Julie Cameron, Managing Director, DRIVE Engagement

For years, businesses of all sizes have pumped time and thought into their employee engagement strategies - and rightly so. Afterall, data proves just how costly it can be to run a ship with a disconnected and unengaged crew. According to Gallup, disengaged employees can result in 37% higher absenteeism, 18% lower productivity and 15% lower profitability within the workplace.

Despite these statistics providing a very clear narrative on why employee engagement is so integral to business success, the reality is that businesses often misjudge how to address it properly. More often than not companies address engagement from a top-down perspective. Doing so means that these strategies fail to address the real issues at hand and do not reflect the wants and needs of the most critical part of the business; the employees themselves.

In this article we will talk about the difference between a hierarchical and an employee led engagement strategy and explain how a firm can reap all the by-products when they really get their teams motivated and engaged in what they do. With companies tightening their purse strings as a result of the pandemic, hopefully we can demonstrate that employee engagement no longer needs to be pushed down the ‘to do’ list in 2021.

2020 and the fractured workforce 

And if employee engagement wasn’t seen as important enough, in March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic gave many businesses even more of a reason to focus on it. As so many businesses closed their doors and moved to a remote (and somewhat fractured way of working), they witnessed employees feeling cut off from their peers and line managers. Not only this, but employees also needed to adapt to new ways of working and deal with differing motivations in their personal lives; leaving employees feeling anxious and uncertain. This sudden shift forced HR and leadership teams alike to question how to keep their employees engaged through such an unusual and challenging time, and specifically, how to do this at a time when the purse strings were very tight.

Businesses across the UK took to the internet in a bid to find answers to their questions. In fact, in December 2020, search volume for the term “employee wellbeing” reached its highest ever level; 300% higher than the same month in the previous year. Plus, in May, the question “How to engage employees” was searched more than it had been since 2008.

Whilst the internet does, of course, provide a wealth of information, what many businesses often fail to recognise is that the answer to creating a fruitful employee engagement strategy can often be found much closer to home and within their teams themselves.

Management led vs direct employee feedback

In order to determine the most effective employee engagement strategy, the one that will dramatically increase engagement in an organisation, the first step is to acknowledge that a problem exists in the first place. To do this, it is important to recognise the characteristics of an ineffective strategy.

Many firms often make the mistake of treating employee engagement as a human resource (HR) issue. Often, someone from HR convinces the CEO to commit some budget to an employee survey. Once the survey is complete, the data is then kept locked-away, senior leaders brainstorm ideas and then implement changes that they believe will engage employees. This is where we see those extrinsic initiatives such as free fruit, early finish Fridays, lunch and learns and perhaps a monthly Zoom quiz. Sound familiar?

There are two important issues which arise from this example. Firstly, a misunderstanding of what “employee engagement” is and the weight of influence it has on how successful a company is.

I should stress that employee engagement is not about the satisfaction often felt from receiving material benefits, rather it refers to the emotional commitment an employee has to their organisation, specifically its vision, its purpose and its goals. What we’re talking about here is the difference between extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation.

A top-down approach to the implementation of an employee engagement strategy means front-line leaders are acting as the regulators of employee engagement. A strategy that has been developed through the lens of one or a few senior individuals has the potential to result in something which is dangerously disconnected and unrepresentative of the employees themselves. Afterall, leaders should never assume they have all the answers.

Sense of belonging

Instead, I would contend that it’s important to consider the drastic evolution of the demands and desires of the employees themselves. The emphasis on what is important (and what motivates us) has shifted somewhat over this past year, and although financial security is still a key focus, there is a deeper sense of personal drivers and motivators when it comes to measuring employee engagement.

There is so much to be said about belonging and feeling part of the greater whole. Nurturing the emotional connections between employees and their workplace will motivate them to remain committed to the company in the long term and bring tangible benefits for everyone.

The key to creating this feeling of belonging is to focus on techniques that give all employees a real voice. For instance, where solutions to problems that the company faces are found by the team themselves collaboratively and are not dictated by those at the top. It all starts with collaborative problem solving and giving each team member greater autonomy to be part of the solution. It’s important to gain employee buy-in to corporate efforts to re-engage by empowering and enabling. Without doing this, you may face a sea of shrugged shoulders and find your engagement programme fails to make significant progress.

Facilitating structured opportunities and giving a voice to people at all levels in the workplace will help ensure employees feel like they are a driving force in a company, wholly connected to its vision and goals, rather than feeling like the company is pulling them along with instructions from the top.

And, in these difficult times where people are more displaced than ever, it is essential to focus on longer term rational strategies. Not only does it make good business sense, but it makes good employee sense as well. Ultimately, it’s this kind of tangible engagement that is win-win, because it continues to pay back year after year, therefore making it entirely free and extremely cost effective to implement.

Bolstering employee engagement and helping employees to feel connected during the pandemic has been and will continue to be one of businesses’ biggest challenges. But now is the time for businesses to intensify their commitment to health, wellbeing, diversity, employee experience and engagement, because those firms who focus on techniques that give their employees a real voice, enabling them to maintain connections and to continue to build relationships with one another, will reap the benefits longer term.

Julie Cameron, Managing Director, DRIVE Engagement

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Educating yourself in Prison: an inside job

Educating yourself in Prison: an inside job

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter yesterday

RT @NCFE: ‘For as long as humans have worked, and whatever industry they may have worked in, success has always been predicated on having t…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page