Leading employee engagement experts discuss best practice at University conference

The University of Kent has this week hosted a major conference of human resource practitioners, policymakers and academics to consider how organisations can best engage their employees.

The conference, titled Engaging Workplaces for a Sustainable Future, is part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s seminar series focusing on employee engagement that has been running for the past 18 months. This final conference in the series was run in collaboration with Engage for Success, the national movement aimed at promoting the importance of employee engagement.

The conference took place on 17 December at the University’s Kent Business School Canterbury campus building and saw speakers drawn from government, industry and academia.

They included Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development; David MacLeod and Nita Clarke, Co-Chairs of Engage for Success; Russell Grossman, Director of Communications at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Karen Bowes, HR Director of Capital One, and Sharon Darwent, Employee Engagement Manager of BT, alongside leading academic experts on engagement such as Professor David Guest of King’s College, London and Professor Clare Kelliher, of Cranfield School of Management.

The day was designed to include a combination of speaker presentations, debates and panel sessions to encourage interaction and knowledge-sharing.

University conference organiser, Professor Katie Truss, Head of the People, Management and Organisation Group at Kent Business School, said: ‘We were delighted to have had such a fantastic turn-out for the conference. There was a lively debate about the value and importance of employee engagement, and about the key actions to take in order to foster high levels of engagement. Many of the speakers highlighted the critical role that line managers play in ensuring staff are motivated and engaged, and trust was also high on the agenda during the conference. Delegates heard Russell Grossman explain the value that government place on raising levels of engagement in UK workplaces as a means of improving the country’s economic prosperity, and Peter Cheese explain the CIPD’s focus on engagement as a core competence for HRM professionals today. There were some interesting case studies from BT, Capital One, and Greenwich University showing how organisations can use a range of techniques and interventions to foster a highly engaged workforce.

David MacLeod and Nita Clarke explained the progress made by Engage for Success over the past 18 months in creating a movement of leading organisations from all around the UK to encourage and promote engagement. We also discussed some of the ways in which employers can partner with academics and Universities in a range of ways to improve performance.

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