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We recently concluded the 2013 National Employee Survey. 4 115 employees drawn from 36 organisation from different sectors participated in the survey. The survey culminated in the Best Employers Awards Ceremony held on April 24 at a local hotel. Three non-governmental organisations and seven private sector companies were recognised as the Best Employers in Zimbabwe for 2013.

Best employers in Zimbabwe

Non-Governmental Organisation sector:

1. Catholic Relief Services

2. Transparency International Zimbabwe

3. World Vision Zimbabwe.

Best employers in Zimbabwe

Private Sector:

1.SeedCo Zimbabwe (Pvt) Limited

2. Propak Hessian (Private) Limited

3. Brands Africa (Pvt) Ltd

4. NicozDiamond Insurance Limited

5. BDO Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants

6. Ecobank

7. Securico Security Services.

Employee engagement levels in 2013 rose by 0,38 percent relative to 2012. Nationwide, this year, 61 percent of employees are engaged as compared to 60 percent in 2012. Fewer employees are engaged today (60,59 percent) than in 2011 (64,26 percent), when employee engagement peaked. Interestingly, the 2011 peak coincided with the peak recovery in the economy (post dollarisation).

This year we have however begun to observe a rebound as eight of the 11 employee engagement dimensions assessed slightly improved from levels we observed in 2012. Specifically, more employees today:

Are confident in the leadership and future of their employing organisation (leadership and strategic direction index is 61 percent and 72 percent respectively)

Are fulfilled with the structure and content of their jobs (job design index is 67 percent)

Are happy with remuneration in their organisation (remuneration index is 37 percent)

Are happy with relationships with their supervisors (supervision index is 72 percent)

Intend to stay with their employer and are willing to recommend their current employers as a great place to work (commitment and loyalty index is 55 percent)

Express confidence in the performance review and recognition systems in their organisations (culture of performance and reward index is 60 percent)

Believe they have adequate learning and development opportunities with their current employers (learning and development index is 63 percent)

Are generally satisfied with their jobs (overall satisfaction index is 62 percent).

Comparatively, Zimbabwe continues to have a significantly higher percentage of Aligned Skeptics when compared to Europe. Aligned Skeptics are employees who know exactly what needs to be done (job related) but are just not keen on doing it. In other words they are g on line of sight but low on commitment. Although the percentage of Aligned Skeptics reduced by three percent from 41 percent in 2012 to 38 percent in 2013, most of Zimbabwe’s workforce remained Aligned Skeptics. This is as compared to only 12 percent of Europe’s workforce who are Aligned Skeptics.

What is interesting is that whilst macro-economic indicators seem to suggest a deteriorating economy employee engagement proceeded to increase year on year from what we observed in 2012. I believe there could be three possible reasons to explain this.

Relativity is weighing in

As Dan Ariely says in his book Predictably Irrational, “Humans rarely choose things in absolute terms. We don’t have an internal value meter that tells us how much things are worth. Rather, we focus on the relative aantage of one thing over another, and estimate value accordingly.”Accordingly, outside comparisons that are less appealing may be encouraging employees to value what they have and work hard to keep it.

While employees many believe that their wellbeing could be better, they continue to be loyal and exert discretionary effort because as compared to other periods – 2007 – 2008 for example – their wellbeing may appear to be better. In addition, for some who have experienced either indirectly or directly the insecurity and personal impact of unemployment, this can translate to gratitude, and relative “security”. So, perhaps employees are assigning a higher value to their current employment situation because, in comparison to the working world outside and to their own historical situation, things appear better.

It may be a sign of employee coping mechanism

Adam Grant, Associate Professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, suggested that positive contradictory shifts such as these may be the product of employees’ coping strategies. In the face of change and uncertainty employees may have chosen to self-motivate so as to remain focused on making a living. In a survey that we undertook in 2011, 60 percent of the respondents said their salaries alone are inadequate to fend for their dependents. 58 percent admitted to having an income generating project or activity to supplement their income.

As I have mentioned in my previous publications my view is that these additional income generating projects and activities are being done at the expense of the employer’s productive time and resources. This may continue but it is sure to backfire as is already being reported though the media about employees abusing public office and manipulating processes for their profit.

Participating companies may have already been performing well

Invitations to participate in this survey were sent to over 160 employers in Zimbabwe. Of these only 36 eventually participated. Some of the responses I received were “we are currently restructuring we will participate next time” “things are not alright here” “we cannot dream of becoming the best employer”. It is possible that those organisation that eventually participated were really best employers who really were going the extra mile in creating an environment where employees are valued and are empowered to deliver on their best.

The reality is, you can never have perfect industrial relations situations and conditions of service. If you are doing well, you can continually improve. If you have challenges, getting empirical data on where the problems are is the first step towards creating work environment characterized by passionate and involved employees.

In summary, the root cause of all of these improvements in national employee engagement is likely multi-faceted. External and historical perspectivesalongside real and imagined improvements in the conditions of work could have blended to influence higher levels of Employee Engagement, motivation, and drive. The question remains, therefore, if these changes can occur with little or no change in the macroeconomic context, is a focus on Employee Engagement still relevant? My answer is, yes, it matters now more than ever.

In my discussions around employee engagement with management I often get the response: “now is not the time to deal with those things, we must focus on more pertinent operations issues.” This is an uninformed response. It is also ill-aised to assume that because employees are desperate and really do not have any viable employment alternatives at the moment you can ignore matters of engagement until a later time.

From my perspective, there are several problems with that approach:

Employee engagement is at the core of business recovery and growth. It has been established that there is a g relationship between Employee Engagement and business outcomes. Studies have shown that organisations with high numbers of engaged employees are more productive and more viable. Employee engagement has a g correlation to customer satisfaction, customer retention and repeat business.Engaged employees are more committed and put forth more effortand Disengagement is an expensive problem to fix. Engagement is a Key Performance Indicator that successfulorganisations continue to track and report on in the same way as operational, financial, and customer measures. Those companies that cease to track Employee Engagement will leave managers to focus solely on the things that are being measured, and companies will be left vulnerable.

While movements in Engagement have been positive, there is still significant room for improvement. My article has concentrated on the positive shifts but it is still important to note the following:

? four out of every 10 employees are still not engaged

? four out of every 10 employees are Aligned Skeptics. one in every 20 is a lost believer and one in every 10 is completely Disengaged.

? Key drivers of engagement: Communication, management practices and remuneration continue to pull employee engagement levels down.

Ignoring employee engagement would mean abdicating control. Part of the problems that many companies today are facing is because they adopted a wait and see attitude instead of proactively changing their business models especially after the introduction of the multicurrency regime. Successful companies understand that employee engagement can either make or ruin their business. I predict the return of Employee Engagement to boardroom agendas and a renewed energy directed towards the employee experience at companies.

With this in mind, I recommend these simple strategies to help organisations continually improve their levels of Employee Engagement.

1. Continue to measure Employee Engagement

2. Empower employeesby keeping employees informed about critical developments in the company and linking pay with productivity.

To receive the full Employee Engagement Trends Report 2013 outlining results by industry, contact me on the details below.

Memory Nguwi is the Managing Consultant of Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm. Phone 481946-4848195029002762900966 or cell number 077 2356 361 or email: mnguwi@ipcconsultants.comor visit our website at www.ipcconsultants.com

Source : Financial Gazette