Book review: Fully engaged staff members reap dividends

Paying lip service to engagement is pointless, Debbie Mitchell says, but 'real, meaningful' engagement could make a significant difference.
Courtesy Kogan Page
Courtesy Kogan Page

Fewer than one in five employees is engaged at work and fixing that problem needs to become part of the way you work as a manager, says author Debbie Mitchell.

An organisational development consultant at Mitchell Palmer in the UK, she specialises in employee engagement and has now written a book, 50 Top Tools for Employee Engagement: A Complete Toolkit for Improving Motivation and Productivity aimed at helping small to medium businesses.

Paying lip service to engagement is pointless, Ms Mitchell says, but “real, meaningful” engagement could make a significant difference.

In a fully engaged team, everyone contributes equally to the team’s overall success, she says, with huge benefits. Aside from the obvious – improved performance, reduced employee turnover and lower sickness absence – engagement can also lead to fewer accidents, higher customer advocacy, creativity and even easier recruitment.

From “peer post” – postcards you provide for employees to write personal thank you notes for a job well done – to “benchmarking road trips” – whereby staff are sent off to evaluate the way other businesses work – the book offers 50 varying tools.

The book is logical and easy to follow to find the right set of tools for your situation, divided into sections such as engaging one on one, career changes and customer focus, Once you have picked a tool, it is broken down into details of when and to whom it is best applied, what resources and processes you would need, hints and tips and – importantly – how to evaluate its success.

Most can be delivered in-house, Ms Mitchell says and the cost is “minimal” for many. Evaluation guidelines are included and, if you don’t have time to read the lot, just turn to the Quick View table at the end of the book.

Ms Mitchell personally developed the “making connections” tool for a client, to bring together 100 senior managers for a four-hour workshop to connect strategy, goals, teams and people, with “fabulous feedback” about the workshop breaking down silos and building collaboration.

But Ms Mitchell is quick to point out that you should not forget the small stuff either. You will be surprised how far a good morning or goodnight greeting – or a box of doughnuts – will take you in goodwill.

50 Top Tools for Employee Engagement is published by Kogan Page and is available in paperback for $29.60 from


Debbie Mitchell offers Suzanne Locke more insights from her new book:

When is employee engagement most important?

There is an employee “life cycle”, which tracks an employee from the point of their interest in your business, through their career with you to the point of exit. While every stage is important, I would suggest that induction is critical. Research carried out by YouGov in the UK found that 19 per cent of new starters were actively looking for a new role and 30 per cent planned to leave their job in the first 12 months. This is disruptive and expensive. Getting things right in the early stages is more likely to set you up for success, to retain good employees and to build their commitment.

Which is your favourite of the 50 tools?

I love the Hot Topics tool. It’s so simple and portable and requires no specialist expertise to make it happen. The tool encourages a team to help each other solve a problem. One person presents a challenge and, after a strict 30 minutes, they walk away with a large and div­erse set of suggestions, ideas, solutions and recommendations. What a gift.

Why did you write this book?

While employee engagement is recognised as an important factor for business success these days, many leaders don’t know how to measure or improve it. I take the view that little things matter. Whether your organisation is big or small, with HR expertise or not, there are effective initiatives. I wrote the book as a collection of some of the tools I have seen, used and recommended over a number of years.

Published: June 27, 2017 04:00 AM


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