Tuesday 22nd January 2019

What if my workers are unhappy?

A Q&A with CEO Paul Bresnihan


Picture your entire workforce, the people you manage, the people who help the business run smoothly. Now ask yourself a few questions:

How many of them…

  • seem happy to be at their desk right now?
  • are actively searching for a new job in their lunch breaks?
  • genuinely care whether the business does well or not?


You may never know for certain, but on a general scale, research shows that:

1 in 3 UK workers are unhappy with their current place of work, nearly half of them expect to be looking for a new job by the time the year’s out and only 15% of workforces consider themselves highly motivated, leaving the other 85% anywhere in-between.


Shining a spotlight on employee engagement, CEO Paul Bresnihan joins for a Q&A.


Q: Hi, Paul. Welcome to the GP Blogs! Let’s get right to it. First off, why employee engagement?  

I’ve been in this line of work for over 16 years now. If I’m being honest, when I got the job offer for sales executive all those years ago – it was just that. A job to pay the bills. A new job in a string of many, having been working since the age of 13. This sales exec role was, back in the day, my entry point into the EE industry and I didn’t know it at the time, but that one decision would shape the rest of my career. Employee engagement is a relatively new term, and back then even more so – having been knocking about for only a decade, if that. You know the saying “Work smarter, not harder”? Well that’s employee engagement in a nutshell, it’s the field looking into what it takes for an employee to perform well in their role. And this I think is what hooked me. I’d spent years before this, grafting away. I’d worked a chain of different jobs, but it was in this line of work that I found a real value in what I was doing, and for the first time in my career I found that the industry I worked for excited me.


Q: What’s the appeal?

I’ve worked in many environments throughout my career, worn many hats as part of many different teams, and all the while a very simple question has remained relevant. It’s pretty much the question shaping what I do, and what I believe employers should ask to help centre their businesses.

How do I keep all levels of my workforce fully engaged, fully motivated?

We should be asking – and I don’t just mean checking off a specific set of tasks assigned each day, I mean how can we hardwire our workforces with the desire to commit towards their personal success, as well as the shared company goals? To go above and beyond, wholehearted.


Q: What, in your opinion, is the best employee engagement technique?

Since the term EE first started knocking about, a lot of research has gone into it and there are many great techniques. One thing I’d like to point out that is surprising to some, is that when it comes to keeping your employees engaged money is not the sole magnet. A reason, more often than not your competitor can match an employee’s pay package or raise it, but what can’t be so easily squared is office culture. Not meaning to sound cheesy, but it’s unique; second, as far as the average employee is concerned, it’s where the true value of the business lies. Let me give a recent survey as an example, it’s a good bit of work showing the importance of recognition on staff morale and retention, with 70% of the sample group reporting that they felt undervalued at work. If an employee feels that their individual role is important to the firm, then naturally this sense of greater authority will have a positive impact on their attitude. We all want our work to be worthwhile, and if we’re doing a good job we want our efforts to be rewarded. Nobody feels inspired by the prospect of a “dead-end” job, that’s why building a strong workplace community where opportunity is offered greatly boosts the permanence and motivation to do better for each employee.


Q: What is the biggest problem with it?

Every employee has their own separate motivators, and it’s finding a tactic that suits everyone that makes achieving optimum employee engagement difficult. Anything but a one size fits all – an employee perks package might hold enough sway over one individual however another might be more concerned about seeking a firm with better HR practices. Despite personal priorities, it’s not feasible to go about the office and offer personal pep-talks to every individual team member each morning checking in on their motivation. Some firms might struggle in resources to fund a well-rounded offering of engagement tactics, and it’s this combination of affordability and flexibility in meeting individual needs that affects a firm’s ability to maintain a high retention rate.


Q: Where do you see employee engagement heading?

You can already see the rise in responsibility of HR, and the rise of the burden of care the employer must have for their staff. Soon, I predict that an inclusion of employee engagement schemes to support each employee’s work (and out-of-work) challenges will be incorporated across a larger spread of companies. Be smart, get ahead. It’s no secret that businesses scoring high in employee engagement benefit greatly from improved commitment from staff, productivity and innovation. Because of this, employers are recognising more and more that it’s in their best interest to care about employee welfare, especially when it comes to retaining top talent and high job performance.