Guest Blogger

James Rapinac

Last week’s Employee Engagement Summit was attended by 450 delegates and was hailed as a truly world class event. In the first of our two chair reports James Rapinac, Business Solutions Consultant at Gallup gives his take on proceedings in Hall 2 at the Summit….

The place was buzzing and delegates were clearly engaged even before Coca-Cola’s Melissa Hungerford called the plenary session to order a few minutes past 9:00 (easily an on-time departure by any airline’s measure!) Melissa gave her perspective on engagement and the importance of employee choice, comparing employees to customers in the sense that each effectively chooses to engage with either their employer or job, or with a brand or product.

Melissa defined the heart and soul of engagement, leaving it to Alex Edmans of LBS to make the business case. Is business about profit or purpose – and where does this leave engagement? Not an cut and dried either/or proposition according to Alex, who presented his compelling research to demonstrate that engagement is important to business, which requires both profit and purpose to grow in a sustainable way.

Timpson founder and Chairman John Timpson followed Alex’s lively and elegant presentation by showing what a profitable and purposeful business looks like. He discussed how he introduced “upside down management” and put front-line employees at the top of the hierarchy, enabling them to do a great job and create happy customers. Doing this requires trust and empowerment. Simple. But not easy.

Next, Peter Flade senior advisor at Gallup talked about the importance of work in people’s daily lives, and to their wellbeing. Creating an engaged workplace is not just good for business; it’s the right thing to do. Peter shared some best practices of what the best companies do to engage their people. One is having leaders who believe in and live engagement every day with the teams they manage. Another is competent and effective HR leadership that drives change.

I was the chair for the Hall 2 presentations, battling jet lag all afternoon as I’d returned from Western US the day before. Happily there was plenty to keep me engaged. There were five topics addressed: Strategy & Leadership; Transformation & Change Management; Employee & Customer Engagement; Technology; and Reward & Wellbeing. Every one of the presentations was excellent and included unique perspectives on engagement.”

Highlights from each of the five topics included:

Strategy & Leadership:

  • A presentation on the concept of “job crafting” by Giles McClelland of the University of Central Lancashire to make work more meaningful and enhance productivity and collaboration by allowing individuals and teams to change how they do their jobs. Truly innovative and practical.

Transformation & Change Management:

  • Applying physics to boost engagement and performance: an insightful presentation by Jennifer Flint of Isos Housing Group about how she used the fundamental laws of physics in the design of Isos’s engagement programme.

Employee & Customer Engagement:

  • Dee Gosney of HSBC presented a case study about how the bank implemented a global employee crowd sourcing programme to tap into the collective intelligence of HSBC’s diverse international workforce. Benefits of this initiative included enhanced innovation and engagement across the bank, bringing fresh ideas and perspectives about how to improve the bank’s employee and customer experience.


  • Superb presentations by LV= and Swarmworks, but for me the most compelling was BP’s Nick Shackleton Jones case study of BP’s use of technology to build leadership capability as well as measure and drive engagement. He likened this application of technology to a “leadership SatNav”. Inspiring and practical!

Reward & Wellbeing:

  • Hugely informative, fun and entertaining presentations by Decathlon UK and Reward Gateway, but my favourite was the one made by Jane Burgess of John Lewis, who described John Lewis’s innovative approach to “Care in Our Community” and spoke passionately about how commitments are at the heart of John Lewis’s business and culture, not policies and programmes.

The final session went a bit long due to lots of questions from the audience for all three presenters, in spite of the ever-louder buzz of conversation that marked the start of the drinks and networking reception.

At the reception as well as throughout the day I had a number of conversations with delegates to understand their organisation’s priorities with respect to engagement. A few themes that I heard mentioned were

  • Strong senior management “buy-in” and support for engagement, coupled with a much greater understanding of the links between engaged employees and performance.
  • Leadership and management development: How can we help develop our executives, managers and team leaders so they are more effective at engaging their teams?
  • A desire to move from measuring engagement to improving it.
  • Need to identify best practices and practical strategies about how to harness engagement to deliver better outcomes like customer retention.
  • Interest in a better way to do performance management because the traditional performance review-based approach is not

Next week look out for a special report from Melissa Hungerford, VP Talent and Leadership at Coca-Cola Enterprises who chaired the plenary session and Hall One at the Summit

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