Co-operatives need to keep ahead of the game

The issue of good employee engagement is something that has come increasingly to the fore in business over the last few decades. The relationship between high levels of...

The issue of good employee engagement is something that has come increasingly to the fore in business over the last few decades. The relationship between high levels of engagement and profitability are well documented and, particularly in times of economic pressure, really can make the difference between commercial success and failure.

Although the term ‘employee engagement’ is relatively new, the underlying concepts have been around for many years. At some point most people have probably had someone recommend an organisation as ‘great to work for’. If you scratch beneath the surface you find they are not just talking about salary and financial rewards but something broader that goes to the heart of what good employee engagement can achieve.

To me it’s about developing a working partnership with employees, enabling them to contribute to the organisation’s vision and creating an environment based on mutual respect.

It’s probably no real surprise that the co-operative sector has built a strong track record in employee engagement when you consider our origins. That may explain why many co-operatives have maintained high employee retention levels, in spite of the trend towards increased mobility between jobs and employers.

However, there are plenty of instances where principles originally championed by the co-operative movement have been successfully adopted by other businesses and the issue of employee engagement is no exception. In order to keep our reputation for excellence in this area, co-operatives need to keep abreast of changes in workforce behavior and learn from best practice both within and outside the movement.

For instance, one issue which requires more consideration in today’s working world is that of up-skilling workers in an increasingly mobile market.

Learning and development can be a great way to both enhance job satisfaction and improve performance but if opportunities are not there for employees to really use and develop their new-found skills, then they will take them elsewhere — and possibly to a competitor. This is just one instance which demonstrates how important good management of employee engagement is and any organisation which simply pays lip service to it is missing the point.

At Midlands Co-operative, employees are a top priority because without them we wouldn’t be the successful business we are today. It’s the reason we invest a huge amount in our colleagues, from national recognised learning and development programmes to award-winning internal communication systems and our colleague recognition scheme.

Initiatives like these have enabled our society to consistently improve our employee engagement and satisfaction levels, as measured in our annual independently run Attitude Survey, and it’s an area which will continue as a key priority for the society helping us to achieve our on-going vision to be the UK’s best consumer co-operative.

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