Re-evaluating Employee Engagement

Re-evaluating Employee Engagement

The continuing importance of engagement for management

Employee engagement has emerged as an important area for organisations in a bid to improve performance and this has made it an attractive idea to HR managers and leaders. It is a broad concept with issues in how to define and measure it and its results.

Nevertheless, some research shows engagement helps sustain a more happy, healthy, productive and innovative workforce more likely to make full use of their skills and less likely to leave. Also, it is a ‘motherhood and apple pie’ concept, ie it is taken as self-evidently a ‘good thing’.

There seems to be some pressure on traditional ways of encouraging engagement.

There seems to be some pressure on traditional ways of encouraging engagement. These include:

  • equitable and transparent management;
  • secure and fulfilling jobs, trust and respect;
  • training, development and career progression;
  • team-work and participation and flexible working and supporting work home balance.

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The applicability and veracity of these require re-evaluation in the context of organisational strategies and labour market changes. This includes higher workforce turnover and career changes with more traditional notions of ‘freelancers’ and ‘portfolio careers’ given greater subsistence by technology and changes in personal preferences.

Higher turnover may be due to both organisational business strategy ie use of more labour, numerical flexibility as well as employee preferences (different characteristics, views and expectations about work, organisations and life).

The ‘dark side’ of the gig economy needs to be recognised, such as the growth of ‘precarious’ jobs spreading from not just traditional sectors to white collar/skilled with the idea of a growing ‘precariat’ – has been observed.

For example, it is argued ‘Millennials’ are seen as well-educated, technologically savvy, entrepreneurial and creative, self-confident, multi-taskers, energetic, seeking challenges, socially-minded and wanting to ‘do good’ and ‘give back’. Yet, at the same time, work-life balance is important. Hence, it is argued there is more movement between jobs with a desire for variety and for work on new and existing projects, producing the nomenclature of the so-called ‘gig economy’.

However, for some businesses, it seems greater engagement is not of interest but rather practices encouraging the opposite and ‘disengagement’ ie the growth of zero hour contracts and the need for enforcement regulations around the UK’s National Living Wage do not seem to imply much reciprocal commitment from companies such as Sports Direct, Amazon, etc. The ‘dark side’ of the gig economy needs to be recognised, such as the growth of ‘precarious’ jobs spreading from not just traditional sectors to white collar/skilled with the idea of a growing ‘precariat’ – has been observed.

So, the issue of how to maintain employee engagement is more difficult in both sets of circumstances above, not least as the ‘psychological contract’ is shorter and weaker – the mutual commitment is less.

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Headline image courtesy DesignCue of stocksnap.io





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