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Engaged leadership can raise or sink their company's productivity.  

Lack of engagement in employees is costing the UK £340bn a year in lost productivity, according to research from Hay Group. The problem isn’t just confined to the UK, either: 87% of employees worldwide are disengaged, says Gallup.

A recent report by Raconteur notes that when you talk about engagement in the workplace, the conversation is always centred around employees. But what about leaders? If they’re not motivated, it’s difficult for their staff to find meaning in their work. Gallup/Bains & Company found that one in five employees who are actively disengaged say they do not find their work or their leader motivating.

“It’s absolutely the case leaders set the tone. It’s they who set the standard, so leaders actually need to be even more engaged,” says Kate Cooper, head of applied research and policy at the Institute of Leadership and Management, in Raconteur’s report.

Engaged leadership can make or break a company. According to Gallup/Bains & Company, engaged staff are 44% more productive than satisfied staff. Yet mere satisfaction can only get you so far: Inspired staff are 125% more productive than satisfied staff.

It’s interesting to note that job site Glassdoor allows employees and former employees to review companies. Judging by the reviews left for the worst-rated companies, one trait shared by all becomes glaringly obvious: less than inspiring company culture, which HR Zone names as one reason for employee disengagement. Those employees also gave their CEOs low approval ratings – ranging from 9% to 44%.

It’s easy to link the feelings on their leaders to their disengagement. On closer inspection, it’s no surprise that so many of these companies are also struggling with productivity.

In contrast, Unipart Group, based in Oxford and noted by the Financial Times for its high productivity, is praised by employees, while CEO and Group Chairman John Neill’s approval ratings – 87% -- put him well above the average CEO rating of 67%. The comments left by employees point to a positive work culture and engaged leader:

“Great place to work, real focus on improvement of people. Lots of training provided.”

“Staff are valued, engaged & treated well. There is plenty of opportunity for growth and new challenges …”

“Great company to work for, provided me with study package for which I will be grateful forever!”

And perhaps the most telling:

“Management genuinely interested in people, very collaborative, long-term thinking, high levels of and commitment to employee engagement, lots of career progression for people if that's what they want, possibly the world's best connected CEO! Management and employee owned and it shows.

“Definitely a culture where it's OK to make a mistake as long as you hold your hand up and you learn from it.

“Great people development focus.”

For companies and organisations to match Unipart’s success, leaders first have to look at themselves. Until they understand their own role in their employees’ engagement, their company’s productivity won’t be improving anytime soon.

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