Employees feel 'disengaged and unmotivated'

A survey suggests that staff feel increasingly disenfranchised. Or is it just the snow talking?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 16 Dec 2010
Employers would have been forgiven this morning for worrying that some staff might use all this snow as a good excuse to start a long weekend. But there might be another side to the story: a new survey has shown that more than half of employees in the UK are disengaged - unwilling to go that extra mile (or trudge that extra mile through frozen streets, in this case) for their employers. According to the Engagement Matters report, by consultancy Hay Group, companies where employees feel motivated and able to do their jobs can increase their turnover almost five times. Hence why it’s such a big issue for managers. But whose fault is it?

The survey drew a contrast between engagement, where staff feel motivated to contribute more than is expected, and ‘enablement’, where employers provide them with enough resources to allow them to be productive. And it doesn’t look good for us Brits: of the five countries in the survey, the UK has the lowest number of engaged employees, and the second-lowest number of enabled employees (above France, natch). But while just under half of employees feel both engaged and enabled, 22% feel frustrated with their jobs - they’re motivated, but they don’t feel the processes are in place to allow them to be as productive as they’d like to be.

Interestingly, though, managers say it’s one of their main worries. In fact, 82% of executives said it’s one of the three greatest threats facing their business, while just over half of UK-based executives say it’s discussed regularly during board meetings - compared to just over 40% across the whole of Europe. So the recognition is there, even if the solution isn’t. And, as they say in AA, the first step is recognising you have a problem...

However, Hay Group points out that it might not be down to managers - it might all be a knock-on result of the recession. The theory is that as the jobs market malaise continues, finding a job becomes harder - so employees are stuck in their current one, feeling disengaged and generally unsatisfied. That said, it’s worth pointing out that a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel last week said that job satisfaction had actually gone up, blaming it on employees feeling grateful that they’ve got a job at all (as they watch people being made redundant all around them).

And if your employees weren’t quite engaged enough (or just weren’t enabled) to battle their way in through the snow, the CIPD has urged businesses to take a ‘flexible’ approach and consider allowing staff to work from home. The employers’ organisation said that while headlines shout about the millions of pounds lost by British business because of the big freeze, that doesn’t necessarily take into account the thousands of people working from home. ‘Employers should make clear in advance what employees are expected to do in the event they cannot make it into work,’ said the CIPD's Mike Emmott. Just make sure you schedule in some time for the building of snowmen, too...

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