Monday, March 12

Communicating Internally: Engagement Matters

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), half of all employees who say they do not feel valued at work intend to look for a new job in the next year (almost three times as likely as those who do feel valued). But this turnover statistic alone doesn't capture the most convincing arguments within the study, given many employers are happy to see unsatisfied employees go.

The real boon comes from valued employees. 

Employees who do feel valued are more likely to report better physical health, better mental health, and higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, and motivation. In fact, almost all employees who feel valued at work say they are more motivated to do their best work and 88 percent say they feel engaged.

Translating this information into tangible measures is relatively easy. Valued employees take fewer sick days, produce better quality work, and are much more likely to refer or talk about their companies.

"The business world is in the midst of a sea change," says David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, head of APA's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. "Successful organizations have learned that high performance and sustainable results require attention to the relationships among employee, organization, customer and community."

The real costs associated with unvalued employees. 

More than one in five (21 percent) of working Americans said they do not feel valued by their employers. And while this number doesn't necessarily seem alarming, it can be if those employees are consecrated within a single company. 

In fact, according to the APA, one of the underlying symptoms of companies in trouble are those with an abundance of employees suffering from chronic stress, especially when it is exacerbated by low salaries (46 percent), lack of opportunities for growth or advancement (41 percent), too heavy a workload (41 percent), long hours (37 percent), and unclear job expectations (35 percent).

Like other studies outside the workforce, the leading complaints among unvalued employees isn't tied exclusively to compensation. Employees, much like consumers, are looking for something more meaningful. They want to have a sense of purpose at their place of work.

Why do employees feel undervalued or unvalued at work?

• Fewer opportunities for involvement in decision making (84 percent).
• Less satisfied with the potential for growth and advancement (70 percent).
• Less likely to say they are receiving adequate monetary compensation (69 percent). 
• Less likely to say that they are receiving adequate non-monetary rewards (65 percent). 
• Fewer opportunities to use flexible work arrangements at the job (59 percent). 

A few years ago, a Gallup study on employee engagement found that about 54 percent of employees in the United States are not engaged and 17 percent are disengaged. (Only 29 percent are engaged.)

Remedies to increase engagement included two-way communication, trust in leadership, career development, shared decision making, and the means to understand the importance every role plays within a company. (Not surprisingly, many of these descriptors also appear on social media tip sheets.)

We've included some of these remedies before in several articles, including: Forgetting A Public, Manifesting Creativity, and Thinking Big. Coincidentally, the first article (conducted by a different researcher) also found that as many as 50 percent of all employees who did not feel valued would be looking for a new job. One of the most common reasons cited by employers who do not value employees was that it was an employers' market and their employees could be readily replaced. (It would not be surprising to learn that many of these companies feel the same way about their customers.)

Interestingly enough, the benefits of developing an engaged, participatory, and valued group of individuals is not confined to the workforce. The dynamic exists within volunteer organizations, social networks, and even families. The more people feel involved — and can better understand that their contributions carry meaning — the better results businesses, organizations, communities, and groups can anticipate in return.
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