Engaged employees defy economic downturn

EFFECTIVELY engaging and aligning employees was credited for successfully carrying businesses through the recession, according to a recent round table discussion.

In accordance with research completed by the Chartered Management Institute in 2009, encouraging employees to realise their full potential was regarded as an essential task to enhance innovation during the economic downturn.

Louise Knight, a strategic advisor to entrepreneurs, said, “Every business is so heavily dependent on their staff but not all businesses recognise that. It is the businesses who recognise and value their staff who seem to be able to respond to changes in the marketplace.”

Lawrence Jones, managing director of UKFast, one of The Sunday Times Best Companies To Work For, added, “If you have the attitude that you’re always going to be right then you get a very one-dimensional business.

“You have got to embrace everybody’s ideas, staff and client’s ideas alike. Our business has grown from those fantastic ideas.”

With companies with engaged employees reportedly outperforming on both revenue growth and profitability, in addition to uniting them on a common goal, the recession was also seen as a time to make some difficult decisions regarding existing staff members.

Danny Schweiger, joint managing director of Character World, said, “What I found interesting in the last 12 months was not to be scared of change when it comes to people. It is actually great to get some new ideas into a business. Sometimes a business simply outgrows people.”

Ms Knight added, “Having discussions with people and understanding their hopes and aspirations and recognising their skill sets and limitations is an important part of their development as well as the growth of the business.”

Fundamentally, developing a thread of trust between senior management and all levels of staff was believed to be the most effective way of engaging them on a common plan and encouraging them to take ownership, as well as challenge ideas and be innovative.

Additional key aspects that were credited by the panel for facilitating business growth in 2009 were great leadership, flexibility and being able to identify an opportunity and take advantage of it. Nick Brown, chief executive of Easyfone Group; Jeremy Isaacs, managing director at Corporate Auctions and Graham Small, a partner at Lewis Hymanson Small Solicitors, also contributed to the discussion.

The round table discussions are held in association with UKFast with the aim of uniting business leaders to share advice and provide a wealth of ideas for other developing companies.