Employee Engagement…how far have we come?

Image: CC_MDGovpics_Maryland_Advisory_Commission_on_Manufacturing_Competitiveness_Swearing_in_CeremonyThis is the first in a short series of articles on employee engagement.
It is now three years since the publication of the MacLeod Report, Engaging for Success: enhancing performance through employee engagement. In that report, David MacLeod and Nita Clarke put forward a powerful case in favour of increasing employee engagement as a means of enhancing organisational performance.
Since 2009 engagement has remained on the HR agenda. Recently it seems to have taken on increased importance, partially as a response to the continuing pressure on pay budgets. Many of our customers have told us that keeping employees involved in the midst of a prolonged recession is a key challenge for them.
With this in mind, we decided to see how engagement was progressing, through the autumn 2012 running of our UK Reward Management Survey. To start with, we asked for opinions on the general state of engagement.  Two-thirds agreed or strongly agreed that their employees were fully engaged in the organisation.  Perhaps not surprisingly a similar proportion disagreed or strongly disagreed that engagement was a problem for their organisation.
We then asked people to indicate how much they agreed with the following statements, focussing on the features that tend to be exhibited by organisations with engaged employees:
  • The organisation has clearly expressed mission and goals;
  • Employees have a clear understanding about how their role impacts the organisational goals;
  • Organisational values are well developed and communicated;
  • The values guide management actions;
  • Employee empowerment and support is seen as more important than management control;
  • Employees feel appreciated and respected;
  • The business is committed to increasing employee capability; and
  • Employees’ views are listened to and they see that their opinions count.
The results were predominantly positive. All bar one statement had at least three-quarters of people agreeing or strongly agreeing. The singular exception was the statement on empowerment and management control. This appears to have been largely driven by certain sectors such as Construction and Airlines, where safety and regulatory issues necessitate high levels of control.
We asked the same question back in May 2010, so we were able to see what, if anything had changed in the meantime. The short answer would seem to be that there has not been a great deal of change. The overall pattern of responses is very similar and it would be unwise to read too much into slight shifts of opinion in what is an unmatched sample.  The statements where there is a noticeable move towards agreement are:
  • The values guide management actions – “Agree” and “Strongly Agree” up by 12 percentage points; and
  • Organisational values are well developed and communicated – “Agree” and “Strongly Agree” up by 10 percentage points.
Meanwhile, the only statement showing significantly less agreement than in 2010 was:
  • Employees’ views are listened to and they see that their opinions count – “Agree” and “Strongly Agree” down by 10 percentage points.
In future articles we will look at some of the detailed responses about how engagement is identified as an issue, how it is measured, and the types of actions organisations have or are about to take to improve engagement.