Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Employee Engagement: Building a Better Workplace

This week, I'm going to switch gears and, instead of relating an anecdote, I'd like to share some things I learned in a recent webinar given by the Canadian Management Centre.

In August, 2012, Ipsos Reid prepared a report on employee engagement in Canada.   They interviewed 1,200 employees at over 500 companies, as well as 484 human resources managers.  The report covered 25 industry sectors. 

As managers, we'd love to think that our employees absolutely enjoy working for our companies.  However, the Ipsos-Reid study indicated that only just over a quarter - 27% - of employees consider themselves engaged.  Disturbingly, 23% classed themselves as totally disengaged.

I think it's safe to say most employees would be quite content to stay with the same employer throughout their careers.  However the study suggested only 37% of employees think their employers are doing a good job of retaining good employees.

What are the economic effects of employee engagement?

One school of thought is that the cost of employee disengagement is the product of one year's average salary times the rate of voluntary turnover (i.e., employees who resign)

According to Ipsos-Reid, employees who are highly engaged in their jobs are 2-1/2 times more likely to consider themselves satisfied with their jobs - and 1-1/2 times more likely to excel in their jobs. To me, this suggests that companies who foster engagement among their employees will have a team that outperforms their competitors.

This correlates with popular wisdom among sales managers that sales people who strongly believe in the product (or service) they're selling are the ones most likely to succeed.  Their passion about the product is infectious and helps them persuade customers to buy.  Their passion - and success - make the job fun, and that makes it a lot easier to get out of the office and make calls on customers, which, in turn, generates even more sales.

A key factor in building employee engagement is for managers to actively get out of their offices and spend time getting to know the people on the front lines.  Really, this is a matter of communication, and the Ipsos-Reid study dealt also with how communication impacts engagement.

Interestingly, another payoff for developing engagement is that, by moving an employee from actively disengaged to highly engaged reduces the likelihood of them leaving the organization by 92%.  If your best and brightest aren't engaged, cultivating positive relationships with them could be your best way to avoid losing them.

According to the study, overall, 68% of Canadian workers are at least somewhat satisfied with their jobs.  When workplace issues (such as working conditions, business cycles, potential layoffs etc.) are seen by employees as being communicated in a timely manner, job satisfaction increased to 88%.

The interaction of "management by walking around" probably is one of the best ways of building engagement because it promotes regular flow of information back and forth between manager and employee.  It permits some key company initiatives to be conveyed informally (which may also be perceived as more sincere) and allows employees to express concerns before they build up to a crisis.

The webinar is posted on YouTube.  Here's a link to take you there:


Another CMC webinar from December 2012 presents highlights of the study.


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