Home » General » Time to Rethink Employee Engagement [column]

Each and every organisation has an employer brand by default.

WE recently concluded the 2014 National Employee Engagement Survey. 4,761 employees drawn from 35 organisations participated in the survey.

These participants covered 9 economic sectors. The survey culminated in the Best Employers Awards Ceremony held on Wednesday 25 March 2015 at the Meikles Hotel. Two [2] Non-Governmental Organisations and eight [8] Private Sector Companies were recognised as the Best Employers in Zimbabwe for 2014.

Best Employers in Zimbabwe Non-Governmental Organisation Sector: 1. Catholic Relief Services 2. Practical Action.

Best Employers in Zimbabwe Private Sector: 1. Brands Africa (Pvt) Ltd 2. Seed Co Zimbabwe (Pvt) Limited 3. Speedlink Cargo 4. BancABC 5. Curechem Overseas (Pvt) Ltd 6. Securico Security Services 7. People’s Own Savings Bank (POSB) and 8. Safeguard Security Group.

Every organisation has an employer brand. Although a number of organisations do not take deliberate efforts to build a g employer brand you should know that each and every organisation has an employer brand by default.

Employee engagement levels in 2014 rose by 8,99 percent relative to 2013. Nationwide, this year, 70 percent of employees are engaged as compared to 61 percent in 2013. More employees are engaged today (69,58 percent) than in any other year that we have done this survey. The results this year suggest a new peak in employee engagement levels. The previous high in employee engagement level was 64,26 percent (2011).

Interestingly, the 2011 peak coincided with the peak recovery in the economy (post dollarisation). Unfortunately, the same conclusion cannot be made this year (2014). Most macro-economic indicators seem to suggest an economy that is grinding to a halt. Regardless, employee engagement increased year on year.

There are a number of theories why this may be so.

THEORY #1: THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY

Things simply look better when surrounded by worse.

According to Dan Ariely in his book Predictably Irrational, humans are always looking at things around them in relation to others and making judgment calls based upon those relative comparisons:

“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, we believe that 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 well-being could be better, they continue to be loyal and exert discretionary effort because as compared to other periods – 2007 – 2008 for example – their well-being may appear to be better. In addition, for some who have experienced 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.

THEORY #2: 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 we have mentioned in our previous publications our feeling 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 in the short run but it is sure to backfire in the long run as is already being reported though the media about employees abusing public office and manipulating work processes for their profit.

THEORY #3: 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 35 eventually participated. Some of the responses we 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. 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.

The root cause of all of these improvements in national employee engagement is likely multi-faceted. External and historical perspectives alongside 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? Our answer is, yes, it matters now more than ever.

In our discussions around employee engagement with management we 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 our 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 effort and Disengagement is an expensive problem to fix. Engagement is a Key Performance Indicator that leading organisations 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. For example, whilst overall employee engagement has increased, it is still important to note the following:Three out of every 10 employees are still not engaged

Three out of every 10 employees are aligned skeptics. One in every 50 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. Part of the problems that many companies today are facing is because they adopted a wait and see attitude instead of proactively transforming their business models especially after the introduction of the multicurrency regime. Successful companies understand that employee engagement can either make or ruin their business. We predict the return of Employee Engagement to boardroom agendas and a renewed energy directed towards the employee experience.

To receive the full Employee Engagement Trends Report 2014 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 481946-48 or cell number 0772356361 or e-mail mnguwi@ipcconsultants.com

Source : Financial Gazette

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