Tag 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.



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, kingsfund.org.uk, 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




Allowing Employees To Have A Voice: Needless or Necessary?

 Allowing Employees To Have A Voice: Needless or Necessary?

By Brooke Paterson

employee voice megaphone

Employee voice:

Why, one might ask, should we allow our employees to have a voice in the workplace? This is a somewhat straightforward question that has a multitude of answers. Nita Clarke, director of the Involvement and Participation Association and vice-chair of the MacLeod review, adopts the simplistic approach, stating that employee voice is the key to creating and maintaining a successful business [1]. And she certainly has a point. Employee voice, generally speaking, has four main purposes, it: “helps organisations to understand the employee attitudes about work, presents a form of collective organisation to management, influences leaders’ decisions on work-related issues, and shows the reciprocal nature of the employment relationship” [2]. Adopting and promoting a structure, where employee voice is central, allows for a deeper and more meaningful relationship between the employee and the employer, helping to improve and further develop communication. Allowing employees to speak up and have an unrestricted opinion on work affairs, poses an extensive number of benefits not only to the employee but also to the employer.

Benefits to the employee From an employee’s point of view, having an assertive voice within the organisation he or she belongs to is most definitely profitable. But why?

Increases your value

First and foremost, it increases your value. Voice, according to William Kahn, is “the harnessing of organisation members’ selves to their work roles; in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally during role performances” [2]. Voice, after all, characterizes the value an individual brings to a company. If you regularly share the views you have and vocalise your opinions on certain issues, you are more likely to be considered a valuable and worthy part of the team. However, if you are less willing to articulate how you feel and very rarely give useful input or share new ideas, colleagues and more senior members of the company may be more inclined to view you as a replaceable and unimportant component of the team.

More say in work

Having a voice at work ultimately means you have more influence and control over the work you do and the amount of it you are doing, allowing you to better manage your workload. When you freely and regularly express how you feel, it allows you to take control of matters and perhaps carry out a project or piece of work in a manner, which is more to your liking or to a time-scale that suits you better. If you do not let your voice be heard and fail to communicate with your manager or supervisor, then they will not be aware of any problems you may have. If you don’t speak up or voice any concerns or problems, you cannot expect things to improve or be rectified. 

Depicts you as an individual

Additionally, how you express your opinions at work reflects who you are as an individual, and more importantly mirrors the beliefs and morals you hold. For example, if a certain issue goes against the beliefs or values you have, and you speak up and make it known that you disagree, you will come across as a moral and ethical individual who whole heartedly stands by there beliefs. This may even result in other employees respecting you more, not only for speaking up about your dissatisfaction over work issues, but also for holding such commendable and creditable morals.

Leads to more opportunities

These days’ people are keeping their heads down and staying quiet as a means of avoiding confrontation and keeping favour with their boss. Many are under the impression that it is out with their role to challenge other employees or introduce new ideas. Often, employees would rather “suffer in silence” [3], as they believe they will be more likely to advance in the workplace, be offered promotions, and in turn, get more responsibilities. However, it is quite the opposite. Individuals who are more outspoken often have a more dominant and presidential role within the company. Those who are not afraid to speak their mind are often tasked with taking meetings and managing a larger group of employees, showing that it pays to have a voice within an organisation.

Develop and refine skills

By speaking up and having a voice, an employee can learn a lot about where their strengths and weaknesses lie. If they can identify a weakness and feel comfortable enough to address it with their line manager or that alike, the area of weakness can be evaluated and hopefully improved, resulting in the employee feeling happier and more comfortable with a certain area within their line of work. Similarly, they can also establish what they are best at, allowing them to hone in on that skill and focus more on that area of their job.

Job satisfaction

When an individual feels as if they can be themselves and openly voice how they feel at any given time, they understandably begin to enjoy their role more and start to truly appreciate the colleagues they are surrounded by. In a recent study carried out by Blessing White, 38% of engaged employees stated the reason they stay with the company is due to job satisfaction and fully enjoying the job they are doing. [3] When you feel as if you cannot truly address issues and problems you inevitably begin to become stressed. Giving employees a voice therefore reduces stress levels and takes a huge weight off their shoulders, allowing them to appreciate their work more and subsequently, increase their productivity.

Benefits to the employer

Allowing employees to make themselves’ heard in the workplace presents a whole number of advantages to the employers, also.

Better organisational performance

The organisation as a whole suffers when employees are not involved in decision-making and cannot have a say in company affairs. Productivity and performance becomes increasingly worse and employees begin to lose motivation and become disgruntled when they feel as if they cannot speak about how they truly feel or address any on-going issues or problems. By allowing employees to have a voice, individuals begin to flourish in their working environment and feel more comfortable and confident when it comes to sharing ideas, giving feedback and input, and having group discussions. Furthermore, there is a boost in motivation when employees have a voice, as they believe they have contributed to the overall outcome or the decision that has been made, making them feel valuable and an integral part of the team.

Gains good reputation

By treating staff fairly and allowing them to have an active input, the organisation will become well recognised for it’s stance on employee voice. As a result, recruiting will gradually become easier as more and more people will want to work with a company that values employees and considers their participation an intrinsic and fundamental part of the organisation

Reduces conflict and hierarchical divides within organisation

Employee voice results in a reduction in conflict. When an employee can exchange new ideas and openly speak their mind, there is an increase in co-operation and thus, an improvement in the relationship between the employer and the employee. As reported by Dale Carnegie, 80% of employees dissatisfied with their direct manager were disengaged. [4] These statistics prove that by having a more relaxed and open approach in the company, employees are more likely to feel engaged and will not feel as if they are being dictated to or controlled by other members of staff.  

So promoting employee voice is favourable, but is it really a necessity in the working environment? 

There are two sides to this coin. On one hand, employee voice makes relatively no difference. On the other, it is extremely detrimental to the way the organisation is run and the success it can have. So which is correct? Essentially, the evidence doesn’t lie. Well-researched statistics and figures show that implementing a structure, which allows employees to have an active role and play a vital part in the way a business is ran, is profitable to everyone. However, it is no good just promoting this kind of structure. It needs to be implemented and religiously followed, continuously allowing for employee voice to be heard. After all, if no one spoke up and had their say, where would we be?

Continue the discussion and let us know what you think via Twitter or LinkedIn.

[1] hrmagazine.co.uk; “Employee voice” is a key to a successful business, says Nita Clarke

[2] Armstrong, 2006

[3] William Khan, 1990 [4] Albert Hirschman, 1970

[5] Blessing White, Employee Engagement: Research Update, 2013

[6] Dale Carnegie, Employee Engagement