Survey: Employers Focus On Engagement In Post-Recession Workplace

Even as employers appear reluctant to ramp up hiring, a new survey shows that the majority are committed to retaining the workers they have and are focused increasingly on employee engagement as the most effective means of achieving that goal.

In the survey of human resources professionals, 80 percent said their companies were focused on employee engagement and 67 percent said the focus on engagement is greater now than it was before the recession.  The survey was conducted by global outplacement and executive coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. among attendees at the annual conference and exposition of the Society for Human Resources Management held recently in Atlanta.

“As the job market continues to improve, albeit slowly, more and more workers are starting to seek new opportunities.  In recognition of this, employers are stepping up their efforts to hold on to the talent that was critical in helping the company survive the downturn,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Read the full report here.

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Hiring Surge On The Way; Employers Find Perks, Benefits Aid Employee Engagement

Hiring remains far from robust, but recent signs of life suggest that employers are poised for a possible surge by year’s end. A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that both hiring activity and job openings have improved significantly in recent months. The latest statistics show that companies hired 4.5 million new workers in May, up from 3.96 million the same month a year ago. In addition to those hired, employers reported having another 3.2 million job openings at the end of the month, compared to less than 2.5 million openings at the end of May 2009. Separations – both voluntary and involuntary – remain at a level (4.1 million in May) that makes it difficult to create a dent in the number of unemployed, which stands at 14.6 million. However, as USA Today reported Wednesday, public companies are sitting on record levels of cash and appear ready to go on a hiring binge as soon as they see evidence that this recovery is sustainable. What are employers waiting for when it comes to hiring? Could hiring accelerate this year or is a 2011 increase more likely? Since many of the 3 million job openings are not officially advertised, how do job seekers uncover the hidden opportunities?

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A new survey conducted by WorldatWork, Loyola University Chicago and the Hay Group suggests employees are becoming more interested in shaping their compensation packages to include work/life balance, especially in a time when employers are increasingly concerned with employee engagement. The survey found that 48 percent of employers surveyed agree that benefits and prerequisite programs have a high or very high impact on employee engagement, compared to 42 percent who believe raises have a high or very high impact and 41 percent who believe base salaries determine employee engagement. What kinds of perks will reengage employees? How can organizations strike a balance between their employees’ work and life? What other ways can companies foster and gauge their workers’ engagement?

SURVEY RESULTS: Employer Try To Protect Perks Amid Downturn

The weak economy is taking an increasingly heavy toll on jobs, with announced workforce reductions up 30 percent from a year ago. However, despite the need to cut costs, a new survey finds that a majority of companies are doing whatever it takes to preserve the perks their employees have grown to value. Surprisingly, many are still even planning to hand out year-end bonus checks.

The survey found that 57 percent of companies have been able to retain their existing perks. Another 10 percent are considering cuts in their perks packages, but have taken no action as yet.

Surprisingly, only 20 percent of companies have had to cut or eliminate perks as part of their cost-containment measures. About 35 percent of these companies were compelled to cut perks in order to save jobs.

In addition to holding on to perks, 50 percent of companies plan to give out year-end bonuses. Only four percent said the plan to reduce the size of bonus checks, while 23 percent said bonuses will be about the same as last year.

A survey of 607 human resource executives conducted by BNA, a business research and publish firm in Arlington, Virginia, and back office outsourcing provider ADP found that, despite the softer economy, 34 percent identified recruitment and retention as their top priority.

Companies that eliminate year-end bonuses and perks or cut them to the bone will probably discover that employee loyalty and productivity are greatly diminished. Employers may not see the impact during the downturn, when it is more difficult for unhappy workers to leave for greener pastures, but they will feel it when the economy improves.

Some companies learned this lesson the hard way following the 2001 recession and subsequent jobless recovery that lasted well into 2003. Other companies learned that they can provide perks that are highly valued by employees, yet cost the company very little, if not nothing.

In fact, 35 percent of the human resource executives surveyed who said that their companies were not cutting perks indicated that they utilized low-cost perks, which precluded the need for cutbacks.

Offering amenities such as casual work attire, early dismissal on Fridays during the summer, and pet-friendly offices are just a few examples of perks that are extremely popular among workers and, because they add no costs to the bottom line, companies are not forced to cut them in rough times.

Low-cost incentives can go a long way in building employee morale. Money is not the only or even single most important factor in whether an employee is happy with their job. Factors like work environment and flexible schedules as well as career advancement and promotional opportunities contribute heavily to job satisfaction.

Are your companies paring back perks? What do you see going on?

Are Workers Clueless? Gauging Employee Engagement

In January, Société Gén­érale uncovered illegal activity from one of its junior traders costing the company billions of dollars. A Workforce Management article “No Esprit de Corps Can Spell Trouble in Any Company,” by Jessica Marquez points to poor employee engagement as a possible reason no one addressed, for years, this company-threatening, and job-threatening, situation. How common is low employee engagement, and how can companies keep employees in the know?

Most workers can tell you what is going on in their companies, who does what, when, where and why. However, many others, at both large and small firms, do not know the interworkings of their own companies, and when suspicious activity arises, may not feel connected enough to the company to know what to do or to whom to turn.

Besides a feeling of disconnectedness, employees may feel 1) too intimidated to speak up, or 2) guilty for getting their co-workers in trouble. The latter may be more common in these situations. You spend 40 hours a week with your co-workers. Obviously and usually, some kind of friendly bonds can emerge. If you are unsure if their activity is really creating a problem, you may not feel it is your place to tell management, which may end up costing not only lots of money for the company but also your co-workers’ jobs.

One way to combat corporate disengagement is for management to make constant connections with their underlings. With all the new technological communication tools (see our Blogging: The Next Generation), management should be able to keep in contact, whether through e-mails, phone calls or texts. Also, employee reviews can be an excellent time to not only catch up with your workers, but also to keep them abreast of what is going on in the company. And employees, too, should ask about new company developments.

Results of a recent Mercer study found the following (From the Workforce Management article):

“…only 53 percent of employees in France said they would recommend their organizations to others as a good place to work. Forty-eight percent said they think senior managers do a good job of managing their workforce. And 35 percent said they believed the pay is good or better than pay offered by other organizations within their industries.”

If over half of a company’s employees think management is doing a poor job, there is a problem. Some HR representatives to whom we have talked send periodic surveys to their employees to get a sense of their attitude toward the company. This is a more direct way to get at the overall engagement of employees.

What other ways can employers gauge engagement? How can employees stay more connected?