Employee engagement is a hot topic in the world of people management. In a tight labour market, with serious skills shortages and intense competition for good people, switched-on employers want to make sure their workforces are happy, motivated and willing to give lots of lovely ‘discretionary behaviour’.
That jargon means they aren’t just picking up their pay cheques and doing the minimum required of them.
A whole new industry has emerged, full of consultancies offering new tools to measure your employees’ engagement, benchmark it against the industry average and maybe do something about it if it falls short of expectations.
Earlier this year, employee attitude survey specialist ISR published a report which, it argued, finally proved that employee engagement had a direct effect on the bottom line.
Based on a survey of more than 650,000 employees in 50 leading global companies, ISR’s study showed that firms with high levels of employee engagement outperformed the industry average over 12 months by 6%, while those with low levels underperformed by 9%.
According to ISR, the research showed that there were four key factors in creating an engaged workforce.
Employees are given lots of opportunities to develop; the company encourages co-operation and teamworking; there is an open culture, where employees feel able to air their views without getting penalised; and finally leadership from the top down is inspirational and offers a long-term vision based on growing revenues rather than cutting costs.
Another survey, launched last week, takes a slightly different look at this question.
Communications consultancy CHA decided to look at the issue of pride in the workplace - how proud are we of the jobs we do, the firms we work for, and the products we produce? And which firms would we be most proud to work for one day?
Gratifyingly, one grocery business, Tesco, crept into the top five for that last question and Marks and Spencer, Asda, the Co-operative Group, Boots, Sainsbury, Harrods and Waitrose were all in the top 30.
However, aside from GlaxoSmithKline, the supplier side of the sector didn’t register at all.
On the whole, though, one of the most striking things about the survey was how few people felt proud of their jobs - only 52%. As the authors of the survey point out, pride is a much stronger emotion than mere satisfaction, so it could be argued that 52% is a gratifyingly high score.
But the survey also asked respondents whether they would recommend their organisation as an employer to their friends - and only 48% said they would. Almost 60% of respondents said they doubted their organisation knew where it was going.
These are disturbing figures.
It may be that pride is a bonus in the workplace but not a necessity; 37% of the sample said they’d leave an organisation that they weren’t proud to work for. But as the report comments, somewhat acidly: “The rest, presumably, would put up with it.”
Employees take a great deal more pride in working for an organisation that is recognised for good customer care (number two on the list) or contributing to the community (fourth) than for simply being famous (ranked ninth).
Once more this shows that any organisation can be world class, no matter how unsexy it may seem on the surface, as long as it gets the basics of good management right.
And what was number one on the list of things that make employees feel proud?
Being known to treat your staff well.
n Steve Crabb is editor of People Management