Just 12% of UK SMEs prioritise employee engagement strategies

employee engagement strategies

While 87% of UK small to medium enterprises (SMEs) claim they are taking active steps to improve employee engagement, only 12% list it as a business priority, according to research by marketing organisation Propellernet.

The September 2018 survey of 250 senior managers and 250 employees at UK SMEs also revealed an employee engagement perception gap, with 64% of managers believing their employees feel valued, but just 46% of non-managerial employees saying they do.

Similarly, while 42% of managers told the survey they believe their employees are aligned to the purpose of the business, only 22% of the non-managerial workforce said they are. Three-quarters (74%) of managers said their organisation operates in alignment with their values, compared with 51% of employees.

A quarter (24%) of employees responding to the survey said they do not feel engaged at work. Half (50%) of UK SMEs do not invest anything in increasing employee engagement and only a third (32%) of managers said they have a strong understanding of the term.

When employees were asked what would make them feel more engaged at work, the most popular answers were flexible working and recognition for good work (both 36%).

Nikki Gatenby, managing director of Propellernet, said: “If you step away from just thinking about profit, you can transform your company by putting people and purpose first instead. Some business leaders believe that this can harm the bottom line, but this is a misinformed theory.”

The survey found that while 34% of senior managers strongly believe that employee psychological wellbeing is a priority to leaderships, only 13% of employees agreed. Similarly, 64% of managers told the survey their organisation was committed to work-life balance, compared with 43% of employees.

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Lisa Pentelli, director of Become Communications, said: “This research shows that while business leaders think they are taking active steps forward [on employee engagement] and despite their best intentions, it’s not working.

“Average UK engagement scores have remained stagnant despite the well-documented link between engagement and profitability. Too often, initiatives and ideas are introduced to the [organisation] with little understanding as to whether they’re going to work or not, or an articulation of what an engaged team means to them.”