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Low employee engagement causes troubles

Employee engagement - the willingness of workers to go that extra mile at work - took a big hit during the recession and has not bounced back, according to research conducted by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the World Federation of People Management Associations. A joint BCG-WFPMA publication reveals a global engagement problem that is most severe among middle managers, who oversee the majority of employees at most companies.

The study is based on a survey of executives from more than 100 countries. 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 behaviours
  • 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.

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: First, employees were particularly dissatisfied with the performance of their companies in three broad areas:

  • 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 behaviours throughout the organization.

Secondly, the decline in satisfaction was most dramatic among middle managers. Between 2007 and 2009 their scores for performance management and recognition dropped by 14 percent, and their scores for people manager capabilities fell by 10 percent.

"Many companies had to take drastic action during the recession in order to survive. Now that the worst of the downturn appears to be over, they should start reconnecting with their employees," says Jean-Michel Caye, a partner and managing director in the Paris office of BCG and co-author. "The best place to start is with the middle managers, who historically have not received adequate support or authority and yet play critical roles in the company." (September 9th, 2010)

Source: Boston Consulting Group

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