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Matt Manners of Employement Engagement Awards interviews Peter Barnes of Scoop Social

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1. What does employee engagement mean to you?*

Employee engagement describes the strength of the bond between an employee and their employer, and that bond comprises both emotional and rational connections. It is evidenced by how far an employee will go above and beyond what is required of them, sometimes described as discretionary effort.

2. What are your three tips to companies looking to drive engagement in their organisations?*

I.         Articulate a Vision and Values that inspire enthusiasm and commitment (which means involving employees in the process by which they are defined)

II.         Ensure that the leadership’s behaviours constantly reinforce the Vision and Values, and that they celebrate those behaviours in others

III.         Leverage the power of Social to foster collaboration internally and to give all employees the ability to have a direct and meaningful role in spreading the good word about the company externally.

3. What do you feel are the biggest pitfalls that companies should look to avoid when executing their engagement strategy?*

I.         Not engaging employees in the development of the strategy

II.         Having leaders in the organisation whose behaviours don’t support the Vision and Values

III.         Not recognising the importance of having marketing and HR working together.

4. Why do employees fail to buy in when companies try to ramp up engagement?*

I.         They weren’t part of the process – they don’t ‘buy in’

II.         They can see leaders/managers whose Values and Behaviours don’t match what’s being asked of the employees

III.         There are underlying issues (e.g. perhaps with their immediate manager, or internal structures) which need to be resolved

5. What skills are most useful for everyone to have when trying to move towards a culture of engagement?*

I.         Listening – to hear what is being said

II.         Empathy – to understand why it is being said

III.         Creativity – to imagine a new, relevant, inspiring ambition

IV.         Courage – to take a step into the unknown, and commit to the course

V.         Wisdom – to understand what’s working and what’s not – and to make the required changes

6. You’re a judge for the Employee Engagement awards. What will you be looking for in the entries?

I.         Clear articulation of the challenge – listening and empathy

II.         Compelling strategy to meet that challenge – creativity and courage

III.         Robust connection between what was delivered against the strategy and the outcomes achieved, and an understanding of future changes required – wisdom

7. How important do you think it is to connect Employee Engagement to Customer Engagement and why?*

It’s essential. In service industries and in sales, the connection between EE and customer engagement (CE) has never been in any doubt as there is a direct connection between the employee and the customer. However, with changes in technology, this connection is now open in almost any industry. The customer has a greater ability to ‘see in’, and the employee has a greater ability to ‘reach out’. So, forging and leveraging that EE-CE connection has become a key channel for gaining competitive advantage. As a result, organisations are now better able to identify a financial return on time and money invested in Employee Engagement….so the virtuous circle….more engaged employees – more engaged customers begins to turn.

8. What’s the best EE idea you’ve seen a company roll out/attempt and wish you’d had that idea yourself?

I.         I know it’s widely talked quoted, but I love the Google piece around people being encouraged to spend 20% of their time outside their normal role. It fosters a culture of creativity and collaboration that sees them constantly top lists of ‘companies I want to work for’. It’s imaginative and courageous!

II.         I also really like the John Lewis example whereby all employees are ‘partners’ and participate in a share-scheme. People often talk about Employee Engagement as being all about the emotional connection between employee and employer, but I believe that like a consumer’s connection with a brand, strong employee engagement is built on rational and emotional connections, and this share scheme is a wonderful, rational foundation for the emotional sense of ‘partnership’. It shows they’ve listened and have empathy.

9. What’s the worst and glad that you didn’t?

The Australian office of a US multi-national that had run autonomously for years, was ‘brought into line’ with its American parent, including the imposition of a country head from the US. Nothing that was tried at an EE level stood a chance of working until the organisation found a way to ‘sell’ the benefit of losing local autonomy to the local employees.

10. Since you entered the world of work, what’s the best experience you’ve had?

During a chance meeting with one of the Executive Leadership Team of the very first company that I ever worked with to define their Vision and Values, I was told how amazing their last big conference had been, how embedded the Vision and Values had become, and how much difference to the energy and success of the company the work we had done together all that time ago, had made. They had transformed from being highly fractured (post multiple-acquisitions) into a powerhouse of passion and commitment…and were going really well in new markets, especially China. And he was happier than ever in his role; more energised than ever. When organisations get this stuff right, there is a perfect blending of personal and company success. It’s inspiring to be a part of.

11. What’s the worst?

Seeing senior people make (personal) bonus-related decisions, that have a devastating impact on the lives of ‘sacrificed’ employees and on the culture of the organisations they purport to lead.

12. If you could only roll out only one programme, which of the following would you choose and why? Wellbeing, Leadership Development or Recognition

Leadership development, because if leadership isn’t delivered well throughout the organisation, everything else becomes a band-aid.

13. Which person (dead or alive) would you love to be able to come in and speak to your workforce/colleagues?*

Noah. He somehow persuaded a multitude of individuals (who normally eat one another for breakfast) to come together, ride out a storm, and rebuild anew.

14. Favourite song to crank up after a tough day at work?

Kronos: Pieces of Africa

15. Best place in the world you have visited?

Bolivia. It’s like an island, without an ocean around it. The people, geography, architecture, wildlife, culture and music are all unique. It’s the only place I’ve ever been where gold is currency and there are weighing machines in store. And the only place in the world where in a couple of weeks, you can walk from high-altitude, snow-bound passes, down to Amazonian tropics; it feels like you are crossing continents as you see Condors, Flamingoes, Humming birds and Toucans on the one walk!

16. The place you’d most like to visit?

One of the Kepler planets that may be capable of supporting life like earth – not just for the destination, but for the time-travel required to get there!