How flexibility can boost waning engagement

Engagement efforts by Australian workers have dropped to their lowest in 12 months, with only one in five employees willing to go above and beyond for their employers, according to a recent research report.

The past 12 months have seen Australians working longer hours, under increased pressure achieve business results with fewer colleagues to shoulder the burden with, said Aaron McEwan, director of CEB, which conducted the research.

“Following the global financial crisis, Australia lost 10 per cent of its overall workforce,” said McEwan.

“Despite improvements to business conditions, these workers were never really replaced.”

“In an attempt to remain competitive in a challenging economic environment, staff across Australia have been stretched and are reaching breaking point.

“Consequently with fewer workers to share the load, businesses have struggled to offer flexible conditions; a key priority for Australians.”

The engagement-EVP link
The report found that 20 per cent of employees in Australia reported high discretionary effort and 38 per cent reported high intent to stay, which means that engagement in Australia is average.

To maximise employee engagement, the research suggested leaders in Australia should focus on improving employee satisfaction with key areas of the employee value proposition (EVP).

On average, employees in Australia are least likely to be satisfied with EVP attributes related to rewards.

“When considering what they want in a potential employer, the rewards attribute most important for employees in Australia is compensation,” the report said.

“Realities of the new work environment have executives needing more from their current teams.”

On average, it found that global executives believe they will need a 20 per cent improvement in performance over and above current levels to achieve goals.

Boosting engagement with flexibility
The report found that Australia is one of the only regions in the world where work/life balance is rated as the most important employee attribute, above compensation and career progression.

Engagement accounts for 46 per cent of variation in an employee’s overall performance, and McEwan said it is critical that business leaders address the key factors that influence engagement.

While the research revealed 70 per cent of business leaders believe staff engagement is critical to business growth, the research found that this is not translating into action.

McEwan said that if managers are to successfully boost engagement among employees, they must apply their existing business skills to the engagement activities that have the most impact on productivity and discretionary effort.

These include being supportive of employees work/life balance needs, providing opportunities for staff to complete personal tasks and responsibilities, and connecting employees with co-workers to allow collaboration.