Employee engagement is directly linked to the performance and profitability of an organisation, and business owners should address engagement the same way they look at strategies to improve competitive advantage.
Our latest employee engagement benchmarking survey of 5,330 Australian employees across 10 industry sectors shows that the proportion of workers who are engaged with their job and organisation has fallen from 36 percent in 2009 to 34 percent in 2012.
Unfortunately these results suggest the majority of employers are missing the boat when it comes to engagement. Engagement is vital for SMEs, as smaller teams must be working as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Employee engagement isn’t just about boosting performance – it’s also crucial to keeping top talent. Business owners who are struggling to fill skills shortages, and are concerned about the costs of employee turnover, can address both of these challenges at once. The key is to put in place strategies to boost engagement and keep your highly sought-after talent on deck.
What drives engagement?
Health and wellbeing is a new addition to the list since 2009, as employees look for benefits beyond financial rewards. However, with remuneration budgets stretched, the majority of employees don’t believe there are sufficient incentives for good performance, nor do they feel confident about career opportunities.
Long-term career goals are a major driver of higher engagement, but less than half of workers (44 percent) believe this is being managed well. Employers need to look closely at how they are creating genuine career paths for their people, as well as equipping managers to have effective career conversations.
The top 10 drivers provide a roadmap for organisations seeking to boost engagement. While the drivers of engagement will vary for each organisation, it’s clear that Australians want to feel rewarded for their work, clear about their career direction and proud of their employer. Leaders and managers should be looking closely at these areas if they want to see ‘bang for buck’ in their efforts to boost engagement.
Do gender and age have an impact?
Analysis of the data reveals generational differences, with only 32 percent of Gen Y fully engaged in their job and organisation, compared to 34 percent of Gen X and 36 percent of Baby Boomers.
Lower engagement levels among younger workers, who are often in junior roles and still finding their way in the workplace, is common. However, the higher engagement among older workers further reinforces the fact that it makes good business sense to focus on attracting and retaining this group.
According to the survey, 36 percent of women are fully engaged compared to 32 percent of men. In particular, Gen X men (aged 30-to-44) are among the most disengaged, at 31 percent.
Men in this age group are often supporting young families, so they may feel obliged to stay in a role that’s not right for them. Employers shouldn’t ignore the challenges facing this group, and ensure they provide support such as career development and flexible hours.
A call to action
The results show that work environments which promote positive employee engagement are consistently linked with higher customer satisfaction, greater employee productivity and increased profitability.
So as employee engagement is critical to success, what are the calls to action for business owners?
1. Ensure that existing strategies to improve performance and competitive advantage also address engagement.
2. Find ways to communicate organisational achievements and help employees see the connection between their work and the organisation’s success.
3. Help employees realise their career goals.
Including employee engagement in your overall business strategy will help achieve strong business results.