It is perhaps undeniable that the EU referendum appears to have captured the minds and conversations of the general public in a way that everyday Westminster, Council, and indeed European elections have simply failed to do for many years.
An anecdotal example; On Sunday I was travelling with a grouping which included males and females, and a wide range of ages (from teenager to pensioner). Without any noticeable orchestration the conversation gravitated to the EU referendum, and it was striking that everyone had a view which they were willing to voice and debate. Away from this grouping I have also spoken to others who usually offer no political opinion, yet are intending to turn out and vote on the 23rd June.
The bottom line is that the forthcoming referendum (and indeed the recent Scottish devolution vote also) have engaged the electorate in a way rarely seen in the UK.
Now engagement is important. At a national level it is important that voters are engaged with the democratic process. At a more granular level employers need worker engagement to improve the UK’s (frankly poor) productivity figures. For more of my recent thoughts on our productivity deficit please see this post (written before the EU referendum date was set).
So what lessons can employers – and HR professionals in particular – take from the apparent improvement in national engagement, and how can this be applied at a corporate level?
To my mind the following are all key factors for consideration:
- Relevance: Ask questions that are genuinely relevant and important to your audience, and where they are likely to want their voices to be heard.
- Visibility: Publish the results in full (and without spin) so that everyone can see the views of the wider workforce.
- Action: Ensure that any clear findings from the research are acted upon (and make sure that these actions are made known to your audience).
To a lesser or greater extent both the EU and Scottish referendums reflect the above approach, and this may well be a key factor in the much greater traction with the electorate. It therefore follows that employers who wish to tackle the big and complex subjects of employee engagement and productivity would be well advised to embrace a similar approach.