What exactly is employee engagement? Just another corporate term, maybe, or something that’s talked about in board rooms but never really sees the light of day in real life? Well, in any organisation worth its salt, employee engagement is something that’s top of the agenda. It means exactly what it says too – engaging employees with their business. Or to put it another way, keeping them connected and interested in what’s going on, inspiring them to stay with the company, training and promoting from within and generally having happy and motivated staff who will tell everyone just how great the organisation is to work for.
A study by human resource specialist Aon Hewitt has found that the gloomy economic conditions still being experienced across the globe have meant that employees have often been victims of the austerity, with pay cuts and freezes, extra hours and reduction in recruitment (leading to added stress for current employees). The Aon Hewitt report also established that, if anything, employee engagement is more important than ever before, with the discovery that four out of ten employees worldwide still felt disengaged from their organisation.
A Motivational Factor
With a job market flooded with new candidates and every job advert potentially receives hundreds of applicants, there can be a temptation amongst employers to think that it would be easier to simply replace uninspired, demotivated employees with someone new who is desperate for a job. But this is short-term thinking, and clever employers know that hiring top talent and retaining good people is essential for business success. A motivated employee is a happy one. A happy employee is a productive one. Increased morale leads to improved teamwork, which leads to better results. There will be a lower staff turnover, resulting in reduced recruitment costs. New staff need induction and training, and it can take months for them to become fully embedded in company culture.
The report has identified some key areas for employee engagement. These include work/life balance, job security, recognition, benefits, inclusion, autonomy and supervision. By making sure employees are well managed yet given reasonable amounts of autonomy, have enough to do without being stressed and are rewarded via salary and benefits schemes, companies will be going a long way towards having fully engaged employees.
Organisations are also advised to encourage a strong social element in their workforces – possibly in the form of away days or company get-togethers. By fostering strong relationships between colleagues, employers are, by default, engendering an ethos of teamwork and support. This includes trusting colleagues to deliver, feeling able to delegate and performing well in team activities such as business pitches.
The Global Picture
In spite of the economic environment, it seems that employers are sitting up and taking notice of the need for employee engagement measures. The report found that in Europe there was a five per cent increase in engagement and a three per cent improvement in Latin America. However, the US dropped by three per cent, which is perhaps an indicator of the country’s severe economic woes. Global engagement levels rose by two per cent to 60 per cent overall.
Motivated and engaged employees will be proud of where they work, consider themselves close to their colleagues and speak highly of their organisation. They will feel nurtured in their workplace, well rewarded for their professional efforts and supported in their role by an effective management structure. These outcomes will carry a small financial cost to employers, but the results will more than compensate for this.
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