Managers may think they are motivating employees. However, employee engagement in most organizations is still rather limited. My previous report on BlessingWhite's 2011 employee engagement study shows that we still have a long way to go. Many organizations and managers simply do not do enough of the right stuff, and there are as many employees who simply aren't interested in being anything but neutrally engaged.
Even when the most obviously right things are done, such as involving employees in goal setting and providing the social lubricant for employees to get on well with each other, there are three things that continue not to be working well enough in our organizations. This is according to the recent 2012 study by CIPD - The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Most managers aren't talking to employees about their personal development (only 39% do); too few are giving feedback on a regular basis (only 46% do); and coaching on the job is in short supply (only 30% do). And, some employees will do what they can to avoid the attention.
Let's look a bit more closely at the CIPD report on employee engagement. The research covered more than 285,000 employees and managers, randomly selected within the profile of the workforce in the UK, and who are employed across the major sectors of the economy. What makes it interesting is that this replicates a study done approximately six months earlier, so it is possible to identify some patterns and trends (June 2012 and Dec 2011).
The "employee engagement" talked about in this study isn't just about whether people like the boss or the job. It is also about how the job fits with their personal lives and whether they have friendships at work. Other aspects of "engagement" are factors such as the person's attitude to the company itself, whether the employer's goals are of meaning to the employee and whether there is a sense of belonging and future for the employee.
According to the CIPD survey, a surprising 58% of employees are "neutrally engaged". Although this is a positive shift of 2% (up from 60%) from the results of the winter 2011 survey, it is not a good sign when more than half of the working population goes about their job in a half-hearted manner. Interestingly, the proportion of employees who are completely "disengaged" remains constant at 3%. Progress is shown, though, in the overall index of "engagement". The number here has crept up from 36% to 39%. Managers should not be resting on the laurels, though. There is much room for improvement.
The predominant group of "neutrally engaged" employees is, curiously, pretty satisfied with both the boss and the job. Although, it turns out, 22% of them are job hunting. In their state of "neutral engagement", they won't be exerting much discretionary effort to help the employer. They are also unlikely to rock the boat to cause trouble (or attract attention?) The good news is that it is possible to find out what would engage them and to put in management practices to raise the engagement needle.
"Cherchez le manager" (loosely translated as "seek out the manager") is common wisdom by now when it comes to understanding employees' levels of engagement, productivity and general satisfaction with the job. However, the CIPD study reports that the group of "neutrally engaged" employees don't have many complaints about their relationships with their immediate managers. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of them feel they are being treated fairly. However, according to the study, the three practices I mentioned above (PD discussions/feedback/coaching) are in the way of moving them to showing signs of true engagement. Some 61% of employees don't have the personal career discussions they would like to have with their immediate managers. A full 70% report that they're not getting the coaching they need. More than half (54%) carry on working without knowing how they're doing as they're not getting regular performance feedback from their manager.
These three management activities are a great place to start in focusing our attention on lifting engagement levels. What other practices do you consider will also help here? Please share. In my next post, I will consider some other ramifications for how we manage employees resulting from this important CIPD survey.
CIPD Employee Outlook, Summer Edition 2012