How your management system can help to engage employees


A Management System is introduced to a business and requires regular input, from all areas, to be truly effective. Therefore, getting employees to engage with the Management System is vital.

The International Organisation for Standards (ISO) recognise the importance of employee engagement and encourage this throughout their management system standards, especially those which follow the Annex SL structure. Several areas that encourage employee engagement within the more recently published management system standards include:

    • Section 5.1.1 (Leadership and commitment) – engaging, directing and supporting employees from the top down, to contribute to the Management System.
    • Section 7.3 (Awareness) – encouraging familiarity with the Management System, including any policies and objectives. Also, making employees aware of their own responsibilities, expressing how vital they are in the success of the business and the implications of not conforming to them.
    • Section 10.2 (Nonconformity and corrective action) – getting everyone in your organisation involved in the Management System by having them report instances of when the Management System is not working as it should.

Business Benefits

An efficient Management System will clearly result from having engaged employees, but research has also shown that employees who are more engaged are also 51% more productive 1 which can lead to more work being completed to a higher standard.

Operating margins are also proven to improve as a result of engaged employees with an increase of almost 4% for organisations with high employee engagement levels and a decline of nearly 2% for those with low engagement 2. In addition, businesses with higher engagement have a 9% higher shareholder return 3.

How to Engage Employees

1. Clearly define your targets and goals

By clearly identifying and communicating your businesses goals and objective, employees will be able to understand the impact their role has on the bigger picture and will be more likely to contribute to process improvement. That is why Management Systems, especially those following the Annex SL structure, require certified businesses to define their policies and goals, communicating these to interested parties.

2. Offer personalised learning

Not everyone will have the same experience and training within your organisation. Research shows that 70% of employees want employers to understand them as much as they do their customers 4. By providing adequate training and support across all teams, you are one step closer to understanding the needs of your team as well as improving their knowledge and skill which will result in a better service and improved customer experience.

Management Systems encourage the use of training records, for each role within your organisation, ensuring that all employees have received the training they need. It is also recommended that you set up meetings with your team to establish what additional training they may need, ongoing, as this will help you to ensure they remain confident in their role and can adapt as the business changes.

Training records can also be useful should a team member fail to comply with policy and try to blame inadequate training as the reason,  providing the business with advantage at the disciplinary or even dismissal.

3. Communication is key

There are so many different communication options available to you, and picking the right one for both the situation and the individual is important. You should consider whether it is a public or private message, if employees will want to refer back to the information at a later date and also if a detailed brief is required? These are just a few examples of factors you might benefit from considering, but each could mean the difference between a quiet word with an individual, an email to a specific team or a company-wide meeting complete with presentation and FAQ documents. Communication is clearly explained within ISO Management Systems, particularly in regard to documentation and policy changes.

Hand writing with pen on squared paper4. Review and Improve

Reviewing the progress and efficiency of a process or individual is a key part of any ISO Standard, and you should apply this mindset to all aspects of your business.

By regularly reviewing the progress of your employees, setting them objectives to achieve, will help you to ensure they remain motivated and continue contributing to the overall goals and objective. But don’t stop there, make sure you are giving them feedback – positive or negative – whenever an opportunity arises. Positive feedback will encourage the employee and make them feel valued. Negative feedback – if delivered correctly – can then encourage self-correction, contributing towards greater productivity.

5. Set an example

It is important for leaders to set an example to everyone else within the organisation – good management and work behaviors in leaders will inspire better behaviours from others. Foster a supportive environment by trusting the knowledge and experience of those you employ. When an issue does arise, be sure to examine the circumstances around it and find the root cause before making a judgement – this will instil confidence in your decisions and reassure your employees that you are not biased, making them feel valued and respected as part of the team.

An important part of setting a good example is remembering to also admit when a mistake has been made. Employees value honesty, therefore dodging accountability can be incredibly damaging. Being a good leader requires confidence in your own decisions and those of your team, with the ability to own them when they fail. The very best leaders take the blame but share the credit.

Employees should be encouraged to participate in the Management System and their views taken on board, even if not adopted, as this is a big part of creating an effective Management System.

6. Gather and act on feedback

Show employees you value them by listening to and acting upon their feedback. Meaningful feedback can cover anything from streamlining internal processes to improving the customer journey, suggesting a workplace social event to proposing a new training course.

Remember, it’s not just the employee who will benefit from these changes. By streamlining processes and making them more efficient, you ensure that your employees become more productive enabling you to utilise them better – saving your business money.

Many of the recommendations made by your team will fall under the practice of continual improvement, something that is considered imperative within ISO Management Systems.

7. Get involved

Take the time to get involved with different teams across your business, you may choose to sit in on meetings or go for brunch once a month, however you do this ensure you pay attention to what is going on. Sometimes it can feel like an ‘us vs them’ situation in businesses with low employee engagement. But by showing that you are taking an interest in the work being done you can help to close this gap and make your team feel that leaders are more approachable and relatable.

8. Set expectations

Sometimes employees can get disheartened if they find they don’t have a clear path to follow while carrying out their role. If  roles are left undefined, work can often end up being duplicated by others and resources continuously wasted – this is often cited as a common cause of workplace stress 5.

Keep staff engaged and ensure your team are productive by clearly stating expectations and setting goals that they can measure their own progress against. It will also help to ensure everyone is collaborating together and they understand how their role fits into and affects the company’s overall goals.

9. Reward good performance

83% of employees are more likely to say ‘My supervisor cares about me as a person’ if they are engaged 6 so if you want to encourage engagement, rewarding performance is a great place to start and easy to implement.

Setting up reward scheme based on what is perceived as good company behaviour is a great way to encourage positive behaviour and develop role models in the workplace and contributed towards promoting employee engagement. Make sure you set clear and fair guidelines so that the awards are consistent and achievable – if rewards are too difficult or are perceived as unfair they can have the complete opposite effect.

It’s not all about certificates and days off either, you’d be surprised how well a simple “thank you” does for self-esteem and job satisfaction.

10. Share success

Take the opportunity to share business successes with your employees, tell them how the success was achieved and highlight any part they played. Even if you don’t mention an individual specifically, if they can see how their own work contributed to that success it can bring about a sense of shared achievement and help to promote more collaborations going forward.

Some organisations take the sharing part of success literally and choose to set up an employee share scheme or a bonus scheme linked to company profits.

Of course, a good company party can also be a great way to promote team cooperation by providing employees with an opportunity to get to know one another better.



1. Harter, J.K., Schmidt, F.L., & HayesT.L., Psychology, 2002 Vol. 87, No. 2 ↩

2. Research from Towers Watson – Taking Engagement to New Heights ↩

3. Research from Towers Watson – The Power of Recognition from Managers ↩

4. Research from Towers Watson – 2014 Global Workforce Study ↩

5. Research into work related stress ↩

6. Research from Qualtrics ↩

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About the author

  • Name:

    Michelle-Louise Janion

  • Company:

    Marketing Executive

  • Bio:

    Michelle worked for Citation ISO Certification from 2017 to 2019, producing engaging content around ISO Standards and other compliance related topics.


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