Departments - May/June 2012

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Employee Engagement Levels Up

By Deborah L. Vence

For another straight year, employee engagement levels experienced growth, according to the 2011 Overall Employee Engagement norms produced by HR Solutions International Inc., an Avatar company.

In a press release earlier this year, HR Solutions indicated that U.S. employee engagement levels increased from 2010 to 2011.

The normative data—comprised of employee survey responses from more than 3.3 million employees at more than 2,400 organizations—showed that the number of actively engaged employees increased two percentage points to 29 percent in 2011 from 27 percent in 2010. During that same time period, the percentage of ambivalent employees (neither engaged nor disengaged) slightly decreased to 59 percent from 60 percent, while the percent of actively disengaged employees fell to 12 percent from 13 percent.

"I think engagement has increased in the past year because organizations are becoming more savvy and asking for employee input as organizations have had to become leaner and more efficient," said Murat Philippe, principal consultant of Avatar HR Solutions.

(HR Solutions International is a Chicago-based Human Capital Management Consulting Firm that specializes in workplace survey design, implementation, analysis and action planning. Avatar International is a research and consulting company based in Orlando, Fla.)

Some key drivers of engagement include "knowing that senior managers are concerned about the employees, recognition for good work, and having an opportunity to improve yourself (career development, increased job knowledge or skills)," Philippe said.

While incentive rewards programs can be enticing and motivating to employees in any given company, they are not always the sole inspiration behind an employee's level of engagement. Other reasons include work schedule flexibility, autonomy and telecommuting.

"Companies have tried to do more to engage their employees because many are concerned that as the economy recovers, those that have been biding their time will leave the organization," Philippe said.

"Furthermore, the baby boomers reaching retirement age have highlighted the fact that there won't be enough people in subsequent generations to replace them, creating a workforce shortage in the next decade or so. We find that rewards don't fuel engagement levels. You have to be competitive with your compensation, of course, but once you are fairly compensating people, it becomes about developing them, giving them a realistic goal, the tools to achieve them, and getting out of their way," he said. "Work schedule flexibility, autonomy, telecommuting (work permitting) are the currency in this new marketplace."

When asked about the future and whether or not employee engagement levels will increase or decrease, Philippe said he is optimistic and believes that "engagement will continue to grow as more organizations are asking the right questions of their workforce and strive to empower them to do their best for their customers. Over the past few years we have seen it increasing in our data."