TSI Blog

Ohh Matron! – A Debate On Employee Engagement From The 70’s

April 14th, 2014 by Gary Cattermole

Parkinson ShowThe notion that employee engagement is something new, fan dangled or faddy is simply not true.

If you look at the aspects, elements, drivers of high employee engagement they are neither complicated, nor wholly new concepts or situations.

Take a look at this Michael Parkinson interview from the 1970’s that included Maggie Smith and the poet laureate Sir John Betjeman and his last guest is the irrepressible Kenneth Williams.

Parkinson and Williams were never the best of friends, as is detailed by Parkinson at the start of this piece.  What is interesting however, is the discussion they enter into that relates directly, to employee engagement.

Williams’s notion is that, regardless of ones job, it’s about people doing the best they can, looking for a great sense of pride and achievement in what they do, even if the work is ‘monotonous’ such as fitting door knobs!

Parkinson’s view is somewhat different however, possibly shaped from his Northern upbringing and political views and that is that it’s very much about being ‘paid’ more.

Interestingly, if we take today’s thinking about employee engagement, then although Parkinson and Williams have differing views, both sets of views and ideals are correct.  The notion of achievement, pride in ones work and being paid ‘fairly’ are both important facets of employee engagement.

I have to say, that the short tête-à-tête between them is not only good television but food for thought as well.

Pay is often dismissed as a driver for engagement and to a degree, this is true.  There are situations or roles where pay and benefits are drivers of engagement.  For example, those working in brooking or stock exchanges and conversely if people are struggling financially, it will also be a driver.

However, on a more wider note, ‘fairness’ is an important aspect of engagement and pay and benefits need to be fair, individuals and teams need to be rewarded fairly for the work they do and everyone should benefit in the success of an organisation.

So, not only is it interesting to find that Parkinson and Williams are both promoting engagement but they did it on national television to an audience of millions over 40 years ago…what we’d give to have such a platform nowadays to discuss such issues?

If you would like to know more about what influences employee engagement in your organisation, then contact us on +44 (0) 1255 850051.

Written by Gary Cattermole
Gary Cattermole is a Director at The Survey Initiative, a dedicated employee research organisation devoted to helping its clients gain insight and understanding into what drives employee engagement in their business. Gary has extensive expertise and experience in a range of employee research techniques from employees surveys and 360 degree feedback to workshop facilitation and action planning sessions, working with a diverse range of clients such as EPSON, Telegraph Media Group, Natural History Museum, AVEVA and Accor. Gary is an avid sports fan, in particular table tennis and football. Visit http://www.surveyinitiative.co.uk for more information.

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