With engagement levels and retention rates remaining high on the list of priorities for HR managers and employers, research continues to develop valuable insights into these problematic areas. The CIPD has recently released quarterly findings as part of its ‘Employee Outlook’ series; the results are causing little surprise – the research advocates that alarmingly high numbers of employees report feeling disengaged with their work.
Over a quarter of a million employees were surveyed from a range of generations and a variety of business sizes, the categories included job satisfaction & engagement; attitudes towards managers; communication; pressure at work; work-life balance and well-being.
The ‘Employee Engagement Index’ has risen by 1% and now stands at 39%; the index indicates the level of engagement an individual feels towards their organisation. The percentage level is determined by a list of behavioural statements, the employee must declare the extent to which they are likely to display the behaviour, examples included:
- Taking on more work to help other colleagues
- Working more hours than required
- Feeling they have a good work/life balance
- Thinking their employer treats them fairly
- Being likely to recommend their company to others as a good employer
Employee attitudes towards managers are determined with a similar process, examples of the questions presented to employees included:
How often does your manager:
- Consult you on matters of importance
- Recognise when you have done a good job
- Make you feel your work counts
- Coach you on the job
To determine the correlation between work and well-being, respondents were asked:
- Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?
- Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
Job Hunting Means Less Engagement
The correlation between job hunting and engagement levels remained consistent, with the lowest engagement levels found in those who are on the lookout for another job. Age was also found to be an influencing factor, with younger individuals more likely to be job hunting. 47% 18-24 year olds reported to be doing so, compared to just 11% of 55 year olds, which supports popular theories of the Gen Y and Baby Boomer divide in attitudes and desires when it comes to work.
Confidence in Managers = Confidence in the Economy
Confidence in leaders continued to decline; only trust levels with direct managers remained constant with the previous quarter, suggesting that fear of redundancy is still very much an issue for employees. When looking specifically at the UK and the current economic climate, this shows that recession conditions are affecting how engaged employees are at work, however there was a slight increase in optimism in terms of finding another job if faced with redundancy.
The most common result of deteriorating economic conditions was found to be a freeze of pay, which is thought-provoking as popular engagement theories suggest that pay rises and cash incentives are the least important when it comes to job satisfaction. Furthermore, the most common outcome of these pay-freezes was an increase in employee stress levels. This implies that salaries are actually far more effective in producing negativeimplications rather than positive ones when measuring engagement and stress levels in employees.
Pressure and wellbeing
Stress and pressure levels remained at the same critically high level of concern, with men and middle managers more likely to report feeling under pressure than women. High numbers also reported feeling that there is room for improvement in terms of their manager giving them personal development opportunities and help to increase their levels of motivation. Only around one third of those asked felt that their company actively helped them to find a good work/life balance.
Also, the link between wellness and engagement remained consistently high, with a high correlation between engaged employees and those who are physically active, this group also reported feeling satisfied with their lives in general.
Why is neutrality a concern? What can be learned?
Overall, the results indicated that the majority of respondents in fact remain neutral; neither engaged nor disengaged with their organisation – is this worse than being dis-engaged? Based on other research around transactional and emotional engagement, it may be true that a neutral stance is more damaging to a business than any other position.
The neutral employee accounts for nearly sixty per cent of the surveyed workforce in this study; this means the issue of neutrality in employees is now the most cause for concern, as neutrality is not likely lead to any actions from the employee to bring their dissatisfaction to attention.
So, when considering your retention rates and engagement levels, an important factor to consider is the level of neutrally positioned employees, not just the disengaged, this area holds great potential for improvement; the results could make substantial impacts to the workforce.
Mark is the General Manager of Power2Motivate APAC, delivering world class employee recognition and B2B loyalty programs to a wide range of clients.
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