Managerial Engagement – Driving performance at UK Power Networks
Since 2013, UK Power Networks have worked with Best Companies to measure and improve employee engagement.
Their first survey results showed good levels of employee engagement, and the company was awarded a Ones to Watch status from Best Companies. But UK Power Networks were keen to improve: “We knew that we wanted to drive real change in our organisation and become an ‘employer of choice’”, said Alex Sturge, Head of Communications, Engagement and Learning & Development at the UK Power Networks.
Initially, the company utilised their survey data and complementing employee comment analysis to introduce some quick wins. Examining the data further revealed the most correlated factors of overall engagement and showed that managerial engagement was a key driver. Since 2013, UK Power Networks’ survey data has consistently showed that employees’ feelings towards their manager have been highly correlated with overall engagement levels, presenting a key area for Alex and the team to impact.
“Surveying provided us with the ability to apply some strategic direction to the way we support and develop our managers. We can specifically target areas that require support and tailor that support based on the insight we now have.”
In particular for the organisation, engagement levels are consistently driven by managers caring how satisfied someone is in their job, helping employees to fulfil their potential, motivating the employee to give their best and to have confidence in the manager’s leadership skills. “Part of driving change in any area requires dedicated focus. Our managers had never really been afforded any time to concentrate on understanding engagement or how to improve it.”
It was important to Alex and the wider company that they worked with a methodology that suited their culture and vision. “Our Engagement and Learning & Development specialists work with managers to create action plans, supporting and coaching them throughout the year. We call this support our ‘Engaging Leaders’ programme.”
Following discussions between UK Power Networks leaders and specialists at Best Companies, it was identified that the MC³ methodology and managerial engagement workshops would be a solution to providing managers the time and direction needed to understand the business case for engagement, to learn management techniques and share best practice to better themselves as managers. The MC³ model now directly assists the company’s Engaging Leaders programme with data to help their specialists guide managers’ progression.
The first workshops, run in 2018, were designed to bring managers together to identify the importance of managerial engagement, investigate its effect on overall employee engagement levels and to introduce the MC³ methodology. MC³ is used to provide managers with their own Manager Index score is based on how direct reports answer specific statements on the b-Heard employee engagement survey relating to their manager.
Managers were grouped randomly, breaking down barriers and opening up space to discuss their experiences in relation to the 4 key elements of the MC³; Motivating, Considering, Conversing and Caring. Supporting video content and interactive anonymous voting kept workshops engaging and brought information to life.
“The workshops allowed managers to come together and talk openly about their challenges, but also share best practice; sometimes knowing you are not alone and having the same challenges as everyone else is reassuring, it can act as a catalyst for change.”
Throughout the workshops managers were encouraged to make commitments about what they could try in the next 30-60 days to demonstrate the key behaviours of MC³, with their peers agreeing to regularly check in on their progress. This was fundamental to encouraging the behaviours needed for positive change. One commitment example was made by managers who continued with tasks whilst employees needed to talk. Although managers detailed that they were simply multitasking, they weren’t demonstrating that they were listening. Commitments were made to fully engage with employees when having conversations or to arrange a time where they could dedicate their full attention to the conversation.
The workshops also aimed to prepare managers for receiving their scores in the coming weeks. It can be difficult to receive personal feedback, and it was important to set expectations for what the managers might feel when receiving scores.
In 2019, post-result workshops were arranged for managers to continue exploring how they could impact UK Power Networks’ engagement scores, where they had improved and the challenges they had faced. For managers who hadn’t previously attended, a further workshop series was scheduled to share and build on the momentum from the previous year.
“The general feedback from managers was an appreciation on their part that they were given genuine support and the opportunity to enhance their learning before being expected to deliver improvements.”
Across the organisation, managerial engagement scores have improved significantly since the workshops were introduced prior to the 2018 survey. The average MC³ score for managers now sits firmly in our 1* managers accreditation, showing the positive results from the hard work of UK Power Networks’ managers.
Key statement scores also improved significantly; since the introduction of the workshops, responses for these statements have increased across the whole company, driving overall engagement levels further. In the last three years, engagement levels have seen UK Power Networks progress from a Ones to Watch to a 2* accredited company.
Improvement doesn’t stop there for Alex and the team. “In 2020 we are launching our Leadership Academy for 800 line managers, which is recognised as a Chartered Management Institute accredited professional diploma course. It represents a significant investment in our people, but one we believe is essential to support our managers and equip them with the skills they need to be awesome at their job.”
The investment in improving employee engagement and emphasis on managerial engagement has provided a positive return for UK Power Networks. “We can demonstrate a correlation between our improved employee engagement scores and business performance over the past 3 years, which makes me extremely proud of the focus the company is putting into improving employee engagement. Currently we’re having our best ever year of business performance and we hope our engagement results once again show this correlation.”