Monday, 18 June 2012

Engaging our way out of recession

The news is full of the fact that we're back in recession and that we need growth to get ourselves out of it. What's frustrating is that nobody - not in the mainstream media anyway - is talking about employee engagement being part of the solution.
There's lots of talk of getting banks lending, housebuilding (you might guess I'm in support of this one), keeping interest rates low and roping in the marvellous Mary Portas to jazz up our High Streets...but no word on engagement.
Employee engagement - when it's true, transformational engagement that connects with people at a visceral level - can unlock growth and take people (and organisations, and UK PLC) from mediocre to unstoppable.
Engage4Success, the Government-backed movement of public and private sector organisations which practice and promote engagement, is fighting to get this message heard by business, but there is a danger that it is preaching to the converted.
This post on an Aon Hewitt Employee Engagement Survey makes for depressing reading. Engagement is up (a bit) worldwide, but generally companies are finding it harder to engage their employees in this economic climate and many are taking the view 'you're lucky to have a job'.
The report explains: "The global recession has taken its toll on employees as pay freezes, benefit cuts, and layoffs permeate the workforce, making it more difficult to maintain high levels of engagement." 
But the study recognises:
"Against this backdrop, it is more important than ever for employers to develop and maintain a highly engaged workforce."
It is short-sighted to think of employee engagement as a 'nice-to-have' extra for when times are good but drop it when times get tough. When times are hard are precisely when you need to invest (and that doesn't necessarily mean ££) in employee engagement.
Engaged employees are more productive, more creative, more innovative, healthier, more flexible and resilient to change; and therefore exactly the kind of people who will help grow businesses and get our economy moving. If you need proof, check out this evidence that highly-engaged businesses outperform the general stock market by three times.
If we want growth, employee engagement is part of the solution.

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