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TUC congress: Staff engagement is not 'rocket science'

9 September 2014 - 4:21pm

Organisations will only thrive if unions and employees are closely involved in workplace developments, according to Claire Sullivan, the CSP’s assistant director of employment relations and union services (ERUS).

Claire Sulliavn at TUC Congress 2014 in Liverpool. Photo: Jess Hurd

Claire Sullivan: 'Every really good employer knows how important it is to listen to staff and to involve them in decisions.' Photo: Jess Hurd

Ms Sullivan, who takes over as ERUS director at the end of this month on Lesley Mercer’s retirement, was seconding a motion calling for the creation of ‘high performance workplaces’.

She said: ‘In recent years, there has been much talk of how important “staff engagement”, “employee engagement” and “capturing the employee voice” is to an organisation's success.

‘Well, let's be honest, jargon notwithstanding, it's hardly rocket science. We could have told employers at any time that if you truly listen to the frontline, you won't go far wrong. If you involve staff in decisions, if you act on their suggestions, you will see significant improvements and benefits.’

Ms Sullivan pointed to evidence in the health field showing that high levels of staff engagement not only improve workers’ wellbeing but also boost patient satisfaction levels and clinical outcomes.

‘But what is missing from the current rush to “engage” staff is the central, important and hugely positive role played by unions – and we must redress that balance.’

Ms Sullivan said this was because trade unions:

  • are ‘trusted brokers’ – an essential conduit between organisations and workers, giving employers get real, honest (if sometimes brutal) feedback
  • ‘truly represent’ the workforce
  • are accountable to the same workforce

She added: ‘Every really good employer knows how important it is both to listen to staff and to involve them in decisions. And we need to make sure that every good employer also knows that trade unions play an absolutely crucial role in making that excellent staff engagement a reality.’

The motion, calling on the TUC to press for policies that ensured employers recognise trade unions and invest in skills was passed unanimously.

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