Friday, February 6, 2009

Tip of the Day: Don't let employee engagement decline along with the economy

As goes the economy, so goes employee engagement it seems, which is not good news for employers. Survey results from Quantum Workplace show 66% of employers saw decreases in employee engagement between 2007 and 2008.

“Employee engagement is measured by the ability and willingness of individuals to exert extra effort for the benefit of the company, their tendency to speak highly of the organization and their intent to stay,” says Greg Harris, president of Quantum Workplace.

Best known as the research firm behind Best Places to Work programs in more than 40 metro areas, Quantum Workplace surveys more than 1.5 million employees among 5,000 companies nationwide. The surveys are conducted at different times of the year, but at the same time of the year in each location.

“In the past, our surveys have shown how employers can significantly influence, if not control, how motivated and satisfied their employees are," Harris says. "But, we couldn’t help but wonder what affect such a significant event beyond employer’s control — an economic crisis — might have on employee feelings and perceptions of their workplaces."

By an almost two-to-one margin (134 to 76), more employers had lower overall employee engagement scores in the fall of 2008 than the fall of 2007. This result is out of the ordinary from trends for the last five years, and strongly suggests that the economy may well be influencing employees’ attitudes about their jobs and workplaces, Harris posits.

However, there still are actionable points for employers. Quantum's analysis outlines five factors distinguished the variation among winners and losers:

1. Setting a clear, compelling direction that empowers each employee.
2. Open and honest communication.
3. Continued focus on career growth and development.
4. Recognizing and rewarding high performance.
5. Employee benefits that demonstrate a strong commitment to employee well-being.

According to Leigh Branham, author of "The Seven Hidden Reasons that Employees Leave," “It may be difficult to implement the five lessons described, but as Winston Churchill said: ‘Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.’ The additional efforts to engage employees, in spite of the economic currents, can garner significant returns.”

“Having a highly engaged workforce certainly doesn’t completely insulate an organization from economic recession. But a more engaged workforce can act as insulation, a buffer if you will, from the effects of the economic downturn,” according to Mark D. Hirschfeld, principal, Goldenrod Consulting, Inc.

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