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Employee Engagement: Lifting the Bar

Submitted by  on October 6th, 2012

Businessman balancing on chair holding briefcaseI had a chance to review recently the latest employee engagement survey conducted by Right Management. They rolled out the survey in Australia and New Zealand and received over 7,000 responses. What they were looking for were changes in engagement factors related to leadership, organizational strategy, culture and communication. To put it in a nutshell, they were looking at the drivers for organizational effectiveness.

Right Management last performed their engagement survey in 2009. Akin to the widening gap we see between the rich and the poor in some Western democracies, it appears there is also an increasing gap in employee engagement levels between high performing organizations and average performers. Worse still, in New Zealand, overall engagement levels have gone down.

At a time when we seriously need to get employees involved in lifting us out of our current world-wide economic malaise, the survey finds that almost half of all employees are disengaged from both their job and their employing organization. Fortunately, the study does provide some clues for organizations wanting to lift employee engagement and productivity. The research identifies the top ten drivers for engagement in the two countries.

Number one is the employee’s commitment to their organization’s values. Number two is their confidence that they can achieve their long-term career goals with their current employer. Other drivers rating highly are the employee’s perception that customers are satisfied and a good person-job fit. See the full list of employee engagement drivers in my complete report. None of this is surprising and is borne out by many other engagement studies conducted over the years.

What is interesting is that since the 2009 survey, employee focus on career goals has strengthened considerably. Three years ago, career progression figured quite low in employee concern. Perhaps this renewed emphasis on careers is a natural result from the continued uncertainty post-GFC. Maybe employees are harking back to the days of long tenure and when employers nurtured their employees’ career ambitions.

How are you and your managers working with your employees? Are you conducting regular career development discussions, perhaps as part of your annual performance plan? Does your organization have defined career pathways and identify high-potential employees? Or are you leaving it all up to chance? Read my full commentary on the Right Management Engagement survey and why it matters to your organization.

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Posted in Performance, Research, Talent | Comments (4)

4 Responses to “Employee Engagement: Lifting the Bar”

  1. Karen Says:

    Great post Les. I concur that challenging work and support for career development are major engagement/retention factors for employees, especially in the 30s and 40s. Employees want to invest their time and energy wisely, especially if they’ve seen their parents let go after a lifetime of loyalty to a company. Especially problematic is the world of flatter organizations and cubicle farms; they don’t lend themselves to challenging work, pay/status for performance, or hopes of getting the corner office. Employee surveys help when management honestly communicates results and its response.
    Cheers from Canada,

  2. Leslie Allan Says:

    Hi Karen. Thanks for your compliment. Yes, I agree that the employment landscape has changed radically, especially since the GFC. And you’re right, employee surveys are a great way of finding out how your employees feel, especially for larger organizations. As you say, the trick is in acting on the results.

    Kind Regards, Les Allan

  3. Maree Harris Says:

    Les, I was interested in the study’s findings that employee focus on career goals has strengthened since the 2009 study. You suggested that this may be due to post GFC uncertainty and that there may be a yearning for the old long term tenure position. In my work as a facilitator of leadership development and a coach, this aspect of the study is particularly pertinent. It could be argued that “careers” as we have known them are disappearing. Certainly the professions are being challenged at every turn to re-create themselves. In this complex and uncertain environment, the idea, that we can enter a field of practice or expertise and rise through it to reach the top or whatever level we aspire to, is questionable. Such a process is challenged from many directions as I suspect people in this study have discovered. The idea of long term employment in one career or professional or industry sector is also being challenged. What we need to be aspiring towards is long term employability and skilling people with the kinds of skills that will equip them to work in this complex environment in pro-active and innovative ways – skills that will sustain their professional development in whatever field they are working. These are skills like self-awareness, resilience, pro-activity, emotional intelligence, for example. We need to have skills to lead ourselves through these uncertain times. Few organisations make training in these skills a priority in their budgets.

  4. Leslie Allan Says:

    Hi Maree, Thanks for sharing your experience and your perceptive observations. Yes, perhaps organizations are not spending as many resources on helping their employees progress internally.

    Organizations that don’t spend any resources on helping their employees grow their careers either inside the organization or beyond are losing out on employee commitment and drive. Helping employees deal with uncertainty and disappointment and giving them the skills to get ahead, as you say, goes a long way towards getting that extra bit of commitment and enthusiasm. Thanks again for sharing.

    Kind Regards, Les Allan

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