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Employee engagement has fallen around the world for the first time since 2012. The findings come in a new study from Aon Hewitt, the talent, retirement and health solutions arm of Aon plc.
The company analysed some five million employees at more than 1,000 organisations and found that employee engagement dropped from 65 per cent in 2015 to 63 per cent in 2016. Furthermore, it states that less than a quarter of employees are ‘highly’ engaged with two fifths “moderately” engaged.
The UK managed to buck the trend slightly, though, with engagement scores rising from 58 to 59 per cent. Historically, UK engagement levels have been lower than across the rest of Europe which this time round saw scores decline from 60 to 58 per cent.
While it indicates that UK leaders must be doing something right there is still plenty of room for improvement. Aon reckons the UK has managed to catch up with its European counterparts because engagement is increasingly a pre-occupation for its business leaders. And there is evidence of them investigating how they can go beyond the annual survey to find out what matters most to employees.
At Rialto, we have long been advocates of putting in place strategies and mechanisms to elicit feedback on a more frequent basis. And in the current period of uncertainty, it is even more important to regularly take the pulse of the workforce.
When it comes to discussions regarding increasing productivity, much is made of the importance of having an engaged workforce. But engagement isn’t the be-all and end-all. Debate also needs to focus on how aligned a person feels with the organisation and its mission and values. An engaged person may well put in a good day’s work and hit their targets but they won’t necessarily release the discretionary effort that will deliver higher performance.
We have conducted research that shows a direct correlation between increased productivity and each percentage point of discretionary effort that is released. We have also identified 110 factors that can impact motivation across 11 areas, including leadership, how well the company collaborates with others and how well it is able to adapt to change.
Alignment and engagement are often seen as variations on the same theme when talking about employees. But it is important to understand the difference. An individual may be engaged with their work because they like their colleagues, manager and what they do but they won’t necessarily think senior leaders behave as they should. Or they don’t necessarily view the company as innovative or agile. They may want to hit their targets for their immediate manager but are far less motivated by the impact it will have on the overall company mission.
In the long and medium run, these could be stumbling blocks to achieving sustained engagement and higher productivity levels. However, putting in place tools and strategies to identify alignment with all aspects of the company, and then addressing any issues getting in the way of this, can bring about higher performance and sustained productivity.
Ultimately, measuring alignment is a more holistic way of finding out how employees feel about their job and the company than by assessing engagement. It may take time for alignment to move up the corporate agenda in the same way engagement has but those leaders who are mindful of its importance to productivity will reap the benefits.
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