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How much lower can employee engagement get?

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How much lower can employee engagement get?

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For as long as I can remember surveys have been released revealing the inherent lack of interest and motivation most of our employees have whilst at work.  The latest, a Gallup survey looking at the state of the American workplace, paints a dismal picture where just 13% of employees are engaged with their work.

The figures are so dismal, and have been so dismal for so long, that it’s amazing that so little appears to be done to try and rectify the matter.  Perhaps the answer to this quandry lies with the fact that many companies in our economy are actually doing alright.

Most western economies are clawing their way out of the deepest recession in almost a century, so it’s easy to believe that things aren’t that bad.  Except, they’re largely doing so despite what our companies are doing rather than because of it.  In Britain, economic growth is being fueled by consumer spending and a booming housing market rather than from the productivity of our companies.

Indeed, the productivity of UK PLC was some 21% lower than our G7 peers in 2012, which represents the largest gap in some 20 years.  When it comes to the output per employee, that gap rose to 25%.  To rub salt into the wounds, those figures are generally getting worse, with the fall in productivity unseen in the UK since before the war.

There have been numerous attempts to explain this situation in recent months, with explanations ranging from a lack of investment to lower unemployment shouldering the blame for the poor productivity.  What doesn’t seem to have been mentioned however is any link between employee engagement and productivity.

Which is rather peculiar isn’t it?  After all, an engaged employee is willing to put discretionary effort into their work in the form of time, brainpower and energy, above and beyond what is considered adequate. An engaged employee has a desire and commitment for always doing the best job. They grip any task with energy and enthusiasm. They bring fresh ideas, infuse their teams with their own engagement and are less likely to seek opportunities to work elsewhere. They believe in the purpose of their organisation and demonstrate that belief through their actions and attitudes.

These are all things that I touched upon when discussing whether we love what we do, and the importance of this for thriving in the modern workplace.  This is also something that social business has a big role in however.  Just how was revealed by a survey published recently by TinyPulse looking at some of the factors underpinning an engaged employee.

  1. 58% of employees don’t know their companies values or mission – which paints a pretty dire picture of both their involvement in the strategic process and of course the subsequent communication of it.
  2. Happiness comes from colleagues, not managers – this was an interesting one, as it’s often said that employees leave their manager rather than their employer, so the finding that colleagues are more important to happiness than ones manager is interesting.
  3. Collaboration matters – the survey reported that collaborative traits were the most valued amongst colleagues.  Despite this though, few organisations seem to be promoting these behaviours.
  4. Tapping the crowd – for instance, just 18% of respondents revealed that they were regularly asked for suggestions on how things could be done better.
  5. The feedback gap – likewise, just 36% had any kind of peer-to-peer appraisal system in place, thus depriving organisations of another form of excellent feedback.
  6. Transparency matters – to fill out the picture, it emerged that management transparency was the single biggest influence on employee happiness.

Far be it from me to paint social business as the panacea for all of our corporate woes, but the ‘movement’ (for want of a better word) has seemed to be struggling to find its burning platform that will encourage organizations to undertake the cultural shifts required to be more social.  Maybe righting the employee engagement wrongs will be just that.

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