Are you really committed at work? Could your employees deliver 1% more commitment – and what would that do to the bottom line?

By | March 18, 2013

Dr David Spicer is Senior Lecturer in Organizational Change and Head of the Human Resource Management and Organizational Behaviour Group.

There is a lot of talk about commitment and engagement in the workplace these days, but little discussion of what this actually really means. As a human resource management researcher, I know that the evidence in favour of creating high levels of commitment and engagement is clear, but all too often we see to want to question the commitment of others around us.

1. Can we learn from Rafa Benitez’ rant at Chelsea?

Chelsea FC

Courtesy of

Take the high profile case of Rafa Benitez at Chelsea. He’s been in the press because of his ‘rant’ against the fans who are questioning his commitment to the club and his response was to question their commitment: why are they against me rather than for the team. From his perspective he is completely committed to seeing Chelsea through this season, the fans don’t see this as a valid commitment though given they will be fans still, long after he has gone.

2. Was Alan Sugar committed to Apprentice, Stella English?

The other high profile case that has been in the press recently that highlights the complexity of commitment is the ‘The Apprentice’ employment tribunal. Stella English, who won the Apprentice in 2010, is suing lord Sugar for constructive dismissal.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this it seems at least very unfortunate that someone who committed to the demanding Apprentice ‘selection’ process  has found herself in a role and position where she didn’t see that commitment and her potential contribution valued. Lord Sugar likewise may be rightly frustrated by someone he’s shown commitment seemingly not reciprocating.

3. Five easy ways to increase employee commitment

So what can you do to enhance your commitment and that of those around you?

–        Colleagues want to know you are in it for the long haul. Many of Benitez’s issues stem from his role as an interim manager and hence the concerns of others, with strongly vested interests, that his heart isn’t really in it. In the workplace whether you are an interim manager or not you need to show that what you are doing and how you are working is supporting the organization’s long-term success. If you are only in it for yourself, you’ll be found out sooner or later.

Lord Alan Sugar

Courtesy of

–        Ensure that the work that people do is meaningful. The Apprentice case seems to centre on just this issue. How meaningful was the job that Stella English got? We also need to think about this issue. Is the work that we give others worthwhile for the organization and for them? Longstanding research evidence tells us that people will commit to and perform better in work where their impact and contribution is valued and valuable.

–        Take time for colleagues. People need to be heard and the very act of talking with colleagues about their issues and concerns can be significant in helping them handle these. Time spent with colleagues, however demanding this is to do with the other pressures upon us is always well spent. It also means that you’ll have a much better understanding of them, their drives and expectations and therefore ensuring that their work is meaningful for them and they remain committed should become easier to do.

–        Model the behaviours that you want others to demonstrate. All three points above can be turned inwards to support your own commitment, and we know that if we’re not really committed it is difficult if not impossible to create this in others. So look at your own long-term expectations and how you can ensure these are, in so far as possible, aligned with the organization. And where your commitment is bounded, as in the Benetiz case, be clear on what that boundary is and where you expect to get to within the constraints that you have.

–        Linked to this, we all have to, at least periodically, look at our own roles – and ensure these remain interesting, enjoyable and worthwhile for us. If you don’t then again you need to think about what changes might be need to regain your commitment. This also means that we have to make time for ourselves, our concerns and development and those things that are important to us. Too often as managers we can end up blown by the winds of the organization, spending time responding to the demands and expectations of those around us. At least part of the week should be set aside for doing the things that are important to you.

4. 1% increased employee contribution will increase competitiveness

These are of course simple ideas and I’d be delighted to hear from others about what we can do to enhance and support commitment and engagement in the workplace. The ideas and their impacts may be minor but they soon add up.

Andy Cook, Executive Chair of the Employee Relations Institute who we are working with on our new MSc in Employee Relations made the point to me recently that if we all could, through changes in our actions and behaviours, create a 1% increase in employee contributions that could add up to a massive impact on the economy and be instrumental in improving the competitiveness of the businesses we work in.

It would also mean that we were all happier in the work that we do, and that would be no bad thing as well.

About Dr David Spicer

David is Senior Lecturer in Organizational Change at Bradford University School of Management where he lectures in the areas of change management and organizational behaviour on undergraduate, postgraduate and executive programmes. He is also a visiting professor at TiasNimbas Business School in Holland and Germany and alumnus of Harvard Business School’s Global Colloquium for Participant Centred Learning. He holds degrees from the Universities of Bristol, Stirling, and Plymouth.  His research is concerned with organizational learning and change, and he is currently working on a major project looking at the dynamic capabilities of Motorola and Intel.


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2 thoughts on “Are you really committed at work? Could your employees deliver 1% more commitment – and what would that do to the bottom line?

  1. Tracy Carpenter

    I found this a really interesting article. Working with SME clients this is crucial to their success – everyone needs to be totally bought into the business and their role within it. I believe it’s passion about the business goals which helps the overall company achieve. It has to work both ways though – the Directors need to engage with their employees and vice versa. All too often employees put Directors and Management teams on a pedestal and expect them to be the people with all the answers.

    Many of our clients embrace the points raised; engaging all employees in the detail of running a small business. Those who don’t embrace this tend to find that recruitment and retention become an issue and in the current climate recruitment isn’t easy.

  2. Abeer Alomar

    This is very interesting topic , the commitment and engagement of the employees are varies among one organization and one culture due to the personality of people , it is a responsibility of boss and employee to find the balance and it is part of the human life style .People who can develop a commitment behavior to X project or organization , definitely they can do the same for different assignment if they find how they can add value to the organization and them self , also the style of commitment is differ as per the generations drivers to work has been different.

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