Colour Image of ANZ Employee Engagement Awards Judge Ben Whitter - Mr Employee Experience

We at the Engagement Zone sat down with Jo Harley, Managing Director of Purple Cubed. Jo works with businesses and organisations – helping them to become great places to work, improving performance, employee engagement and profitability.

EZ: What does employee engagement mean to you?

JO: The right people, doing the right things, exceeding expectations enthusiastically.

EZ: What are your three tips for companies looking to drive engagement in their organisations?


  1. Build and execute a comprehensive, straightforward and practical strategy around ‘the people stuff’ making sure the basics are in place such as board buy-in, culture and values
  2. Ensure leaders at all levels understand and accept accountability for engagement, it is not an HR initiative
  3. Invest in socialising and digitising engagement – people expect it, the business needs it and it will free HR up for transformational rather than transactional projects.


EZ: What do you feel are the biggest pitfalls that companies should look to avoid when executing their engagement strategy?

JO: Not collaborating with the business to ensure it is the right cultural fit and doing individual projects or initiatives and hoping that will solve the problem. It all needs to be joined-up and led from the top.

EZ: Why do employees fail to buy in when companies try to ramp up engagement?

JO: Because they haven’t been consulted – they feel like it is something that is being ‘done’ to them or it’s not authentic. Every business already has a culture, so it’s working with this and the people in your business. They are the ones who are delivering so let them have a say.

EZ: What skills are most useful for everyone to have when trying to move towards a culture of engagement?

JO: It is the ‘highly effective’ HR professionals that are auctioning change. These are a pioneering new breed of HR moving from ‘competent’ to business leading. Have the ability to champion engagement, enablement and empowerment as they are a leadership responsibility. Ensure leaders know ‘what good looks like here’.

EZ: You’re a judge for the Employee Engagement awards. What will you be looking for in the entries?


  • Inspiring and new ways of tackling business issues that have been adopted well with proven results.
  • Collaboration with people at all levels of the organisation and leadership buy-in
  • Cultural alignment, part of a bigger engagement story and sustainability.


EZ: How important do you think it is to connect Employee Engagement to Customer Engagement and why?

JO: Extremely. According to Gallup, highly engaged business units are 21% more profitable. Your people are your brand ambassadors, in today’s highly connected society, engagement within the service industries will be the difference between success and failure. It’s a no-brainer.

EZ: What’s the best EE idea you’ve seen a company roll out/attempt and wish you’d had that idea yourself?

JO: I don’t think there is one initiative or idea that I wish I’d done. Ideas are great when they fit the culture of that particular organisation, for me. It’s all about seeing people execute a great people strategy and join it up in a sustainable and practical way. A great example would be Firmdale Hotels ‘Love what you do’ people brand and how this lives and breathes in the business at every touchpoint of the employee journey.

EZ: What’s the worst and glad that you didn’t?

JO: I’m not naming names, but anything that isn’t aligned to culture. The idea that a generic training course on customer service is going to impact profits if the values and culture of that company are not in place and living isn’t ‘on board’ with investing in their people.

EZ: Since you entered the world of work, what’s the best experience you’ve had?

JO: I’m lucky enough to love my job, be trusted to deliver and have a say in driving our business forward. Every day is different and good in a multitude of ways. It’s about being resilient and having a positive outlook even if it’s sometimes challenging. If I wasn’t having continually good experiences then I’d do something else.

EZ: What’s the worst?

JO: During my second job (I’ve only had three being Generation X and very loyal) I couldn’t see a clear career path with that company, the last couple of months were demoralising as I liked the company but couldn’t see a way to progress. I now realise that for me having an inspirational leader to have these conversations with is key.

EZ: If you could only roll out only one programme, which of the following would you choose and why?

JO: There are so many variables, so hard to say as it completely depends on the needs of the business at any given time and what has already taken place.

EZ: Which person (dead or alive) would you love to be able to come in and speak to your workforce/colleagues?

JO: Seth Godin or Jason Friedman.

EZ: Favourite song to crank up after a tough day at work?

JO: Jamiroquai – Seven Days in Sunny June.

EZ: Best place in the world you have visited?

JO: I’ve been to some amazing places however there is nothing like London on a mid-summer Friday night.

EZ: The place you’d most like to visit?

JO: Las Vegas.

EZ: Thank you very much for sitting with us Jo!

EZ: Our North American Employee Engagement Conference is on June 08, 2017 in Chicago. Featuring Delta, Harvard Business School, Chillis Restaurants, Caesars Entertainment, food, drink & entertainment and much more. We are providing all Engagement Zone readers 50% off with the code EEAWARDS. Find more information on attending our North America Conference.

Read more insightful interviews on the Employee Engagement Zone

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