Employers struggling to engage employees

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Communication is key to tackling low engagement, but a thoughtful approach is needed

More than a quarter (28%) of employers are struggling to engage their workforce, according to a study from Totaljobs.

The Employee Engagement Battle found that many employers (59%) attribute low workplace productivity to disengaged employees. Linked to this, the survey revealed that low engagement has resulted in poor employee performance for 62% of the employers polled.

Other symptoms of low engagement cited were lateness and employees leaving early (48%), staff chatting with colleagues (41%), people taking too many breaks (41%), and staff browsing the internet (55%).

Cary Cooper, 50th anniversary professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester's business school, said that such behaviours are “clear indications that [people are] not engaged in [their] work. [They’re] not satisfied with it. [They’re] not interested in it.” He added that another reason for low engagement and low productivity could be that people are “under a lot of pressure and need breaks". “Either way it’s not good news,” he said.

Communication is key to tackling this, according to the Totaljobs study. Just over half of employers (51%) said emails, newsletters and team meetings were effective tools.

Cooper warned, however, of the damage corporate communications can do to engagement if not used intelligently and thoughtfully. “Emails are damaging people at work,” said Cooper. “We need them but we’re not controlling them. Sending emails after work hours, at weekends and on holiday is inappropriate and causing problems at home, which is feeding back in to work. Emails are not a good way of engaging people.

“Face to face communication is the answer,” he added. “It’s the environment you create and I think the underlying problem of all of this is do we have the right line managers? Do we have line managers with a lot of [emotional intelligence] who are socially and interpersonally skilled?”

Chiming with this, 25% of employers surveyed by Totaljobs cited building a strong management team as key to promoting engagement. Setting clear objectives was deemed the most important, with 46% referencing this. Creating a stimulating work environment was highlighted by 39% of employers. Other strategies cited included rewarding the most engaged employees (24%) and creating a strong team dynamic (28%).

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