By Liz Hall
Many employers and coaches are barking up the wrong tree when it comes to the hot topic of employee engagement.
Employee engagement remains critically low because although it is employers’ number one concern, many are getting their strategies wrong. Employers need to shift the focus in their employee engagement strategies away from big-picture issues such as charismatic leadership and work/life balance towards rebuilding employees’ trust both in their employer and immediate manager, and the relationship between manager and direct report. These were the key messages in the Training Foundation’s white paper on employee engagement, The Rules of Engagement, launched on 14 June.
“This carries profound implications for the value of coaching, because the number one influence on employee engagement is the relationship between employees and their immediate manager – yet most have had no training on how to get the most out of their people,” said a spokeswoman for the Training Foundation.
The paper’s strategies have been endorsed by David Macleod, co-author of the Macleod report to Government on Employee Engagement (May 2009).
Employee trust levels in employers are low because of the current climate of austerity, wage freezes, lay-offs and short-time working. Rebuilding that trust in the employer, and in the manager, is an urgent priority.
Employers and coaches need to make sure they look at the role of emotions in decision-making. Recent discoveries from neuroscience and genetics are confirming occupational psychologists’ findings that the importance of emotions to decision-making is far greater than previously thought, says the paper.
The workplace climate is more important than organisational culture. Most employers are focusing their engagement strategy on organisational initiatives such as flexible working. Whilst important, these are not producing results because they are trumped by a far more influential factor – the importance of the employee/immediate manager relationship, which is the key factor in up to eight out of 10 decisions to leave a job, the ultimate measurement of engagement. Surveys by The Training Foundation and others show that less than 20% of managers have received any training in engagement skills and how to bring out the best in people.
Only 24% of UK employees are engaged with their job, according to the latest Gallup Engagement Survey and the CBI reported in May 2010 that employee engagement is now the biggest challenge facing employers. Sixty seven per cent of businesses said employee engagement was their priority going forward, while seven out of 10 said engagement would play a vital role in their business’ recovery
The rules of engagement are:
Rule 1 Engagement is founded on trust
Rule 2 Engagement is driven by emotions
Rule 3 Engagement is 20% culture, 80% climate
The Training Foundation, formed in 1998, is a performance improvement organisation focused on assisting employers to improve organisational performance in two critical areas; by sustaining high employee engagement and by effective learning and development strategies. For more information or to access The Rules of Engagement white paper, go to www.trainingfoundation.com