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The number10 on the door of the Prime Minister's official residence in Downing Street, London.

Leadership and the Race to No. 10 Downing Street

As we count down to the 23rd July and the announcement of our next Prime Minister, the contenders are facing questions on a huge variety of topics and issues. A large portion of Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt’s credibility and electability comes down to their perceived leadership skills, the values by which they will lead the country and the policies they wish to implement.

And companies across the UK face the same challenges.

As part of our methodology, Leadership forms a central pillar of workplace engagement levels. Not only is it the most highly-correlated factor with companies’ overall engagement levels this year, but our research shows that it consistently effects workplace engagement levels more than nearly all the other factors every year.

Messrs Johnson and Hunt have a huge job of uniting the Conservative Party, and then the country, by detailing how their plan will provide the best opportunity for success and stability in the future. Their victory will vastly depend on how much their key objectives and core values resonate with the voting Tory members.

Workplace engagement works in the same way; if key objectives and core values are made clear and leadership teams embody these values, companies are likely to have sustained engagement levels as a result of the organisational clarity. Companies that are listed in The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work for list typically outperform those listed on the FTSE100:

Graph showing superior growth in companies on The Sunday Times Best COmpanies to Work For List, compared with the FTSE100 index

Why is Leadership so important?

It can seem quite obvious, but Leadership heavily affects workplace engagement in several distinctive ways. It is up to Senior Leadership to formulate objectives and make these clear to the company overall; this creates common goals into which all business activity can be linked, driving the purpose behind what employees are doing each day.

Similarly, a distinct company ethos comes directly from Leadership. If Directors live by the values that the company instils in its employees, it not only fosters cultural alignment but it can inspire new starters to heighten their efforts as a result of these shared values.

If we look at the 8-Factor Model of Engagement, we can see that Leadership directly impacts two other factors: My Company and Wellbeing.

The My Company factor focuses on how much employees value their organisation, their pride in working there and whether they feel like they make a difference at the company.  Leadership directly impacts all of these areas; if there is clarity surrounding the organisational goals and values, employees will find that they can impact the objectives more effectively, leading to them valuing the company and instilling a sense of pride in their work.

In the Wellbeing factor, we concentrate on employees’ perceptions of work-life balance and its impact on personal health and performance. Leadership again affects this – management of the messages surrounding the company values will alter an employee’s stress levels and feelings of pressure at work, directly impacting their work-life balance.

How can we increase our Leadership scores?

Simply sending an email around to employees of the business with some objectives and values is not enough; the most engaged companies we work with have initiatives in place that not only reiterate the objectives and values, but have leadership teams that openly commit to these plans and are vocal about how and why the company is moving in its direction.

Leaders of the following organisations won Best Leader accolades at this year’s Best Companies Awards evening, and share their best practice here. Click the names of the companies to view their full engagement profiles:

Educ8 Group (6th in The Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work for List 2019)

Educ8 Group’s CEO Grant Santos ensures that the values and ethos of the company are instilled in the organisation by engaging with employees in both work and personal conversations. Grant operates an open-door policy to all employees, and supports various teams in Wellbeing meetings to ensure staff are receiving support from their managers in order to succeed in their roles.

Equally, the senior leadership team ensure that the values are discussed at team meetings and monthly one-to-ones. A RAG system supports the values whereby all employees are challenged on whether they are a 'red amber or green' in line with the values and explain how these have been demonstrated over the past month.


Beaverbrooks the Jewellers (10th in The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work for List 2019)

Neither Mark Adlestone (Chairman) nor Anna Blackburn (MD) have personal assistants; as they like to be as hands on as possible with the business. Both actively contribute on the company’s Yammer community, responding personally to messages and commenting on activity from around the business.

"Beaverbrooks’ core purpose is to Enrich Lives, which simply means making a positive difference to the world we live in. At the heart of the brand, this core purpose is supported by Beaverbrooks’ key values (passion, integrity, caring, trust and fairness) and its behaviours, which are set out in a document called The Beaverbrooks Way.

Both Mark and Anna, and every member of its senior management team are deeply invested and committed to these values, and lead by example. For example, Mark has given blood 85 times and regularly shares his experiences on social network Yammer to inspire and motivate others and Anna regularly cooks for homeless charity Streetlife."

TLG (1st in The Sunday Times Best Not-for-Profit Companies to Work for List 2019)

Christian charity TLG’s senior management team regularly interact with the wider organisation via forums such as termly staff meetings and site visits around the country. Tim Morfin, the organisation’s leader, operates an open-door policy and sees meeting with new employees as a crucial part of their induction process to engage them in the team, and share the charity’s story.

Admiral (1st in The Sunday Times Best Big Companies to Work for List 2019)

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. 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. 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

Ollie Stokes
by Ollie Stokes
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