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Best Practice in Workplace Engagement 2019

If you’re reading this, the chances are you have some interest in Workplace Engagement. Whether you’re looking to drum up engagement levels before entering The Sunday Times Best Companies List and Best Companies Accreditation, or if you’re simply looking to make a start on your engagement journey from an HR or Marketing perspective, chances are you’re looking for some inspiration.

And why wouldn’t you be? If you’re going to do up a kitchen, you’ll probably look through brochures, magazines, Pinterest, Instagram and any number of other sources to figure out what you want to achieve. In the same vein, researching ways to increase engagement levels and figuring out what works for you is invaluable to achieving sustainable workplace engagement, minimising staff turnover and generating positive messages to the outside world about your company culture.

We are beginning to ramp up to this year’s survey launch (if you haven’t registered already, there is still time!), and we thought it would be great to share the best workplace engagement practice from some of the top companies in 2019.

Key Drivers in Workplace Engagement 2019

We surveyed 242,211 individuals across 697 companies, and these responses are what we use to analyse the major drivers across workplace engagement. Our methodology breaks this down into eight factors, each of which connects with the others in different ways. However trying to improve all of these at once is like trying to run a marathon at a sprint! It’s definitely easier to slow the pace down, and establish which of these factors are going to have the biggest effect on overall engagement levels.

We analyse which of the factors are most correlated with workplace engagement each year. What this means is that we can identify which of the factors are going to affect your engagement levels most, allowing you to put more energy into improving these areas, and increasing your overall engagement levels further.

Most Correlated Factors – All Companies 2019

Graph showing the correlation between engagement in surveyed companies and our employee engagement factors. These are Leadership, My COmpany, Personal Growth, My Manager, My Team, Fair Deal, Giving Something Back and Wellbeing

As we can see, Leadership and My Company are the two most highly correlated factors of the eight, closely followed by My Manager and Personal Growth.

We have looked into the statements that make up the Leadership factor, and across the board there has been an increase in scores year-on-year. In particular, confidence in the leadership of senior management and perception of these individuals demonstrating the values of their companies has increased:

Graphic showing the 2019 vs 2018 scores for statements in the leadership factor in surveyed comapnies.

Year on year, Leadership, My Company, Personal Growth and My Manager consistently matter most to the workforce, giving us strong ground from which we can begin to improve.

As mental health awareness increases and the stigma around this challenged, we have included Wellbeing initiatives in our research. With these areas targeted, let’s have a look into some of the Best Practice showcased by companies who scored the highest in The Best Companies to Work for List 2019…


There is a strong relationship between sight of an organisation’s leadership and an employee’s understanding of the company goals and values. An organisation’s senior management that exemplifies the company values and engages with the whole business not only sets an example for communication for other managers, but also reinforces the overarching goals that each member of staff is working toward. This year. Admiral placed 1st in The Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work for List, and the following is how their Senior Management and CEO approach this factor.

Admiral CEO David Stevens is a champion of the customer. Demonstrated by his call monitoring and personal dealing of customer complaints once a month, he and other senior managers are able to see exactly what the frontline staff are experiencing. Staff are able to ask David any questions, work-related or otherwise, via an online communication system, which he then answers personally. David was awarded the ‘Best Leader’ accolade at this year’s Best Companies Awards, and Admiral was ranked 1st in four of six leadership questions in the b-Heard survey[1]. Senior managers of Admiral are all openly available, sitting alongside teams in the office space and regularly interview for an internal publication about their work and personal lives. Individual senior managers create awards for managers within the business, awarded to those who the senior managers feel exemplify specific values close to the heart of that senior manager. “Anyone who manages anyone else needs to be a leader. That means we have thousands of leaders across the company – and when Admiral’s employees score the company strongly on leadership, they are paying tribute to leaders at all levels. What the senior managers, including myself, look to do is to set an example, managing according to the qualities that we look for in all our leaders. Good listening, clear and honest communication, and a concern that everyone that works for them enjoys what they do.”

- David Stevens, Admiral CEO

View Admiral's full engagement profile here

My Company

A factor which is impacted by feelings about leadership and an employee’s manager, the My Company factor focuses on how much people value the organisation, how proud they are to work there, and whether they feel they make a difference. This factor is very dependent on a company’s mission, values and vision, and how a company communicates this to their workforce. This is something that The New World Trading Company has been highly successful in this year, and they ranked 5th in this year’s The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work for List.

A major hospitality chain with over 26 UK sites, The New World Trade Company make it clear to new starters that they have been brought on board for their personality. Their ethos of ‘finding and developing like-minded people to create unrivalled customer experiences’ is a passionate statement which clearly states what the company wants to achieve, and is regularly tested as part of the on-boarding process. Utilising the TRIBES app, different sites around the UK are able to communicate and get inspired by initiatives happening in other locations. This helps to generate an inclusive culture which cross-pollinates each of the establishments. View The New World Trading Company's full engagement profile here

My Manager

A highly-correlated factor in most every organisation we work with, having a manager that employees respect and that can get the best out of them is crucial to an engaged workforce. This factor measures whether people feel supported, trusted and cared for by their immediate manager. The age-old adage of ‘People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers’ is often quoted but nonetheless relevant, and Clarasys, who came 3rd in The Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work for List, have excelled in this area.

Ranked 1st in four of twelve managerial engagement questions in our b-Heard survey[2], Clarasys has embedded managerial excellence into the organisation by implementing an on-boarding programme for new managers (or ‘Coaches’, as referred to internally.) Following an initial kick-off session to confirm how the on-boarding process works, each new manager is assigned a Coach and Coaching Buddy, who offer support and opportunities for shadowing in their new role. Objectives are set and continual training ensures that any personal challenges can be discussed and dealt with. Ongoing support is available from peers through a Coaching Group. Made up of other Coaches who share challenges and ideas, this helps to develop and share best practice, and the best way of handling situations within their new role. "Our staff work in different locations across a range of clients. To combat potential feelings of isolation, directors and consultants run monthly company updates. A visible strategy overview and regular project updates also help to ensure everyone has the full company picture. Feedback is ingrained in our culture and by openly and honestly sharing observations, we continually work together as a company to improve our business, people and services we offer." View Clarasys' full engagement profile here

Personal Growth

This factor examines whether people feel challenged by their job, whether their skills are being utilised and their perceived opportunities for advancement. This factor is very much associated with an employee’s feeling of getting a fair deal from the company, and is where organisations can have a marked impact in having a positive effect on an employee’s feelings about the company. Stockport Homes, who ranked 3rd in The Sunday Times Best Not-for-Profit Companies to Work for List, share some of their ideas here.

Stockport Homes developed an in house training tool ‘Facilitators Pathway’, the aim of which was to provide career development opportunities for employees, and become more sustainable as a result of a more highly-trained workforce. Advertising chances for development internally not only increased the awareness of opportunity, but provided role-specific training that gave staff the knowledge and confidence to attend to more responsibilities and grow their careers. A particular success at Stockport Homes was in their initiative to develop knowledge and delivery capability for safeguarding training. After completing a four-day ‘train the trainer’ course and practicing co-delivery to gain experience, internal staff now deliver all safeguarding training across the business. This in turn saved an expected £10,000 in 2018 alone from not having to source external trainers for this material. View Stockport Homes's full engagement profile here


Wellbeing at work is defined by so many variables, in particular it can be impacted by an employees manager, the company leadership. The statements from our survey under this factor measure the stresses and pressures a person perceives, their balance between home and work life, and the effect these elements have on personal health and performance. The good news for companies around the UK is that compared with the 2018 results, the majority of statements from across the Wellbeing factor have been responded to more positively. In particular, scores for the statements ‘My health is suffering because of my work’ are 2% more positive than they were last year, indicating that fewer people are negatively affected as a result of their work.

Connect Catering, who topped The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work for List, have shared some of the initiatives they have to bolster their employees’ Wellbeing.

Connect Catering purchase membership for each of their employees to Hospitality Action, who provide specialist and confidential advice, support and assistance all hours of the day, every day. In addition to this, the company offers a range of financial support initiatives under their 'Connect Helping Hand' benefit. These include a monthly grant that employees can apply for (examples of this grant's use include a child's education needs or mobility assistance), interest-free loans between pay-days and advancements on wages. “When you have 450 staff spread out over the South East, good communication really is the backbone to success. Keeping everyone well informed through the newsletter, regular meetings with the Operations team and our two conferences each year, makes all the difference in boosting engagement and ensuring everyone feels like they are truly part of the Connect Catering family.”

- Kate Bendall, Joint Managing Director

“It’s the people at every single level that matter the most. We want everyone who works for Connect Catering to be able to do their job with a smile on their face, because they have all the support and training they need, to perform their roles in the most efficient way possible with knowledge at their fingertips. In this way we are able to provide an unrivalled service for our clients – quite simply we actually do what others just say they do.”

- Louise Laver, Joint Managing Director

View Connect Catering's full engagement profile here

What Can I Take from This?

These individual best practice examples are implemented as part of a wider strategy in each case – they are by no means a one-action policy which you can implement to increase your engagement levels. Every organisation is different, with distinctive goals and culture patterns, meaning that not all of the above examples may be relevant to you and your company.

However, by examining what some of the highest-scoring organisations have implemented as part of their engagement plans, you might be inspired to apply these ideas to your own strategies.

If you would like to find out more about the surveying that Best Companies offers, and the subsequent opportunities for insight, improvement and recognition, please contact [email protected] or call us on 01978 856 222.



[1] When compared to other companies in the ‘Big’ size category (2000+ headcount.)

[2] When compared to other companies in the ‘Small’ size category (50-249 headcount.)

Ollie Stokes
by Ollie Stokes
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