The Importance of Employee Engagement

With the economy improving, the issue of employee engagement and the retention of staff is high on the agenda for organisations.
employee engagement

Craig discussed the importance of building engagement from all corners and at all levels of a business. He reflects on his time influencing and directing the engagement of an international business with 22 million customers and his most recent challenge of transforming and improving HR structures in a mature business.

Employee engagement has become a key point on the HR agenda for most forward-thinking organisations, often driven by a motivation and desire for change and to improve their performance. PSD met up with Craig McCoy and shared his experiences around the subject – looking at why employee engagement is so important to a company and how best to implement it across the business.

Craig is an experienced HR Director with a track record of delivering measurable change within a number of key industries. He has worked within property, media, telecommunications and was recently appointed Chair of London HR Connection, a key HR Networking Group.

Craig started our discussion by emphasising that employee engagement is built around an organisation’s vision, values and business strategy and plays a crucial role in supporting change. His time at Bupa (the Global mutual health services business) shows how effectively HR’s activities can benefit the business.

When Craig joined Bupa as HR Director, the organisation was facing a number of industry wide challenges, including the high price of private healthcare (only 10% of the British population had private cover), saturated markets, and the company was still suffering from the effects of the economic downturn. The business needed to move forward and reinvent itself as a healthcare partner, which meant a seismic change for the company and its employees. The result was a new cost model, a consultative approach, broadening the nature of the products and services they sold and expanding their geographical footprint. Equally importantly they introduced a more proactive approach to the management of new health services and their staff.

From an HR perspective Craig championed engagement as a major tool to support this re-energising and refocusing of the business. His first task was to take a snap shot of where they were as an organisation so he could understand the issues they were facing, and his question to the staff was “where do you and your role fit into our new proposition for healthcare?”

Craig’s first priority was to get buy-in from the management team for the engagement agenda so that they could sponsor and lead on the initiative. He implemented a high touch approach where all 3500 staff could voice their opinions on key topics and any “off track” behaviours could be identified. Once the results were compiled each employee was encouraged to pledge the change that they could individually make. From the feedback, Craig created a strong behavioural model that he shared with the business and the leadership team, to encourage loyalty to the brand – this showed a virtuous circle emphasising how the people agenda and improved engagement resulted in increased profitability for the business.

To further deliver the change that was required, new Learning and Development initiatives were created, including skills workshops for all employees and leadership training for the management team. These were supported by new performance scorecards and processes to link reward structures and bonuses to employee performance. A range of indices and data were also introduced which measured employee engagement, management effectiveness and the commitment to reinforce and measure the effectiveness of the change programme.

Craig adds one further comment to the conversation around employee engagement by mentioning that employee health and welfare as a driver within engagement is often overlooked by many organisations, however from the results of many employee surveys its importance is clear.

Following these programmes the leadership team at Bupa was able to take stock and calibrate their success – Craig speaks positively about being able to reinvent the HR processes and to significantly impact operational success within a B2B business using a multi-year engagement strategy. He does counter this with the warning that engagement programmes can go wrong without proper follow up and when they lack congruency.

Craig has recently completed an Interim HR Director role at Crown Estates, where he was leading the transformation of an HR Team to give it more strategic focus and to build the strength of their offering. To do this, Craig worked closely with the new CEO and the established senior management team to work out how the HR team could deliver an effective strategy to support the organisation’s new ten year plan. This required an understanding of the drivers of change and the goals of the business plan. One of the key outcomes was that they are fundamentally changing how they manage and hire employees.

Engagement will continue to push its way to the top of the HR agenda for forward thinking businesses who want to achieve success. Employers can do a lot to impact levels of engagement within their workforce and the virtuous circle that this creates. Craig’s experiences at Bupa have shown how HR can have a major impact on the success of a business. As a recruitment partner to many leading organisations,

psd‘s HR Practice can testify to this as we have seen an increase in demand for candidates who have led engagement programmes in previous roles either as HR Generalists, L&D Specialists or dedicated Employee Engagement Consultants.


Craig McCoy

Leading international multi-sector HR Director

Leading international multi-sector HR Director with over 20 years’ experience across a broad range of industry sectors: Media & entertainment, technology, telecoms, information services, real estate, health & social care, education, professional services, insurance and management consultancy.

Craig has held Director posts at Group, Regional or Country level and he has held permanent, interim, consulting and NED roles ranging from large corporates to SMEs. His international experience has covered over 40 countries and includes UK PLCs, privately owned businesses, Private Equity owned companies, subsidiaries of US corporates and public sector organisations. He has also worked as a client facing change management consultant with Accenture.