The secret of Employee Engagement

Posted on 1 Jul 2019 by Jonny Williamson

In his keynote at this year’s Manufacturing Innovation Summit, Salesforce's Robert Heys explained how engaged employees drive business value.

Experienced Automotive Designer and Female Engineer Works with a Concept Car Model Prototype Design Team Work People Innovation Stock - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
Key positions in engineering, operations and sales are retiring at a rate that has been proven difficult to replace – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Manufacturing like most sectors is facing skills gaps and shortages, all against a backdrop of uncertainty and accelerated change.

As the cyber and physical worlds converge, and the traction and scaling of (largely digital) technologies intensifies, manufacturing is at a tipping point where tacit knowledge needs to be unlocked and new talent attracted.

Robert Heys, manufacturing industry lead at Salesforce, took to the stage to explain why attracting talent is just the beginning, how digital transformation starts from within, and that engaged employees drive value.

Augmented reality, 3D printing, autonomous vehicles, the internet of things, intelligent automation, artificial intelligence. These are just some of the technologies currently disrupting manufacturing.

“The reality is that for all these technologies to really take hold, for change to really be effective, there is a knock-on effect to the skills, the types of skills and job roles that industrial businesses require,” Heys noted.

For all their benefits, the real power of this new wave of technology is that it unleashes a company’s ability to create a digital ecosystem around their customers and employees.

A digital ecosystem is a cohesive experience connecting all your different stakeholders, working off one single view.

So, what’s driving the need for such ecosystems? Three factors, according to Heys:


The manufacturing workforce is demographically older than other sectors of the economy and key positions in engineering, operations and sales are retiring at a rate that has been proven difficult to replace. Augmented on this is the tacit knowledge that will potentially be lost as this workforce retires.

AI and Connectivity

Your customers expect you to know them better than they know themselves – that’s how you differentiate. Connected devices generate valuable, real-time data that can be used to inform business decisions as well as create connected experiences.

Digital Transformation

By connecting data from every device, sensor, website and interaction, you can create a more complete view of your customers and employees and more deeply engage with them. Not only that, you can create new revenue streams through data-driven services such as predictive service, product and customer analytics and more.

Why is Employee Engagement important?

It may be overly simplistic to say that happy workers are more productive, but numerous studies show that those businesses who invest in the employee experience benefit from increased employee output and loyalty which drives customer satisfaction and ultimately revenue growth.

According to Heys, an employee’s journey spans far more than just the recruitment process: attraction, recruiting, on-boarding, experience, loyalty and advocacy.

Today’s talent market – it’s tough out there! 

Manufacturing Innovation Summit – Salesforce - The secret of Employee Engagement

“Under these conditions, building a ‘best workplace’ is an absolute business imperative if you want to be able to attract, engage and retain the talent you need to fuel your company,” said Heys.

Salesforce’s winning formula: Culture + Technology + Data = Employee Engagement

The presentation led into a roundtable where Robert Heys was joined by Leigh Smith (new model programmes lead at Jaguar Land Rover) to host a discussion on ‘Leading People Development During Technology Transformation’.

Developing high performance teams during periods of technology transformation is a challenge for many organisations. The automotive sector, for example, is rapidly shifting from internal combustion to electrification and autonomous and has had to adapt their workers as a result.

Jaguar Land Rover has had to make a spate of highly publicised job cuts amid falling sales, but at the same time the business has announced disruptive new (potential) acquisitions and collaborations.

With the world becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA), Jaguar Land Rover believes that future success lies with ‘T-shaped’ people.

Such people have broad knowledge to apply their skills and influence cross-functionally, alongside deep expertise in a core functional area.

According to Smith, T-shaped people have the ability to cope with VUCA, have a desire to permanently live outside their comfort zone, and their personal development habits support continuous learning and upskilling.

Answering comments from the table about how to develop such T-shaped people, Smith said JLR had taken a circular, four-stage process around:

  • Refining leadership style to accelerate people development
  • Move to a learning culture that is conductive to upskilling and development
  • Set learning requirements and targets to develop T-shaped people
  • Create development tools to meet those targets

As much as this should be driven from the top-down, there is also a need for individuals to take responsibility for their own development by answering key questions such as:

  • Am I ready to change?
  • Is a Growth Plan ready for myself and my team?
  • Are Growth Plan activities being cascaded and actioned?
  • Am I creating opportunities to practice?

“Giving control enables decision-making. Decision-making invites ownership. Ownership invites thinking. Thinking results in resilience,” Smith said.

Changes are required to transform your culture

Follow the process  = Be curious about the system
Don’t stop doing   = Don’t stop thinking
Don’t fail   = Don’t stop experimenting
Maintain control  = Maintain change
Escalate to a manager   = Learn to make decisions
Not my department’s job   = Learn what customers need

Emphasis learning not training 

Smith concluded by noting that only 10% of learning happens formally, with training only comprising a small proportion of the development mix, “Creating greater opportunities for on-the-job learning makes we empower employees to learn everywhere, all the time.”

Jaguar Land Rover - Emphasise learning not training - Manufacturing Innovation Summit