Practical productivity: An action plan for staff engagement

Practical productivity: An action plan for staff engagement

Staff are less engaged in their work in 2012 than they were in 2009, a new survey of employee engagement, published today, reveals. Two out of every three employees (66% in 2012 compared to 64% in 2009) are partially or completely disengaged, a survey by talent management company, Right Management, reveals. The survey included 5,330 Australian employees and 1980 in New Zealand across 10 industry sectors.

In a worrying finding, managers and leaders rank only just above the average level of engagement (38.5%), suggesting that the “fish is rotting from the head” – a disengaged leader is unlikely to have an engaged workforce.

At the highest level, only 31.7% of CEOs, managing directors and board members are engaged. However, very few of them intend to leave in the first five years (12.9%). Senior managers rank better, although not well (39.2%) and are much more likely to leave (27%), while middle managers struggle with engagement at 34.5%, and are also likely to give up on their employer (26.9%) within five years.

The oldest workers are the most engaged age, with the 60-69 age group scoring 39.The numbers fall for each level by age to 24.1% for the 16-19 year-olds.

People are most engaged in their first year (42.3%) and least engaged between five and 10 years (30.8%).

Human resources employees rank highest (44%) – or they might just be very good at filling out engagement surveys because they rank quite highly among those who intend to leave.

The industry sectors with the highest levels of engagement (excluding the armed forces, which topped the list with 50.4%) are insurance (49.1%), and accounting (48.5%) and utilities (41.9%).

The worst performers are agriculture (25.1%), retail (28.9%) and communications including telecoms and postal (29.2%).

The engagement debate – fluff or fact?

Global workplace engagement company Right Management defines four emotional and behavioural aspects of engagement – commitment, pride, advocacy and satisfaction – and insists on a high bar for respondents to qualify as engaged: they must be ranking four or five on a five-point scale for both their job and the organisation they work for.

“Employees can be highly engaged with their job, and not their employer,” Right Management senior consultant, Colin Couzin-Wood, told the audience at a breakfast meeting in Melbourne this morning. “That means they are looking for the next opportunity and it is very likely to be outside your organisation.”

Engaged workforces are valuable, the survey finds. Workplaces that score high on employee engagement have 44% higher retention, and are 33% more profitable, 56% higher in customer loyalty and 50% more productive.

Words such as productivity and staff engagement can be “fluffy” – they sound marvellous, but have little practical meaning in the day-to-day world of business.

In the survey, productivity is scored by the participants ranking highly on four questions, rather than using economic measures. The questions are:

  • Our work processes are generally well-organised and efficient
  • I believe my current job is aligned with my strengths
  • My organisation allows me to maintain a reasonable balance between my family and work life
  • There is sufficient incentive to perform well at my organisation

What drives engagement

The survey also uncovered 10 drivers of employee engagement, and ranked their importance (see table below). “Ten is too many, so each company needs to work out what are the drivers within their own organisation,” Couzin-Wood said.

Top of the list is a commitment to the organisation’s values and ranking second is feeling confident that “I can reach my long-term career goals in my organisation.”

Do you want the disengaged to stay?

Couzin-Wood says the cost of letting disengaged workers leave and be replaced needs to be balanced by the cost of finding the drivers that will improve their performance. “Compare the cost of developing a career plan if that is what is needed with that of replacing an employee,” he says. “It has to be judged on a case by case basis.”

Disengaged workers in Australia are less likely to leave today than they were two years ago, the survey found, making the issue a live one for human resources managers – the problem is not going to just go away.

Start today

Right Management offers six practical steps that leading companies can take today to start improving staff engagement and productivity.

Engagement is part of the company strategy

Ensure strategies to improve performance and competitive advantage that are already focused on bottom line also address engagement.

Employees are proud of where they work

Find ways to communicate organisational achievements and help employees see the connection between their work and the organisation’s success.

Employees have a future with your company

By helping employees realise their career goals organisations will build long-term employee engagement.

Know what’s in the way

Having a better understanding of the barriers to engagement is fundamental to designing the right solution for building higher engagement.

Ask the people who leave why they are going, and change

Identify the reasons for employee turnover and avoid attrition spikes.

Be better than the best in your sector

“Best people practices” provide the direct benefits of each initiative and the benefits of high employee engagement.

Source: Right Management and LeadingCompany.