Engagement hits five year low

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Employee engagement is at its lowest since 2008, but good HR practices could turn the tide.

 A new Aon Hewitt study found 47% of workers are dis-engaged from their work – the lowest employee engagement levels in North America in five years.

There were some areas of improvement, with employees suggesting that overall companies have improved in innovation, communication and compensation. However, the drops in areas such as diversity, customer experience and leadership lead to an overall decrease in how employees felt about their overall work experience.

“As North American organizations grapple with competing pressures—demand for profitable growth, financial market volatility, political uncertainty and global shifts in workforce demographics—declining engagement levels may have negative, longer-term consequences on business performance,“ said Dr. Ken Oehler, Aon Hewitt’s Global Engagement practice leader. “Our survey findings signal a call to action for leaders to make employee engagement a business imperative.”

Oehler said the drop indicated organizations were not investing enough in talent management.

So how can you turn the tide? The top rated engagement factors were:

Career Opportunities
“Employers should focus on improving advancement opportunities for their high potentials and the highly engaged,” said Lorraine Stomski, head of Aon Hewitt’s Leadership practice. Consistent career pathing and planning helps keep employees motivated and makes it less likely they’ll leave for a better position elsewhere.

Enabling Performance
Just 58% of employees said they had the tools and resources needed to perform effectively in their organization. Removing barriers to performance—such as clarifying goals, reducing process complexity and ensuring technology supports productivity—will help decrease anxiety, stress and frustration and fully unlock an individual’s potential and performance.

Employees want to work for an employer with a good reputation, which is why more and more companies are having to ensure their external employer branding matches employee experiences.

“In the past we saw companies really focused on the brand to market to people to attract them to a company, but now we’re seeing companies have to make that brand live within the company,” Deloitte consultant Rajesh Uttamchandani said. “They need to have it integrated into every program they have and make sure the experience they promise employees is the experience they get.”

Only half of employees think their company communicates effectively. Often the “why” is as important as the “what” for employees. The most engaged employees are those who understand how their tasks tie into overall business goals. Good communication is also key in times of change.

“Communication is very important – ensuring your employees are in the know all the time,” Janette Batten, 3M’s director of human resources, said. “Change is the hardest part of any process part – getting people to embrace the change is the hard part.”

Employees continue to rate recognition as one of the most important tools for engagement, but only 50% told Aon Hewitt their employer was doing a good job recognizing effort and achievement.

“As companies continue to manage expenses and focus on growth, recognition can be very effective at motivating employees and often comes at little to no cost to the organization,” Oehler said.

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