With the latest round of public sector redundancies, unemployment figures have increased to 2.5million.
The private sector is under pressure to fill this gap, yet it is still reeling from its own rounds of redundancies during the past few years and struggling to put on meaningful growth. This means that many companies will be working their employees harder, longer and without reward. As a result, it is likely that these companies will be facing their lowest ebb in employee engagement yet, with a huge impact on productivity. According to IES, disengaged workers cost the UK £44bn a year in lost productivity. Working in this tough environment has a knock-on impact on everyone - not least HR directors who face the challenge of making sure the workforce is productive.
An invariable effect of all these combined factors is that employees will want to leave, but will bide their time until the job market in their sector is more welcoming. Currently, its decidedly tough with over-skilled people competing for positions well below their level. What does this mean for HR directors? Typically the upshot is that they are tasked with motivating a highly unengaged workforce so that they don't face a mass exodus of valuable employees when the economic climate does improve. How can HR directors rescue morale when it is at an all-time low?
HR directors need an employee engagement strategy with achievable objectives to improve employee performance. The best approach is a 'holistic' one - yes, this word might turn some off - but by integrating all HR processes into an overall engagement strategy is far more effective. Here are some prime considerations:
Line management: Line managers are responsible for motivating and engaging your workforce making them crucial to your business DNA. Investing (time and/or money) in quality line management skills has to be a priority. A limited understanding of what is required or how to communicate effectively will only lead to lack of focus and disengagement at all levels.
Formal reviews and training: People want to do well in their job, develop and feel valued. Without providing feedback on performance, setting out objectives or providing training, employees can lack direction and feel undervalued, both of which detrimentally impact performance.
Company communication: What channels of communication do you use to disseminate company news, work or social events and are you aware of the take up or engagement with these? It's all very well sharing valuable content, from financial updates and business successes to social activities, but if employees aren't reading it then it's a redundant process.
Inventive employee engagement: Sometimes you need to go beyond the work environment for team bonding, and this doesn't just mean a few pints down the local. Allowing employees to volunteer can support a positive company culture as well as personal development plans. From one-off group volunteering events to help bonding and skill development, to long-term commitments to a local charity that provides opportunities for individuals and teams to donate their professional skills, all these activities not only benefit the charities but also learning & development and engagement levels.
Benchmarking: It's the only way to monitor individual and overall staff performance, levels of employee engagement, and map these against business performance. You can assess the impact of each HR process outlined process and will have the ammunition to show the board the value your strategy brings to the business.
Of course these actions alone are not a 'panacea', but the fact remains that morale will not and can not be improved by just one motivational speech from an unknown member of the board or by a few free glasses of wine - although those certainly can help in the very very short term. The reality is that most of these activities are undervalued by businesses yet have a tangible positive impact on engagement and business performance and it is the responsibility of the HR function to recognise and drive this value to secure their most valuable employees leaving the moment they can.
Malcolm Scovil (pictured) is CEO of LeapCR
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