The Alchemy of Employee Engagement
Employee engagement is the Holy Grail of human capital and talent management, with studies showing that highly engaged employees can boost revenues by as much as 26 per cent per employee.
Figures like that shouldn’t be taken lightly and forward-thinking businesses invest a great deal of time, money and energy in finding the perfect ‘engagement alchemy’ for their organisation and employees.
But what is employee engagement, really? One of the most popular definitions comes from a group of occupational psychologists at Utrecht University. It says work engagement has three elements:
- vigour (energy, resilience and effort)
- dedication (for example, enthusiasm, inspiration and pride)
- absorption (concentration and being engrossed in one’s work)
So in short, employee engagement is a very personal and subjective concept – what works for some, may not always work for others. Engagement factors vary across organisations, generations, demographic groups, geographies and cultures, while also evolving over time. This means that HR must constantly reconsider how it measures, communicates and encourages feedback within the organisation to find the right balance.
How engaged are European employees?
Organisation, across the world are trying to find an edge through ensuring their workforce is as happy, healthy and productive as possible. Our latest research, The Workforce View in Europe highlights some interesting and unexpected variations in engagement levels across different countries and cultures.
Overall, the picture is positive, with the majority of employees (56%) feeling engaged in their roles. However, when you break the findings down by country, the picture becomes somewhat more complicated. The Netherlands and Germany have the highest engagement levels, suggesting a strong economy and job opportunities play a role. At the other end of the scale, employees in the UK ranked among the lowest for engagement.
How can you improve employee engagement?
Engagement is clearly a key factor in successful Human Capital Management (HCM) strategies, so what can employers do to boost motivation amongst staff? When asked what really engages them at work, employees identified three key factors:
- Good work-life balance
- The ability to work when and where I want
- Diverse and fast-moving role
However, there are some clear contrasts and exceptions amongst countries. For example, in Germany and the Netherlands, praise and recognition from management is a far more motivating factor than having a good work-life balance. Interestingly, almost a quarter of Polish workers say that nothing at work motivates them except for pay, a significantly higher number than any of their European neighbours. Employers in Poland should perhaps try to foster some of the pride and inspiration required to achieve better engagement levels.
Overall, the findings highlight how complex employee engagement can be. While there are tried and tested human capital management solutions that can make the process easier, finding the right ‘engagement alchemy’ for your organisation requires hard work. Listening to your employees, measuring developments, communicating openly are key. So no time for resting on your laurels.
For more insights on what your workforce really wants, read The Workforce View in Europe white paper.
 Watson Wyatt, 2008/2009 WorkUSA Report