Boosting employee engagement has become a key management goal for all types of organisations, so much so that even chief executives place it high on their agenda. It is no wonder, as those organisations that have a large percentage of employees who are prepared to go the extra mile are more likely to prosper with higher levels of productivity, customer service, creativity and profitability than those that don’t.
If organisations are to increase levels of employee engagement than they must work out what factors make employees tick, from the nature of the work that is being undertaken through to the various aspects of reward provided. But they should not be under any illusion, as the working population in Great Britain appears to be more engaged with the nature of their work than the organisation they actually work for, according to the results of The Employee Benefits Research 2008, conducted by YouGov.
While almost two-thirds (57%) of British workers feel fully engaged with the work that they do, only half (49%) are fully engaged with their organisation. In fact, significantly more respondents are prepared to go the extra mile for customers or clients (66%) than they are for their employer. This is perhaps down to the interest and pride they take in their work.
High earners, those who have a gross personal income of £50,000 or above are more engaged with their work and their organisation than those earning less. Similarly, those working for a charity or in the voluntary sector are the most engaged with their work and their organisation. A sector which has reasonably high levels of respondents who are engaged with their work and their organisation is construction, while the wholesale and retail trade has low levels of workers engaged with both. Respondents in the legal sector, while interested in their work, have low levels of engagement with their organisation. Generally, respondents’ engagement with work seems reasonably constant regardless of the length of service or size of employer, however, engagement with their organisation decreases after 12 months’ service.
Interesting work is the most important factor impacting on workers’ willingness to go the extra mile for their organisation, according to 69% of respondents, way ahead of employer values (44%) and corporate culture (43%). However, workers are not so bound up in their work that they are prepared to forego their work-life balance. For 58% of respondents, this plays a crucial role in influencing their degree of engagement. Day-to-day factors such as working environment, teamwork, job security and recognition all rank pretty highly. Factors linked to financial reward, such as salary (51%), holiday entitlement (49%), benefits package (35%) and bonus (30%), have less of an impact on respondents’ engagement with their organisation. This fits with management theorist Frederick Herzberg’s argument that pay and benefits are, at best, hygiene factors. But if pay and benefits are considered to be inadequate then there is little room for other factors, such as career opportunities, recognition and even the work itself, to impact on engagement.
Interestingly, salary has little impact on engagement with the organisation for those working less than eight hours a week. A higher proportion of workers in the private sector (55%) say salary has an impact on engagement with their organisation than those in the public sector (less than 48%) and the charity sector (41%). Salary is also a stronger issue for those earning £20,000 and above, with at least 55% of respondents in this category citing this as an impact. As for the benefits package, this is of interest to those earning £30,000 and above with 45% of respondents claiming it has an impact on their engagement levels. A larger proportion of those in the private sector cite benefits as having an impact on their engagement than those in the public or third sectors.
However, when it comes to factors which respondents believe would influence engagement levels with their organisation, then an increase in salary comes top, with 68% of workers saying it would have a positive impact, followed by the option to work flexible hours (60%) and the ability to work from home (47%). Flexibility is also key in relation to benefits, with 42% of respondents saying that having some degree of choice around perks would help to boost their engagement levels. This bodes well for employers that provide flexible benefits schemes.