By Gloria Lombardi

The CIPD funded report, ‘Managing for sustainable employee engagement: Developing a behavioural framework’, was published in December 2012. The research aims to provide a behavioural framework for managers and identifies the skills needed to generate sustainable employee engagement while preventing stress in the workplace.

Affinity Health at Work’s Emma Donaldson-Feilder (pictured right) presented us with her feedback and insight based on some of the major findings of the study.

Gloria Lombardi: Based on your research, will companies be paying more attention to the importance of employee engagement in 2013?

Emma Donaldson-Feilder: Companies that have any sense will! Employee engagement is an important factor in determining employee performance. Even more importantly, sustainable employee engagement – where employee health and wellbeing is protected as well as employee engagement – is important for sustaining performance over time. So, the employers that create the conditions which generate and sustain employee engagement and wellbeing will be the ones that thrive in 2013 and beyond.

GL: Which companies are getting it right in terms of successfully engaging their staff?

EDF: There are a lot of employers talking about engaging their employees (see ‘Engage for Success’ for case studies) but the real question is which companies are genuinely creating sustainable engagement – where employees are healthy as well as engaged – where engagement is about thinking and feeling as well as doing.

GL: What characteristics should a manager have to engage employees?

EDF: Our recent research shows that there are five broad themes of behaviour that a manager needs to engage employees in a way that is sustained over time:

1. Being open, fair and consistent – managing with integrity, managing the emotions and taking a positive approach to interpersonal interactions;

2. Handling conflict and problems – dealing with conflict in their team and will problems such as bullying and abuse and using appropriate organisational resources;

3. Knowledge, clarity and guidance – clear communication, advice and guidance, demonstrating understanding of roles and responsible decision-making;

4. Building and sustaining relationships – personal interaction with the team that shows empathy and consideration;

5. Supporting development – supporting and arranging career progression and development for their team members.

GL: What are the barriers to effective employee engagement and how should managers deal with them?

EDF: Firstly, one of the main potential barriers is poor management! So the top priority for managers is to ensure that they understand how they are perceived by those they manage and how their behaviour is impacting on their team – getting feedback can be helpful for this – which will allow the manager to make changes to their behaviour if necessary in order to show the relevant characteristics for employee engagement. Secondly, there may be organisational or even national level factors that act as barriers to engagement (for example, when an organisation or sector is struggling and jobs are at risk): in these cases, managers can have an honest conversation with their team members about what this means for them and how everyone can best work together to overcome the barriers or engage despite the barriers.

GL: Why is it so critical to recognize employee well-being while you are engaging them?

EDF: There is now strong evidence that employee well-being is important for performance: when employees have poor physical or psychological well-being, their performance will suffer. In addition, if an employee is engaged but has low levels of well-being, it is unlikely that their engagement will be sustained over time: they are potentially at risk of burn-out and disengagement, which inevitably leads to poor performance – or even no performance, if the individual ends up on sick leave due to health problems.

GL: What are the best ways to prevent and handle stress/health issues if they do occur the workplace?

EDF: Again, the line manager is key: line manager behaviour is vital to preventing and reducing stress for those they manage. Our earlier research created a framework of manager behaviour that prevents and reduces stress at work. Similar characteristics are important here to those for sustainable engagement earlier as stress prevention/protecting well-being is an intrinsic part of the sustainability of engagement: so, again, behaviours such as acting with integrity, managing emotions, being considerate, managing difficult situations and building relationships with empathy are important, as is managing and communicating work, workloads and problems.

GL: What advice can you give to communicators who want to promote a ‘healthy’ workplace?

EDF: Communications professionals have an important role to play in ensuring that workplaces are healthy: effective, two-way communication is important at all levels in the organisation. My main piece of advice would be to work closely with line managers and, where appropriate, with those who train and develop line managers. Supporting managers throughout the organisation to communicate (and particularly to listen) effectively and thereby build supportive empathetic relationships with their teams will go a long way to creating thriving, healthy workplaces.

GL: What are the dangers of failing to provide a thriving, healthy workplace?

EDF: Employers who fail to provide a thriving, healthy workplace are unlikely to achieve high levels of performance and, in the current climate, are therefore unlikely to survive.

To download the full ‘Managing for sustainable employee engagement’ report, visit:

For a guidance leaflet, go to:


This article originally appeared on simply-communicate