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Employee engagement

According to the CIPD’s latest Employee Outlook survey (from autumn 2016), the UK workforce remains more than a little unengaged with its work. The CIPD looked at four key engagement factors: how much influence people have over their own job, how well they feel their skills are used, how motivated they feel, and their willingness to put in extra effort. If we average out these four results to get a crude overall engagement score, only 30% of workers feel ‘engaged’ (it’s worth noting that even the highest score – use of skills – only achieved 44%).

Is improvement even possible?

Given that the issue of employee engagement has been touted as a business priority for a good two decades now, this really does beg the question: why does it never seem to get any better?

Before we tackle that question, in case anybody reading is wondering, Why should I care?, let’s just recap on the benefits of an engaged workforce: better performance, greater efficiency, improved teamwork, lower staff turnover, increased customer satisfaction – employee engagement contributes to all of these.

So, why are we apparently unable to engage?

Being willing isn’t enough

A substantial clue can be found in the Towers Watson Global Workforce Study from a couple of years ago which highlighted a rather obvious point: it’s not enough to have willing employees, they also have to be able.

The idea of having employees who feel a sense of connection to their job and workplace is still at the core of engagement but for that engaged feeling to be sustainable long-term, there are three elements that need to be in place:

  1. employees are committed to ‘going the extra mile’ when doing their job
  2. the working environment is set up to enable them to be productive
  3. their experience at work is an overall positive one, supporting their wellbeing

And it’s these last two elements that point us back to workplace culture as being the key factor here. If people don’t feel valued, if they don’t feel set up to succeed, then no amount of motivation can last for long.

So, what do we need to do?

Here are a few tips which can be applied in most workplaces, large or small:

  • Leaders (senior managers, business owners, etc.) should not only be role models, personally demonstrating what’s expected of everyone, but also show sincere interest in employee (including individual) wellbeing.
  • Supervisors and direct managers should be allocating work that fits the recipients’ skills, knowledge and experience AND be coaching and supporting them to develop new skills and knowledge so they’re experiencing a sense of improvement.
  • The business’s overall goals and targets should be known and understood by everyone in the workforce, and each individual should understand exactly how their job contributes to those goals and targets.
  • A healthy work-life balance should be encouraged, including wherever possible flexibility so that individual employees don’t have to choose between work and their personal and family lives.
  • The business’s public image should be positive, something that people can feel good about being associated with.
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