The economic downturn may prove to be the catalyst for organisations finally realising they cannot afford to ignore employee engagement as a business tool
For years “employee engagement” was one of those phrases bandied around by HR, to which the rest of the business felt obliged to pay lip service but would essentially ignore.
The downturn, double-dip recession, depression – call it what you will – has changed all that, however. With companies struggling to survive, having workers performing at less than 100 per cent is no longer an option, while job insecurity and the dearth of other opportunities out there have made stagnating employees a real danger for many.
The business case for engaging employees is now undeniable; surveys consistently show those companies with higher levels of engagement are more productive, and also benefit from lower staff turnover and absence rates.
Suddenly, then, employee engagement is all the rage. Last year David Cameron proclaimed it was a core tenet of the government’s plans for both economic growth and employee wellbeing, and subsequently launched the Engage for Success Task Force. It is due to come to fruition this autumn, and the article by co-chairs David MacLeod and Nita Clarke in this supplement outline how this has already helped to turn rhetoric into reality at many organisations.
There are many and varied means of engaging employees – flexible working, effective use of benefits and building a brand with which workers will identify and empathise are all important aspects – but the message that comes through time and again is that line managers are the people who can make or break such initiatives. Our feature on page 8 looks at the efforts some companies are making, while the cover article explores Unilever’s approach to measuring and improving engagement on a global level.
No one is seriously suggesting that the battle to create conditions in which employees could reasonably be expected to thrive has been won.
But there is a growing feeling that businesses have finally made the connection between engaged staff and productivity, and a motivated workforce and the bottom line. That may yet prove to be our ticket to better economic times.
- Hear how companies are engaging their employees to drive the success of their customer experience strategy at our next Customer Focus summit on the 16-17 April 2013 in London.