Employee engagement agenda. Time to re-think

Written by
Changeboard Team

09 Aug 2010

09 Aug 2010 • by Changeboard Team

Employee engagement - vital in 2010 climate

There are many key drivers of employee engagement - company culture, reward and flexible working patterns being among the most widely acknowledged. It's vital, however, that employers consider and monitor the manner in which their managers behave and also the way in which roles are defined and teams are organised. 

How engaged are UK workforces in 2010?

According to the Institute of Employment Studies (IES) the main driver of engagement is a sense of feeling valued and involved; some of the key components of this being involvement in decision-making, freedom to voice ideas, opportunities for development and their day-to-day relationship with management.

Interestingly, key findings from the CIPD include the following:

  • Employees who are most committed perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave an organisation.
  • Emotional engagement is four times more valuable than rational engagement in driving employee effort.
  • Employees commitment to their manager is crucial to engagement.
  • Only 12% of UK employees could be described as fully engaged with their organisation, compared with 36% of Swiss and 18% of German employees; meaning only 1 in 7 of the UKs workforce is currently engaged.

Why is engagement critical in 2010?

As we are all too painfully aware, the economic downturn, so prevalent in 2009 for many businesses, has forced organisations into making decisions they would not otherwise have made. This resulted in an erosion of trust among many workforces, and in turn weakening their resolve to give 110%. Equally, from a management perspective, the all too pressing matters of crisis management involving restructures, site closures, downsizing and redundancy, have resulted in the whole area of employee engagement being put on the backburner for many months.

An engaged workforce is critical as disengagement usually leads to reduced output, higher absence levels and problems with employee retention. It's essential that employees are engaged so that organisations can move forward and embrace change in these uncertain and often turbulent times.

An engaged workforce delivers improved business performance, promotes a brand and protects the employer from the risks associated with poor service levels or product quality. It also creates engaged customers which are vital for a companies success.

It's a proven statistic that the financial performance of organisation with a highly engaged workforce boasts higher net income, growth and earnings per share therefore the threat of an unengaged workforce is now becoming too costly to ignore.

Engagement back on the agenda?

We first saw employee engagement return to the top of the agenda at the end of 2009. This was however only within the more forward thinking organisations and disappointingly it has taken until mod 2010 for others to start to follow. Many organisations adopted a rather complacent attitude to employee engagement in 2009 and we, at Interim Performers, were often told by employers that: there are no jobs out there for people to go to, so were not worried about engagement. 

Many employers are now realising that perhaps this view was a little shortsighted. There is always demand for top talent, and once employees feel disengaged they are more likely to start actively looking for a new role as well as underperform in their existing role. So now that engagement is back on the agenda, do employers really understand the key drivers of engagement and are these being addressed in the right manner?

How to get your employees engaged

An engaged workforce needs to be built on good people policies, reinforced by the proactive support of line managers. 

According to the CIPD:

Communication creates the context against which engagement happens. Only if people have the right level of awareness, understanding and information, is it possible for them to engage fully in designing and creating the future.

Most large employers now conduct employee attitude surveys. The Results typically show what employees feel about a range of issues including working conditions, pay and Benefits, learning and development, line management, communications and work-life balance. Survey data can then be used to identify areas in need of improvement so that these are addressed accordingly and the solutions communicated to employees in a timely and effective manner.

There's no short-cut to building and maintaining employee engagement, but the time, effort and resource required will be amply repaid by the performance Benefits.

HR - key to building engagement strategy

According to our network of senior interim managers, it appears that very few or no resources have been mobilised in recent months in the area of employee engagement while the critical issues of the last eighteen months have been tackled head on. Although things are now looking up, the focus is slightly less in some organisations simply due to financial restraints. 

However, new initiatives are now being introduced by HR teams in order to put the subject back on the agenda with focus groups, frequent communications and the sharing of initiatives all being high on the radar. Other businesses are now giving employee engagement the platform it deserves by revisiting their core values and focussing on their retention strategy in order to become an attractive prospect within their community.

Another encouraging finding is that some organisations are now more receptive to their HR departments which have evolved from being purely transactional to true business partners as companies attempt to regain their competitive advantage in an unpredictable marketplace.