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Employee engagement is a national concern for UK employers

uploaded on 10 January 2024

A staggering 90% of UK employees feel disengaged from their employer according to Gallup’s latest global workforce report, making us one of the most disengaged countries in Europe. And more than half of UK workers (55%) feel that work is getting more intense and demanding with 40% saying they regularly have to work outside their contracted hours and do more work in less time.

 

Employees can clearly articulate what’s making them feel disengaged. Some factors are external to work - a tough economic climate and decline in access to NHS and care services is dampening public mood. Others sit with the organisation, where staff shortages and modern technology are creating a higher volume of work and a more intense work experience. As a result, 4 in 10 staff say they feel more stressed at work than last year.

All this has serious consequences for business. As work intensifies, so do levels of stress, anxiety, burnout and presenteeism negatively impacting employee health and wellbeing. The link between employee wellbeing and work performance is well understood which makes the challenge of re-engaging employees a critical business issue and priority for HR.

How has this precarious situation arisen at a time when UK employers are investing heavily in employee engagement? In some cases employers may be expecting engagement solutions to do the heavy lifting without addressing four key barriers that prevent them from being more effective. Use the guidance below to evaluate the impact each is having on employee engagement and construct an action plan to enhance or improve.

4 key influences on employee engagement

  1. Neglecting psychological needs

    Gallup's research highlights 12 psychological needs that employees look to satisfy at work. At the most basic level we require the necessary resources and clear expectations to do a job. We also have more complex needs such as a sense of purpose linked to the company’s purpose and the opportunity to use our strengths. The report reveals that few employers are meeting these needs, leaving employees feeling disengaged from their employer.

    The ability to meet employee psychological needs sits within the control of the organisation but it’s important for employers to also minimise the impact of external factors such as the cost-of-living crisis on staff or provide support to access affordable health care services.
  2. No skin in the game

    Employers are unlikely to see a significant improvement in engagement unless employees feel they belong in the organisation and that there is equity of opportunity in your promotion processes to succeed on merit. Your people want to feel part of a work community and that they are working together toward a shared purpose. Without an inclusive culture and leadership, employees will struggle to thrive or find pleasure in their work.
  3. Bad bosses

    We all know the saying, “staff don’t leave companies, they leave managers.”  It’s true, Gallup found 75% of workers that voluntarily leave their jobs do so because of their boss – not the role itself or the company. This highlights the critical need for organisations to invest in line managers and support their wellbeing. Since the pandemic, demands on managers have increased, while investment in their development and wellbeing has decreased.

    People are frequently promoted to managerial positions based on their technical experience rather than people management skills. Softer skills aren’t necessarily innate in everyone but can be learned. A manager that can make an employee feel truly valued, set clear expectations, remove any barriers to their success, and coach their growth positively impacts employee satisfaction and engagement.
  4. Undervalued and unappreciated

    Research shows that employers who value staff have higher levels of staff retention, engagement, and motivation. Yet a common mistake is to rely on just a few points in the calendar year to show appreciation. Typically, this means a focus on end of year, summer party and the annual performance review.

    Seasonal celebrations, a pay rise or bonus periods will provide an initial spike in employee motivation, but this effect soon dissipates as employees return to business as usual. Organisations that want to drive the business benefits of staff recognition throughout the year should have a plan in place to continually motivate employees. And ensure line managers understand the business rationale behind these plans so they can add their full support.

Edenred can help you engage your staff

Employee engagement will continue to be a key priority for HR this year. While it’s important to have the right tools in place to support engagement, employers must also address the factors that impede or enable success. If you’d like to find out how they can drive better engagement in your own organisation, book a free demo with our friendly team.

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