.

Although Susan’s levels of job satisfaction are apparently much higher than Emma’s, the truth is that they are not. She’s completely discouraged and self-perpetuated in a cycle of low morale. Nevertheless, her lack of motivation represents nothing new these days. In fact, she’s part of the 87% of people who express low workplace engagement at work. Even worth, only 13% of employees in the world are engaged according to the State of the Global Workplace Survey (2013) from Gallup World, a management consultancy.

Conversely, the case of Emma is rather different. She feels completely engaged, with a great disposition to support the company’s culture and enough confident to self-manage. In a nutshell, Emma is totally VIDI.

But what does VIDI means? According to Andrew Leigh, the author of Ethical Leadership Creating and sustaining and ethical business culture, VIDI is a useful approach that affects the levels of general engagement. When employees feel Valued, Involved, Developed and Inspired they are more likely to stay in their organisations and become fully engaged with ethical issues.

Whist it is undeniable that it is hard for leaders to maintain high levels of engagement in their teams, the concept of VIDI offers some practical guidelines for leaders.

Being Valued: Make your employees feel worthwhile and wanted

good job and well done

Showing that you VALUE people means that you understand them. In other words, leaders must learn to convey the message that makes employees valued.

“When I started running my own company I discovered that paying attention to what people says and actively listen to their ideas, reinforce the message that you care about them”, said M. Paz M. Marketing Manager at Webit Communications. She also thought that as she was usually involved in time-consuming tasks, she didn’t have the time to contact her employees frequently. She decided to set up some scheduled visits to her staff. “Not only I saw them more regularly, but I also started to encourage them to contact me for their concerns. In response, I tried to give them positive answers and public credit for contributions”, she said.

But even the simple “how are you feeling today” or using a positive language like “that was really useful”, can make your staff feel needed.

Being involved: Let your employees voice their views

When it comes to make your employees feel INVOLVED don’t hesitate to let them express their views and ideas. They need to feel part of their organisations. For instance, the retailer M&S has a network called the Business Involvement Group (BIG) in which people can communicate their ideas and get feedback. Through this programme, the company informs, involves and have the chance to consults its employees on the issues that affect them.

Similarly, the global communications company, BT, runs a programme which reduces CO2 emissions and protect the environment. They have set up a framework for “Carbon Clubs”, a creative space that give employees the opportunity to brainstorm thoughts and innovative projects. Currently, BT has 130 clubs around the world.

Being developed: Help your employees to fulfil their values

The opportunity to be developed directly influences engagement levels. Leaders should create a personal development plan for their workforce that can emerge from evolved discussions with them. In this line, it is interesting to motivate your employees to follow their own schedules, rather than imposing targets. However, try to make sure that these goes in accordance to your aims and values.

A research from Blessing White has showed that development can certainly reduce the turnover rates. The study named Navigating Ambiguity: Career Research Report 2014, has concluded that employees “need to make the most of their skills, fulfil their values and over time build a career journey that gets them to where they want to be — and where the organization needs them to be. Such skills and experience are developed through on-the-job experience and formal or informal learning”.

 Being inspired: Feel passion of what you really love

These days, unfortunately the majority of employees feel disengaged. Take the example of the UK, in which only 17% of the people are engaged, 57% are not and 26% is actively disengaged (Gallup Survey, 2013).

Based on this, it is clear that the roles of leaders and inspiration have become a crucial matter. Before inspiring others, leaders have to be sincere and recognise how inspired they are. A passionate leader can drive engagement and positively affect people in an emotional way. Thus, it is essential for them to refine their inspiring skills and renew their energy. Although it can be complex, sharing uninspired feelings with close colleagues or taking up outside coaching might be more than helpful. Check these excellent inspiring tips of the founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson of how to energise your employees and remember: Find what you love…

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle…” (Steve Jobs)

A day working in the room n° 68

A Day Working in the Room n° 68

By Antonia Di Lorenzo

A day working at Grow3 begins at 9.30 am in the morning, in the room n° 68 on the third floor of the Eurolink building, just five minutes walk from the Brixton tube station.

My first day I knocked on the door and I took a seat. Before starting I made a cup of tea, even though I used to start my day with a hot espresso, but I was not able to use the coffee maker. No matter, because I was so nervous and anxious to let caffeine flow into my veins.


Around me people from different countries filled the room. Italians, Brazilians, Chileans, Indians, Venezuelans, British, Spanish. I thought: am I in London?

Each person has a different background, experience or studies. Everyone has a different story to tell. But they all are part of a multicultural community ready to grow together as team and to help other people grow.

Our flexibility and desire to learn is our motivating power.

In the first days in Grow3 I learned:

  • No matter what you have studied, your background, or your previous experience your ideas weigh more.
  • No matter where you come from, you will be part of an engaging community, to share your knowledge and make it available for others.
  • Behind every kind of business, there are people. We go beyond money to see what our clients really need. Nothing can be built sustainably without passion and inspiration.

As Albert Camus said:

“To create is likewise to give a shape to one’s fate”.

That’s how we work in the room n° 68.

where are you

Employee Absence and Engagement: What is the future?

Employee Absence and Engagement: What is the future?

By Brooke Paterson 



Employee Absence and Engagement:

Engagement, according to Schaufeli et al, is “the positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption” [1]. Time and time again, it has been proven that with an engaged and captivated workforce comes an endless amount of benefits. So where, it could be questioned, does the link between absence and engagement lie? And more importantly, what does this tell us about the future?

Absence and Engagement: The Link

When it comes to absence and engagement, there is no denying the substantial link between the two. It is simple: if you do not feel completely comfortable, content and engaged with your work, you will be less likely to attend, increasing the number of days you are absent and therefore, not truly fulfilling your role. A Gallup Study, which looked at data from over 23 thousand business units, proved exactly this, revealing that engaged employees take an average of 2.69 sick days a year, compared to that of disengaged employees who take 6.19 days. [2] But what are the main reasons for employees feeling disconnected and unengaged in their workplace and how does this eventually lead to a severe lack of attendance?

Lack of job satisfaction

Perhaps the most fundamental reason for employees regularly calling in sick to work, is due to an overwhelming discontent with their job. When employees are forced to complete the same tasks day after day and have a limited and restricted role within an organisation, they begin to find their job mundane and monotonous. Employees lose satisfaction and commitment, and eventually become unengaged, when they see that there is no opportunity for widening their knowledge or progressing in their existing work environment. When job satisfaction begins to decrease, absenteeism understandably increases. 85% of the world’s most admired companies believe that efforts to properly engage employees and ensure their job satisfaction, has reduced employee performance problems [3].  It is not hard to understand that when an individual has a severe lack of interest and commitment, they will not be as willing to attend as an engaged employee. Hence, the connection between engagement and absenteeism, and the undeniable power that engaging employees can have on improving the attendance of a workforce.

Lack of consequences

Another overriding reason for employees to be absent from work is the lackadaisical approach that some employers take, failing to apply efficient systems or effectively address issues of attendance. Employers that take no action to recognise behaviour, neither good nor bad, will be left with a disengaged workforce who are less likely to report to work. When there are no incentives for good attendance, such as employee of the month, financial rewards or even something as simple as praise and recognition, employees begin to feel as if the hard work and dedication they are injecting into their tasks goes unnoticed and is not appreciated. This in turn, results to them becoming unengaged and more prone to unnecessary absences. Similarly, when there is no action taken to combat poor attendance, employees begin to take advantage, making lateness and absence a regular occurrence. If an employee is absent, there ought to be proper punishments and consequences for their actions, in order to remind them such actions will not be tolerated. Forcing an employee to do overtime or reducing their pay is just some of the measures that can be taken to encourage them to take their attendance at work more seriously. Without such a system, employees will not feel as obligated to maintain a perfect attendance, once more, highlighting the possible link between engagement and absenteeism.

Poor working conditions

When management poorly and unfairly treat employees, it creates an environment of negativity and hostility, which affects even the most dedicated workers and makes them less engaged and connected with their work. This, in turn, creates a deficient and inhospitable working environment, which makes individuals more eager to take time off. Mangers who employ an authoritarian style, often micromanage employees, bossing them around and causing them unnecessary amounts of stress, which can lead to them, taking time off from work. This is especially true in the case of junior and less experienced employees, who would much rather not report to work than be involved in disagreements and confrontations with demanding and unrealistic bosses or colleagues.  On the other hand, employees who are fairly treated and rewarded, have a good working environment and a valued voice within the organisation, are more engaged and less likely to take time off work. This is a statement, which Claudia Menne, from the European Trade Union Confederation, agrees with, stating that “if employees feel involved in discussions over redeployment and changes in working practices, they are far less likely to go off sick” [4].


Stress causes employees to become disengaged, which also then leads to high absenteeism. When simplyhealth carried out a study aimed at identifying the main reasons for absence in the working environment, they found that stress was a key factor. The study revealed that a staggering 46% of employees were stressed, and less likely to attend work, due to their workload. [5]. Evidence has proven that in circumstances where employees feel under an increasing amount of pressure to perform and maintain results, there are more likely to be short-term absences. A huge part of effectively engaging your employee base is making sure that they are content and capable of managing their workload. When employees are forced into dealing with stressful and uncomfortable situations such as intense meetings, they begin reporting in “sick” or have “family commitments”.

The Current Situation

Currently, employee absence is at an all time high, and shows little or no signs of improvement from preceding years. Since 2013, statistics have shown that there has been a dramatic rise in absence levels, by almost a day per employee [6]. With CBI releasing figures, which confirmed that the annual cost of sickness absence to the UK economy was over £17 billion, [7] it is not hard to see that there is a serious problem in terms of absence, most of which can be contributed to poor engagement amongst staff.

What Lies Ahead

Having identified a clear and distinct link between engagement and absenteeism, it is vital to think about what the future holds and how the two can once again have a harmonious relationship. In the direction we are currently moving in, things are not going to improve. Year upon year, statistics are echoing what we already know; engagement and absenteeism is still a huge on-going issue that has not yet been addressed and as a result, continues to fester. In order to move forward and for the situation to improve in the future, we need to think about different and innovative ways to tackle this problem. First and foremost, companies need to embark on line manager training. Actively participating in line manager training will provide managers with the appropriate knowledge and skills required to deal with absenteeism and combat the issue within the workplace. When managers can continuously engage employees and ensure they are satisfied with their work, everything within the organisation will improve, including absence. Furthermore, organisations need to be more clear and direct when it comes to their absence guidelines and policies, punishing and reprimanding employees when it is considered necessary. The guidelines that are implemented should be thoroughly negotiated and clarified with workers and in the event where these are not properly followed, employers ought to discuss the absence, making employees aware of how this impacts others and the knock-on consequences it can have to other employees and the organisation as a whole. Additionally, if there are any structural or hierarchical issues, these too, ought to be addressed and solved, making employees feel like they are a valued and integral team member. Putting simple measures like these into common practice can result in the creation of a more engaged and engrossed workforce. Thus, leading to employees improving and maintaining a sound level of attendance.



[1] The King’s Fund,, 2012

[2] Gallup Study, 2006

[3] Hay, 2010

[4] Economists Insights, 2014

[5] Simplyhealth Absence Management Survey, 2013

[6] Simplyhealth Absence Management Survey, 2013

[7] CBI: Fit for purpose, Absence and Workplace Health Survey, 2013