Q&A with Andy Brown, CEO at Engage

Media 7 | May 28, 2020

Andy Brown, Chief Executive Officer at ENGAGE has worked in the research and consulting industry for 25 years. He was previously a Partner at Mercer Consulting, a Global Practice Leader at The Empower Group (the strategic consulting division of Manpower), Managing Director of YouGov Consulting and Head of Research at The Gallup Organization. Andy co-founded ENGAGE and has worked for the company since 2008 and, in 2013, co-led an MBO of the firm.

He works with CEOs, boards and executive teams in FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 firms, as well as with a range of fast-growing entrepreneurial start-ups.

MEDIA 7: What are you most passionate about?
ANDY BROWN:
 I’m passionate about four key things: helping organisations improve their performance; helping leaders to be as effective as possible; helping employees to feel a sense of purpose in their work; and, of course, my family!


"One of the most significant changes that digital technologies have brought about is the way organisations approach employee communication and engagement."

M7: Describe Engage and what you’re experiencing in your industry.
AB: 
Our purpose as a firm is to create highly engaged and effectively led organisations.

We believe that a highly engaged organisation is one equipped to drive the change needed to achieve its goals.
We know that businesses succeed when leaders understand how to engage employees with their vision, strategy and values. Businesses perform when leaders and employees are fully engaged with the role they play in delivering these.

To achieve this, we work with leaders to define, communicate and connect employees with vision and strategy and to role-model the values and behaviours needed to achieve these.

We support managers by translating and localising vision and strategy for their teams, role-modelling the required values and behaviours, and embedding these as tools for performance assessment and improvement.

We also help organisations enable their employees to perform and deliver, drive change, represent and promote the organization, live the values and behaviours and stay and develop.

Our industry has evolved rapidly in the past five years. There has been huge consolidation among the larger players (HR consultancies and engagement survey houses) alongside the emergence of new entrants: ‘pure-play’ technology providers, and niche boutique research and consulting firms like ENGAGE which cater for more bespoke approaches for clients.

Obviously our experience over the past two months has changed dramatically. During the COVID-19 pandemic, clients still have a real demand for great leadership and engagement research and advice, but their focus has moved heavily. Now, their priorities are in three areas:

1. how to deal with the immediate crisis
2. how to recover from the operational challenges
3. how to thrive in the new world of work.

We’ve adapted the ways we work with our clients to ensure we can help them adjust, and we’re already seeing some interesting results that suggest how businesses are coping short term and strategising for the long term.

M7: Could you give our readers a sense of the demographic of Engage and tell us a little about your culture?
AB:
We are still a relatively young company – it has been seven years since we conducted a management buy-out - but our people range from seasoned experts, with 25 years+ experience in HR consulting, to young Gen Z’s who bring new skills and energy in the form of coding expertise and people analytics.

Our client base spans industries, geographies, demographics and size. We work with organisations across media, insurance, fintech, public sector and retail, some of whom are global or pan-European, while others are primarily UK-based. Within these organisations, the teams we work with vary hugely – from senior, long-established leadership teams to new recruits and everyone in between.

Our own culture is a mix: we are challenging and supportive; analytical and creative; and serious about the impact our work has without taking ourselves too seriously. We are, after all, a people business and often dealing with sensitive business challenges or individual’s strengths and weakness. A core part of this is being able to engage on both professional and personal level to create a culture of trust and partnership.

M7: How does Engage cultivate an environment that encourages employees to seek guidance and support from leaders?
AB: 
The leaders at ENGAGE always try to frame questions for our people:  what are we trying to solve here? What does the bigger picture tell us? How can we zoom out to add context?  We hope this helps employees to seek guidance from us (but we’re not always giving them the answers!)

We try to make sure every employee has access to coaching, mentoring and learning in equal measure to help them feel supported. This may come from colleagues or from external help.


"Organisations need to treat their employees in exactly the same way as they do their customers."

M7: With many more people working from home, leaders are starting to experience a drop in people's motivation at work. In your opinion, how can smart managers effectively lead and motivate newly remote teams during COVID-19 pandemic?
AB: 
There is no single answer to this critical question.  These are unprecedented times and there is no off-the-shelf-playbook for the leaders of any organisation.  However, based on our conversations with our clients and other organisations, and based on the best practice we are seeing across multiple sectors and company sizes, we’ve seen some clear trends that may help.

Here are the common traits we believe will help drive smart, effective remote leadership:

Be visible and make yourself available. This includes some critical steps, including communicating your contingency plan; staying focused on what matters; establishing regular check ins; providing a range of communication channels; creating interaction and providing clarity about when you are available for questions.

Be open and honest.You may be asking people to do very different things or to do things very differently and transparency during this time will be even vital than under normal circumstance for leaders. This means being candid, being quick to communicate, and having complete clarity around your messaging.

Be supportive and reduce anxiety. Research has shown that leaders, in particular, have a special role in reducing employee anxiety during major crises. For example, many of the studies done around crisis communication after 9/11 showed that many employees felt it was hugely important to hear the voice of the leader, whether live or through email, phone messages, or social media.
Share good news.Being able to share snippets of positive news during a crisis can have a huge impact on morale and the sense of camaraderie within work teams, particularly when they are being forced to work remotely.  Asking for these to be shared during tough times can be one way to alleviate the sense of tension in an organization, wherever people may physically be.

M7: What do you see as the most noticeable change right now happening in the workforce, encouraged by the rise of digital technologies?
AB:
 One of the most significant changes that digital technologies have brought about is the way organisations approach employee communication and engagement. It’s easy to assume that all employees in the workplace will happily engage with their teams and managers through digital-only methods, since as consumers they engage readily through these channels.

For us, this is a dangerous, assumption. A recent client survey we conducted revealed that, around 20% of their workforce could be classified as reluctant adopters of new technology – which means 1 in every 5 employees could miss out on vital communications if digital-only engagement is used.

Of course, at the other end of the spectrum around 20% of employees are tech ‘addicts’, with remaining percentage somewhere in the middle. These groups are probably more likely to engage easily with digital channels – but even then, engaging for workplace communications may be a very different proposition than engaging socially, and must never just be assumed.
It’s critical, then, that employers don’t implement digital communication or engagement tools without first understanding the varying needs of their entire employee population.  To do this, they need to treat their employees in exactly the same way as they do their customers – segmenting them according to needs and preferences, and then honing down the best and most appropriate ways to communicate with different groups.

It’s also important to have a very clear objective, or set of objectives, about what any new tool is aiming to achieve, rather than jumping on the bandwagon of the latest and greatest messaging app.

How the tool is going to be used, what employee groups are going to gain, and how the organisation as a whole is going to benefit, will all affect the choice of engagement mechanism. Even when a best-fit selection is made, work is needed to ensure all employees are trained to get the most out of the new tool – and critically that they understand why it’s being used and how it will help them.

The final – and now more prominent piece of the jigsaw – is data protection and privacy. Employers will need to have clear messaging and processes that outline the ways in which any information shared via digital tools will be used. While individuals are often happy to share the minutiae of their daily lives from a social perspective, their professional boundaries may be very different. This requires careful, objective consideration.


"Companies need to align their customer and employee propositions and ensure they are driving the right behaviors and business outcomes."

M7: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work - what day to day processes have you had to re-tool to be able to pull them off remotely? What does your remote tech stack look like?
AB:
We have continued to work in our two primary areas for clients: leadership effectiveness and employee engagement.  And, thankfully, our business model and finances have remained robust throughout the pandemic to date.

However, the focus of our work and the way we deliver it has had to shift significantly.  For example, whereas much of our leadership coaching work used to be delivered in-person at clients’ offices, we are now doing all of our coaching remotely (via Zoom, Teams, WebEx, BlueJeans etc.).  This has been a seamless transition – both for us and for our clients – which opens up new opportunities for the future, even when we return to some form of normal.

Our own internal teamwork has shifted solely onto Microsoft Teams – we have short, 30-minute meetings each morning (“What’s coming up / who needs help?”) and evening (“How’s today been/ how are people feeling?”)

Luckily, the availability of so many collaboration tools, and the agility of both our own team and those of our clients to adopt these, has made the situation much more manageable than we could have predicted.


M7: To achieve engagement, what should executives, line managers and HR professionals be concentrating on, regardless of the tool?In what waysare the Leadership Effectiveness Programmes at Engage helping organizations meet their strategic goals?
AB:
Perhaps the single biggest thing that senior leaders, managers and HR teams should focus on is purpose. We often talk about the purpose of our lives at a personal level, but businesses are increasingly questioning the purpose of their organisation at a strategic level and how well it aligns with the personal purpose of their employees and customers.

Having a clear, well communicated purpose and meaning helps keep employees aligned during times of broad industry disruption and change, as well as driving business success in ‘good’ times.

Achieving this, however, takes effort. It requires alignment between our work and our core values and goals.

Our own approach to leadership and engagement with clients follows this exactly: we must fully understand the goals of individuals and organisations before we work with them to establish and embed their own purpose.

Aligning employee experience with corporate brand, establishing solid corporate mindsets and leadership behaviours, and the importance of balancing agility with stability, are all critical contributors to establishing successful, long-term business purpose in today’s ever-changing world.

There are three critical points that we as HR practitioners must never forget when it comes to truly understanding and communicating business purpose:

1. Companies need to align their customer and employee propositions and ensure they are driving the right behaviors and business outcomes. Doing so results in excellent employee and business outcomes – from reduced attrition and increased engagement to higher share prices.

2.  To ensure purpose is understood and lived by all employees, it needs to be clearly communicated from the top. It also needs to be measured regularly to ensure continued success – and adapted quickly if things aren’t working.

3. All listening initiatives (360, engagement surveys, pulse surveys), must be aligned to your organisational purpose and values. This not only ensures they’re maintained as the business grows, but also provides essential navigation in times of change.

M7: If I were to say to a bunch of people who know you, ‘Give me three adjectives that best describe you,’ what would I hear?
AB:
If people are describing me, they’re likely to say I’m focused, fast-paced and funny.

About ENGAGE, I think we’d be considered smart, value-adding and fun to work with.

ABOUT ENGAGE

ENGAGE is a consultancy that creates highly engaged and effectively led organisations.  We know that businesses succeed when leaders understand how to engage employees with their vision, strategy and values. Businesses perform when leaders and employees are fully engaged with the role they play in delivering these.

As a result, we gather and integrate data from every level of the organisation and across every aspect of the employee experience. From this, we deliver research-led programmes for leaders and leadership teams, managers and employees, using bespoke insight tools to inform decision-making and drive high impact change.

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GPS Insight Continues to Enhance Fleet + Field Offering Across Small Business, Franchise, and Mid-Enterprise Customers

GPS Insight | December 01, 2022

GPS Insight, a leading provider of SaaS-based fleet and field service management software solutions, today announced enhancements to its integrated Field Service Management (FSM) suite, marking significant strides towards the empowerment of both fleet and field service companies to seamlessly manage their mobile assets and mobile workforces together. Strengthening its position in an FSM market expected to grow 19% annually over the next eight years, GPS Insight laid the foundation for its integrated Field Service Management solution with the 2020 acquisition of ServiceBridge and the 2021 acquisition of FieldAware. Just recently, GPS Insight also acquired Certified Tracking Solutions, a leader in fleet and field services specializing in document digitization. Following recent FSM acquisitions, GPS Insight has demonstrated its value to fleet and field service industries at large through a list of accolades, including the Compass Intelligence 2022 IoT Vehicle Telematics Company of the Year, the Business Intelligence Group 2022 Sustainability Leadership Award, and being named a Construction Executive 2022 Top Construction Technology Firm. "By acquiring existing best-in-class field service solutions and integrating them with our GPS fleet management technology, we're able to bring better visibility and efficiency for our customers to save them time and money, We've created a powerful roadmap that empowers our end-users while boosting our return on investment for both platforms. In short, GPS Insight is bringing fleet and field together like never before." Shay Demmons, Chief Product Officer of GPS Insight. The Field Service Management suite is being tailored to integrate with GPS Insight fleet management, empowering business leaders to ensure alignment among workers across both fleet and field. Significant product enhancements that support the synergy of fleet and field service management include: an app switcher to toggle between fleet and field applications; ability to schedule jobs based on technician working hours, skills, permits, etc.; long cycle crew work such as multi-visit jobs; a live map for a "command center" view of field operations; timesheets showing jobs performed, hours worked, hours traveled, and overtime earned; and to help businesses scale, a rich ecosystem of integrations with best-in-class ERP and accounting applications. In addition to significant product updates across the Field Service Management Suite, FieldAware for Mid-Enterprise is featuring a facelift, modernizing the web app to follow best-in-class practices for displaying menus and options, refreshing web and mobile app branding to align with parent GPS Insight's robust fleet and field portfolio, and paving the way for the future of fleet and field. Effective field service management software is transforming industries, reducing errors and redundant tasks, and giving fleet managers, field technicians, and back-office operations peace of mind," added Demmons. "Companies of all sizes now see the value in digitizing operations to keep up with the competition, as well as the leap in efficiency that creates a better customer experience and boosts retention. About GPS Insight GPS Insight helps fleet and field service businesses by delivering innovative solutions and actionable insights. Organizations across the globe turn to GPS Insight when they have high operating costs, are worried about safety on the roads, and struggle with fleet and field inefficiencies that waste valuable time and money. GPS Insight offers best-of-breed technology for organizations with drivers and technicians in the field, fleets of vehicles, trailers, and other mobile assets. GPS Insight provides many solutions that include vehicle and asset tracking, fleet management, AI-enabled smart cameras, field service management, and regulatory compliance solutions.

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MARKETING AND NETWORKING

ERC Digital Launches to Help Small Businesses Secure Tax Refunds, Leveraging Big Four Accounting Firm Technology

ERC Digital | November 30, 2022

ERC Digital, the service empowering small businesses to receive United States government tax incentives, has launched after teaming with a Big Four accounting firm to bring industry-leading tax knowledge to the ERC process. ERC Digital is the only organization of its kind to do so, as well as collaborate with IRS technology partner Tax Status, furthering its mission to bring small businesses the same opportunities and resources as large corporations. Originally created as part of the CARES Act in 2020, the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) was part of the initiatives to encourage sustained employment and small business support. For qualified employers, the ERC provides up to $26,000 in tax credit refunds per employee. Unfortunately, many small businesses have yet to take advantage of this program due to the complexity of the filing process. The ERC Digital service simplifies the process of getting employers tax relief. Through deep expertise across key areas including how to navigate government processes, improving regulated filing efficiencies and now, the addition of partners and technology utilizations that provide deep industry knowledge, ERC Digital is helping advocate for small businesses across the country. "Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Now, more than ever, they deserve to get the money that is available to them and benefit from industry-leading expertise like that provided by a Big Four accounting firm, With ERC Digital, small businesses have a streamlined path to checking eligibility, preparing their ERC filings, and tracking the filing all through a transparent and efficient process." Michael Coghlan, Co-CEO of ERC Digital We believe in the importance of small businesses and making sure they have every advantage available to them to get the full refunds they deserve through the Employee Retention Credit," said Chuck Hayes, Senior Vice President at Tax Status.We're proud to contribute our expertise and insight to ERC Digital and help make claiming ERC easier and more transparent for businesses everywhere. About ERC Digital: ERC Digital is a product of Global Government Partners, a collaboration between industry experts in helping small businesses navigate government process and technology experts with deep background in simplifying regulated industry filings.

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