Satisfied employees could stall economic recovery

Research carried out by Pario HR Solutions, a specialist consultancy, has revealed that almost half the employees in UK companies are ‘marking time’ and managers are failing to create the conditions for high performance required to lift organisations out of the recession.

Doug Crawford, a director of Pario HR Solutions, explains: “Our latest research shows that while 47% of employees are either highly or moderately engaged, and only 5% are seriously disaffected, 48% are merely ‘satisfied’ with their role and the  organisation employing them.

“Engaged employees are characterised by being highly committed to their organisation, their colleagues and their customers – and therefore provide high levels of discretionary effort, deliver higher quality work and exhibit superior levels of service.”

However, there is no evidence that satisfied employees, as defined by the Pario research, deliver more than the bare minimum in terms of performance – and are frequently reluctant to embrace change.

The worrying aspect is that, as the recession deepens and the fear of job losses grows, a back-to-basics ‘austerity management style’ may further reduce commitment, resulting in less engaged employees marking time until alternative options become available.

Unless organisations take appropriate action, lower levels of performance will be the outcome.

The research – which involved analysing data collected from over 2,500 employees across a range of public, private and not for profit organisations – revealed that the single most significant factor distinguishing ‘engaged’ from ‘satisfied’ employees was the extent to which the organisation demonstrated that it cared about its employees through its actions.

In particular, Pario identified five tangible activities that were of particular importance: practising open and honest communication and keeping people informed; providing opportunities for learning and development and making best use of individual skills; creating a climate of trust and allowing people to use their judgement; providing regular constructive feedback and recognition for good work; treating people fairly and with respect.

Doug Crawford continues: “These findings have major implications for how organisations treat their employees, particularly when people are concerned about their future. Organisations must work especially hard at creating conditions to bring the best out of their employees.

“In particular, they should make sure a climate of suspicion and distrust isn’t allowed to develop and, tempting though it may be, avoid falling into the trap of ‘austerity management’ by restricting communications and involvement, cutting training budgets and adopting ‘micro management’ practices. Such actions are likely to prove counter productive.”

He concludes: “Employee commitment is a fragile concept which can easily be undermined, particularly in times of uncertainty, with potentially disastrous effects on organisational performance.

“It is therefore especially important that organisations regularly monitor the state of ‘organisational health’ in terms of employees’ engagement, satisfaction or disaffection levels; understand which employee groups are the most vulnerable; and take appropriate action.

“But it is also important to recognise that employee ‘engagement’ and ‘satisfaction’ are two very different things; measuring the wrong one can easily lead to a sense of false security with potentially disastrous consequences. It is also vital that managers at all levels have the skills and engage in behaviours critical to building and maintaining the commitment required to ride out the recession.”

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