Do Employees Need to Believe in a Product to be Engaged?

Trust and integrity.

Or, more specifically, two powerful words that the future of your business relies on not just from your customers, but from your employees too.

These two emotive words make up a huge part of employee engagement. They conjure up a feeling of commitment and communication that happens between an organisation and its workers, and they help employees walk the path to productivity and joy in the workplace.

Engagement can be measured – whether it’s poor or great or somewhere in between – and it can be nurtured, just like it can be tossed to the sidelines.

So, just to recap, this is what it means for employees to be engaged:

  • It means the employee understands their role in the company and knows how they fit into the bigger picture
  • It’s about an employee having a clear understanding of how the company is fulfilling its overall purpose and objectives
  • It’s when employees fully feel like a part of the team, and feel trusted and empowered every single day
  • It means employees are party to regular constructive feedback from their superiors

Notice here how we don’t mention the product the company is selling, which begs the question: does an employee need to believe in the product of service to be an engaged member of staff?

This question has a deeper connotation.

Perhaps the better thing to ask is whether employees can connect to the purpose of the business. The product or service could be anything in the world, but if the employee doesn’t believe in the outcome it delivers, they’ll struggle to align with its purpose and, therefore, are less likely to be engaged.

How to align your business purpose with your employees

The key driver of purpose starts with whether your employees truly believe your company offers customers something that helps them solve a problem.

In a study by Deloitte, this was the number one factor employees stated when it came to defining purpose.

We can see from this that the work itself (or the product of service) is the most basic driver of purpose in the workplace.

Knowing that the work they are doing is going towards something useful and that customers are buying into a product that will actively help them makes up a major part of whether an employee is engaged or not.

Punit Renjen, the CEO of Deloitte, says the first step in creating purpose is to define why a company exists in the first place and the next step is to identify the impact it has on its customers and clients. “If tomorrow this organisation was to vanish from earth,” he says, “people would miss us because we made an impact that matters.”

How to Help Employees Believe in Your Business

It’s not just important for employees to believe in your product for their own engagement, but it also helps with sales too. According to research, 41% of consumers believe that employees are the most credible source of information in a company.

This means that, if your employees believe in what you’re selling, your customers are more likely to believe in it too.

So, if purpose and belief go along way in boosting employee engagement and sales, it’s time to start thinking about how you can instill that throughout your team.

1. Tie Purpose to Employee Values

It’s a common mistake from managers to assume that purpose is driven by huge company values but, while these do matter to a certain extent, it’s more important that the purpose of your business ties in with the personal values of your employees.

This is why it’s a great start to know what exactly your employees value both inside and outside the workplace. You can then position your purpose to fit around their needs and goals.

2. Discuss How Your Product Makes a Difference

Your employees won’t know whether they believe in your product or not if they don’t know how it makes a difference to the people that invest in it.

To do this, it’s important to regularly talk about how your products or services help customers and clients. To really hammer home the point, you can always invite customers to share their stories and experiences with your workforce.

3. Educate Your Team

As well as knowing how the product of service makes a difference to buyers, it helps if employees know where you’re positioned in the market.

In a study by Gallup, 3,000 workers were asked to assess their agreement with the statement “I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand different from our competitors.”

Surprisingly, only 41% of employees strongly agreed with the statement.

Which means – you’ve got it – that more than half of employees don’t even know how the company they work for is different from others out there.

Think about it: how can your employees believe in what you’re selling if they don’t know why it’s better than similar products or services out there?

Because of this, it’s important that you fully educate your employees on where your business sits in the market in relation to your competitors.

4. Be Consistent

Constantly changing the purpose of your business will confuse employees and make it difficult for them to fully get behind it.

As a result, it’s important to keep your values and positioning in the market consistent. Then, every single employee can determine where they sit in the value-purpose narrative and be engaged in a way that’s authentic to themselves and the company.

5. Grow Your Business With Your Team

Your employees quickly become a part of the business – they’re the people who are helping it grow every single day – so by inviting them to become a part of the process, you’re helping them craft a product and service they truly believe in.

Encourage them to get involved in guiding the direction the business is going in, and help them figure out their own purpose within that growth strategy.

Belief and Purpose Lead to Engagement

Belief in the product of service is just one part of what makes up the material of an engaged employee, but it helps boost other areas that are important.

When an employee believes in what they’re doing and selling, they’re more likely to be productive and become stalwart ambassadors of your business.

Over to you – how do you help your employees believe in your product of service?

The advantages of permanent working

While most people believe contracting pays more than permanent work, there is more to consider when choosing your preferred working status than the hourly rate. If you have the chance of a building your career doing a job you love in an environment you enjoy, why would you ever want to leave?

Here we take a look at some of the specific advantages permanent work has over contracting.

1. You can follow a distinct career path

While permanent work does not come with a guarantee of promotion, the chances of working your way up to a more senior role within an organisation are far higher than as a contractor.

Employers view permanent staff as long-term investments that can be trained, nurtured and rewarded to optimise their impact on the business. Also, it is far easier for an employer to promote from within the company than it is to bring in an outsider, unfamiliar with company processes and people.

2. You can enjoy a package of benefits

As you progress up the career ladder, not only does your salary increase, a range of other entitlements can come along that reward your continued commitment to the company. The most basic of these, paid holidays and sick leave, are considered standard for permanent employees. Others, such as private healthcare and gym membership, are increasingly common.

Add to this the other financial remunerations not available to contractors – such as a work pension, retirement plan and long-service bonus – and permanent employment starts to look very lucrative indeed.

3. You can feel secure in a job you love

In a permanent position, not only do you have the opportunity and build long-term relationships with your work colleagues, you can also relax with the self-assurance that comes with a steady job and an identifiable career path. While contracting can sometimes feel like continually looking for the next job, permanent work gives you the chance to immerse yourself in the job at hand, free from financial worry and job uncertainty.

4. You’re free from admin

When you are in a permanent role you are not buried in admin in the way a contractor can be. While a contractor’s paperwork can be a job in itself – from daily time-sheets to their annual tax bill – permanent employees are free to focus on their work, safe in the certainty of how much they will be paid at the end of every month.

5. You’re part of the team

While contractors are like hired guns, brought in to do their job then get outta town, permanent employees are able to play the long game. So when an employer sees a staff member chatting with colleagues over a coffee, for example, they’re bonding well as a team. When the same employer sees a contractor chatting with colleagues over a coffee, they’re being an expensive time waster who won’t get their contract renewed.

5 things successful people do in the morning

People who do well in their careers tend to start the day with a positive attitude. They claim the early hours of the day as theirs, and then they make the most of every moment.

Here are five fundamental ways you can use the early mornings to set you up for a successful day ahead.

1. Wake up early

Mornings offer a rare moment of liberty where you are free to do your own thing. So make the most of this ‘me’ time by getting yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn.

Early mornings are a matter of habit. It may be a struggle at first, but your body clock will soon adjust. And, it’s a lot easier when you are getting up to do something more interesting and fulfilling than just get ready to go to work.

2. Keep fit

Exercise delivers an energising boost to your mind as well as your body. A pre-breakfast workout – whether running, cycling, a yoga practice or a few press-ups, sit-ups and lunges – wakes you up and helps reduce stress later in the day.

By taking time to exercise first thing in the morning, you’ll start the working day with the energy and enthusiasm you need to maximise your productivity and performance.

3. Plan your day

While we sleep, our brains organise, process and prioritise all the information from the preceding day. Mornings, therefore, are the perfect time to create your to-do list for the day to come. The start of a new day helps you sort out the key objectives from the distracting clutter and put together a plan of action to achieve your goals.

4. Tackle a demanding project

The oasis of free time mornings provide is a rare chance to concentrate without interruption on a specific project. Resist replying to emails or looking over yesterday’s work – that sort of thing can eat up valuable time without achieving anything – and get stuck into something more significant.

Look at your plan for the day and pick out the most challenging task (which is usually the one that would not get done). Make progress on this and your day will only get easier.

5. Enjoy every moment!

It’s not all about work work work for successful people. They know how to have a well-balanced life. So savour every moment of your mornings. Talk with your family, walk the dog, water the garden, enjoy a leisurely breakfast. When you your mind, body and soul are well-nourished, you can approach the coming day feeling balanced and grounded.

One thing that makes people feel more inclined to make the most of their mornings is having a great workplace to go to. That’s where HR Rockstars come in. We’re the go-to people for any business that wants to build a solid team of highly motivated employees.

Now, let’s get to work!

Performance management: Tackling underperforming employees

Any business is only as good as the people it employs. Encouraging and incentivising each individual to optimise their performance, therefore, is crucial for the success of the organisation as a whole.

But how do you manage an underperforming employee?

This is where good performance management practice can help. When set procedures are in place, any performance issues can be tackled quickly and effectively.

What is underperformance?

Terms such as ‘underperformance’ and ‘poor performance’ can sound rather subjective. However, there are clear benchmarks to determine when an employee isn’t doing their job properly. For example:

  • Not meeting the agreed standard expected of them
  • Not following agreed workplace procedures
  • Not acting in an acceptable manner when at work
  • Disrupting others from their work
  • Damaging the prospects of the company through negative conduct.

How to manage underperformance

Here are five performance management tips to help you manage underperforming staff:

  1. Acknowledge the problem

Make clear to the employee in what way their performance is not meeting the standard it could. Make any feedback constructive, as it is in the employee’s interest to improve the way they work.

  1. Document any discussions

Keep a record of any meetings and action agreed to address the problem. This can be helpful for monitoring progress and demonstrating the attempts that have been made to help the employee improve. A well-organised performance management system will include a checklist for dealing with such situations.

  1. Identify where they need to improve

Support the employee in anything they need to do to overcome what is causing them to under-perform. This may involve training, for example. Continually keeping your employees’ skills up to date can help to prevent problems of underperformance occurring in the first place.

  1. State a definite course of action

Be precise about what is expected of an employee and where they are falling short – especially after action has been taken to remedy the problem. Anything less formal can result in ambiguity, which makes any future dismissal harder to justify.

  1. Assess your own performance

Poor performance among employees could be the result of poor performance at management level. Have your own performance assessed and audited according to your company’s performance management criteria to ensure you are providing the best guidance and communication to assist the employees you are responsible for.

Following up after underperformance issues

Regular follow-up meetings should be held following any attempt to tackle underperformance issues. This provides an opportunity to assess what progress has been made and examine what further action may need to be taken.

Employers should recognise where performance has improved and praise the employee for successfully addressing the challenge. Of course, if performance doesn’t improve and an employee has not changed their behaviour as you have requested, it will be necessary to issue a clear warning and begin to consider removing the employee from the business via a dismissal procedure.

But that’s an issue for another blog.

Tackling sickness and absence in the workplace

Are you sick of people saying they feel ill? Do you feel faint when you hear there’s (another) bug going round? Employee absence through sickness is an unavoidable aspect of any workplace, but it becomes a problem if it escalates beyond what is reasonable to expect.

While every employee has the right to be ill, measures can be taken to ensure absence does not become unmanageable. Here are some of the most effective methods:

  1. Promote attendance

Praise and reward staff that do not take time off, such as by awarding a small prize to the most present employee. Obviously you do not want people to feel they are doing something wrong if they are genuinely ill, but an incentive such as this could encourage a more positive mindset about attendance.

  1. Have a strict sickness policy

If you take a casual approach to people calling in sick, it will give the impression you are not that bothered and encourage all employees to take ‘sick’ days. A policy by which a named member of staff must be informed before 9.30am by telephone, for example, would make the fakers think twice.

  1. Follow up absences

Don’t just let the absentee slip back to work as if nothing has happened. Make it a policy for them to have a meeting with their manager to provide a clear explanation and any relevant proof of their illness, such as a doctor’s note. This is also an opportunity to identify any root causes in the workplace that you may be able to deal with.

  1. Give employees a reason to be present

It’s no coincidence that self employed people rarely have days off sick. They take complete responsibility for what they do, so they are motivated to do a good job. And you can’t do a good job if you’re lying on the sofa watching ‘This Morning’. Try to engender some of that self-employed ethos in your workplace. Give employees control over their own work so they really want to be there to do it. As well as decreasing absenteeism this will create a positive can-do atmosphere in the workplace.

  1. Be flexible about working hours

Of course, some employees may never miss a day of work and stay late at their desk after everyone else has left – but that does not mean they are particularly productive. The more industrious employees may see others shuffling papers at their desk, chatting with colleagues and taking all day to accomplish the simplest of tasks and feel justified in taking a couple of days off occasionally. If you can measure the work done by what is actually accomplished rather than the number of hours employees are present in the office, then employees could earn the extra time off.

  1. Offer duvet days

Being able to ring into work and take a day off at short notice, sometimes called a ‘duvet day’, has great appeal for many employees. These floating holidays are typically used when employees would otherwise call in sick – such as when they have a hangover or are feeling rundown and unmotivated. Allowing employees to be honest about these days off will create a culture of honesty in the workplace and increase staff morale.

Employee Assistance Programmes: Good for employees. Good for business.

An Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is an employer-funded scheme that gives staff the opportunity to contact an independent adviser, by telephone or in person, for confidential help with a range of issues that may be causing them concern.

By helping staff deal with a range of personal problems, whether financial, emotional, mental or physical, EAPs defuse issues that would otherwise adversely affect employee’s performance at work.

Create a happy, healthy workplace

EAPs aren’t only for major difficulties, they are there to support employees’ general wellbeing and bolster their resilience in an increasingly stressful workplace. By providing their workforce with access to EAPs, employers see returns in terms of staff productivity, attendance and an upturn in workplace morale.

Research by Canada Life in 2015 found that employees with access to EAPs were three and a half times more able to cope with the demands of their job. In the same study, the number of employees rating their relationship with their colleagues as ‘good’ or ‘very good’ rose from 46% before using the service to 79% afterwards.

EAPs are rapidly becoming a mainstay of the modern workplace, with employees welcoming the opportunity to take advantage of professional help that makes them feel happier in themselves and more productive in their work.

Key benefits of an EAP for employees:

• It’s convenient. A 24/7 telephone helpline is usually part of the service, making EAPs more accessible than most non-work based services.
• It’s comprehensive. EAPs are there for employees to discuss a wide range of often interrelated issues. For example, if debt worries are having a detrimental effect on your health, your mental wellbeing and your work, an EAP can help you address all aspects of the problem.
• It’s confidential. The professional providing the help is not part of your company, they are a third party provider. So, just like when you visit your GP, any discussions that take place are entirely private and off the record.

Key benefits of an EAP for employers:

• Improve performance. An employee that feels fulfilled in their job and is free from any adverse physical or mental conditions is someone that is able and willing to give 100% of effort to their work.
• Reduce absenteeism. Happier, healthier employees are more motivated and more able to cope with workplace challenges.
• Increase retention. Many people attempt to tackle stress by changing their job. An EAP, on the other hand, helps them deal with the root causes of the stress while building on their existing role.

EAPs are much more than a simple workplace perk. By providing employers with the means to handle serious employee issues that they would otherwise be unable to deal with, they enable strategic interventions that can transform the workplace, at an individual level and at a team or departmental level.

Interviewing introverts: How to reveal their quiet qualities


Lack of confidence. Shy young handsome man feels awkward isolated on grey wall background. Human emotion body language life perception


If a job interview is presented simply as an opportunity for a candidate to sell themselves, then the extrovert will triumph over the introvert every time. The more astute employers, however, understand that the most outstanding candidate is not necessarily the most outgoing.

The trouble is, interviews have a tendency to favour those who are natural extroverts. It is the bright flash that get noticed, not the steady glow. So here are some tips to help you build a balanced team of the best talents by assessing candidates objectively, whatever their disposition.Identify the true requirements of the position

A customer-facing position, such as sales, may go to an extrovert because they deliver a more entertaining interview. But look a little deeper and think what the customer would want from that position. They would rate empathy, an ability to listen and trustworthiness over more extrovert skills, such as having the ‘gift of the gab’. Once you know the competencies you are looking for, you can attempt to uncover them during the interview.

  1. Skip the small talk

Extroverts thrive on small talk. They’ll pick up the conversational baton and run with it as far as they can. Introverts, on the other hand, prefer to deploy their words more judiciously. It’s still a good idea to give the candidate time to warm up, but reign in the small talk and give them chance to talk about what really matters.

  1. Be patient with your probing

Extroverts may seize every opportunity to dominate the conversation, telling you what they want to say rather than what you want to hear. Conversely, introverts may wait to be asked before telling you. An interview isn’t a talking competition, it’s an opportunity for you to coax out the insight you need, and this may take time and careful questioning.

  1. Don’t give them unnecessary hurdles to jump

If someone is coming to be interviewed for a position as a software programmer, for example, why force them to undergo a panel interview? The ability to cope with being centre-stage while handling questions from all directions is not representative of the work they will be doing. This style of interview would suit a natural performer, but not necessarily a natural software programmer.

  1. Put them to the test

A well-constructed test that reflects the available position will give all candidates an equal chance to put their skills into practice. It will disregard the irrelevant characteristics of the extrovert to arrive at a fair, unbiased assessment of each candidate.

  1. Check references

Rather than waiting to check references after the interview, why not check them before? That way, you can see how the candidate performs in an actual work environment, rather than an interview.

To sum up, you can’t assess a candidate by the volume or quantity of their conversation during the interview. To hire the most competent person for the job, rather than the one that makes the interview easiest for you, you need to tailor the interview to the actual requirements of the position. Do that, and you’ll recruit the best candidate for the job, whether they are an extrovert or an introvert.



Build your business on solid values


Values provide the foundation on which your business is built. They are fundamental to who you are and what you do. They are the deep-rooted, unchanging principles that will give your business the strength and stability to grow and succeed in the future. To put it simply: if you haven’t got a strong set of values, you haven’t got a chance.

So, what actually are values and how can they help your business?

Values provide focus

A values-driven culture gives all employees a clear purpose. Instead of individuals being motivated by short-term personal objectives, values provide an organisational ethos around which all employees can rally. Personal goals become aligned with organisational goals and any challenges that occur are overcome by a steadfast determination to uphold the company’s values.

Much more than superficial statements cobbled together to fill a page in the company brochure, true values capture the essence of what makes a company special and help shape its future progress.

A strongly held value such as ‘Innovative’, for example, can mean the difference between a short-lived mobile phone manufacturer, such as Nokia, and a perpetual ideas powerhouse, such as Apple. Although Nokia briefly led the mobile phone market, they soon stagnated, while Apple were hungry to innovate.

A clear set of values engage workers in the big picture, increasing individual job satisfaction and performance, and preventing the apathy and cynicism that occurs in companies without such guiding principles.

Values define behaviour

When every employee understands exactly what is important in a business, they are not simply doing a job, they are part of an all-embracing ethos. So if, for example, one of your company’s values is that you are ‘Compassionate: communicating with others politely and considerately’, and one of your staff is ignoring others’ opinions and failing to communicate, then they are not being compassionate.

This removes the personal hostility from any kind of reprimand. By saying “you are not being compassionate in the way you communicate with others and compassion is an important value in our business,” you are implementing company values rather than making a personal attack.

Values enhance recruitment

When hiring new employees, talent is, of course, important – but not as much as you may think. Technical expertise can be learnt, but the personality of the candidate is something that can’t be changed. A new recruit may come with a long list of qualifications and a shed load of experience, but if they don’t fit in with the rest of the team, their impact on the workplace may well be negative.

Values help you hire better. If, for example, ‘Cooperation’ is one of your core values, you can seek out candidates that have this attribute, such as by asking them to “Describe a situation where cooperation resulted in the successful outcome of a project.”

Without values to guide your decision making, you could end up with a well-qualified candidate that refuses to work with the rest of the team and spends their coffee break criticising fellow employees.

Values get under the skin of your organisation to identify what you are really about. A company that ‘lives’ its values attracts employees, and customers, that share those values.


More than just an HR Rockstar. Our MD Jo Lister shares her story about kidney donation and encourages staff members to join the organ donation register.

Jo Lister

More than just an HR Rockstar, Jo, our brilliant MD looks further than just HR policy and procedures when talking to clients.  Jo was able to donate her kidney to her sick mother in February this year and became acutely aware of the despair people live through when they, or a family member are waiting for a life saving organ.  Jo has shared her story and has encouraged the League Against Cruel Sports staff members and our other clients to consider creating an in house campaign to get people to consider joining the organ donation list.

“Engagement in the workplace goes far beyond reward and recognition, for me it is about compassion and empathy for others and the work that we do. When I was recovering from the operation, I had such heart felt messages from my clients and when I returned to work I was greeted with such warmth and compassion.  They really cared about me and what I had experienced.  The CEO, Eduardo at The League Against Cruel Sports asked me to be involved in an in house campaign to encourage staff members to join the organ donation register.  I was delighted to be involved.  This campaign has had a such an impact on me personally and I believe it has united people in the League.  We all feel that we have made a difference”   Jo Lister

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Appraising the appraisal: How to make feedback work for you

Shot of two young students going over some notes in a coffee shop


Appraisals are supposed to be a opportunity for both employer and employee to solve problems, improve performance and enhance job satisfaction. Yet too often, the annual appraisal can be seen as an ordeal to be endured, welcomed as enthusiastically as a summons to stand before a firing squad.

So, what can you do to make feedback a positive experience for all involved?

Serve up a sandwich of Praise-Criticism-Praise

A long-established approach to providing feedback is for the appraiser to criticise the appraisee – but to balance this out with heaps of praise so they won’t run out of the office in tears. The technique of furtively slipping in critical feedback between two thick slices of praise is known by the delightful sobriquet, The Sh*t Sandwich.

The trouble with the Sh*t Sandwich is that, by burying critical comments within a protective cushion of praise, the recipient is liable to ignore the unpleasant ingredient and focus instead on the more agreeable substance that makes up the majority of the feedback.

So, while the intention of not upsetting people is good, if you’re not careful, rather than leaving employees with a taste of where they need to improve, they will be licking their lips with the satisfaction of a job well done.

Be specific with Situation-Behaviour-Impact

An alternative approach is to focus your comments on specific situations and behaviours, then outline the impact they have on others. This way, employees will understand precisely what the issue is, giving them the chance to reflect on their actions and consider where room for improvement exists.

The process goes something like this:

  1. Situation: Relate a specific incident that occurred, such as a presentation they delivered or an intervention they made in a meeting.
  1. Behaviour: Describe what the person did. Don’t make assumptions or subjective judgements, simply state what you observed.
  1. Impact: Express the effect this had on you and others, and on the organisation as a whole.

When communicating the impact of the person’s actions, try to start sentences with ‘I’ (such as ‘I felt…’ and ‘I thought…’). This way you are providing them with actual outcomes, whatever impression they have of what happened. Once they understand the true impact of the situation, give your employee time to think about it, then both of you can consider what steps to take to help them improve.

This evidence-based approach has proved far more effective, and palatable, than the clichéd sandwich format described earlier.

Tailor feedback to suit each employee

Even with a proven appraisal method like Situation-Behaviour-Impact (SBI), its success is largely dependent on the willingness of the recipient to take the feedback on board. This openness to constructive criticism can be maximised by the skilful delivery of the message, and this will depend on the type of person being appraised.

As a general rule, studies show that experts consider identifying a weakness as a positive step towards greater success. Novices, on the other hand, may be deterred by too much focus on their failings.

When delivered with careful forethought and empathy, an effective appraisal will be a catalyst for growth, both for the individual and for the organisation as a whole.