Employee engagement - the willingness of workers to go the extra mile at work - took a big hit during the recession and has not bounced back, reveals new research by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA), a global network of professionals in people management.
BCG and WFPMA conducted the web survey between December 2009 and March 2010, receiving 5,561 responses from executives in more than 100 countries. Of those who responded, 1,304 answered questions about engagement. This survey was supplemented by interviews with more than 150 senior executives.
A joint BCG-WFPMA publication, Creating a New Deal for Middle Managers: Empowering a Neglected but Critical Group, reveals a global engagement problem that, as the title suggests, is most severe among middle managers, who oversee the majority of employees at most companies. The publication is based on a survey of executives from more than 100 countries and an analysis of BCG's Engaging for Results database, which represents more than 1 million responses from employees about their level of engagement.
About one-third of the executives who responded to the survey reported that each of the following six areas was especially weak at their companies:
- Structured career management that rewards appropriate behaviour
- Clear consequences for individuals not living the company values
- Compensation-linked to performance
- Managers acting as ''resources,'' or coaches
- Training and development of employees in people-management practices
- Recognition beyond compensation
''Most senior executives recognise the importance of employee engagement to corporate performance, but they do not necessarily know how to take concrete steps to improve it,'' says Rainer Strack, a senior partner and managing director in the Düsseldorf office of BCG and co author. ''This survey gives companies a clear idea of where they should focus their attention.''
In order to understand the root causes of this global engagement problem, BCG and WFPMA also analysed BCG's Engaging for Results database. Two conclusions jumped out of this deeper analysis. First, employees were particularly dissatisfied with the performance of their companies in three broad areas closely related to the six problem spots flagged in the survey.
- Performance management, which includes the processes and systems that set targets, collect feedback, and link actions to results
- Recognition, which includes formalized ways of acknowledging and rewarding strong performance
- People manager capabilities, which include people skills and leadership behaviors throughout the organization