The Hewitt Associates study, The Future of Engagement, looks at the efforts to measure employee engagement at 150 companies across Europe.
Of these, 85% reported that they had collected employee feedback in the past 24 months, with 64% of those gathering feedback within the last year. However, only 16% of the organisations reported a significant increase in engagement levels.
The findings show that for leaders at many organisations, employee engagement data is all too often viewed as an administrative step or as simply another survey. They reported that while engagement surveys contain interesting facts, they lack linkages to the day-to-day decisions that management needs to take.
The Hewitt study showed that successful organisations go beyond measuring employee attitudes and benchmarking to addressing the impact of business and HR strategies.
They have more practices in place to build accountability among leaders and less likelihood that HR alone will be responsible for taking action and they concentrate on the fundamentals, first making sure that they focus managers on the areas that really do impact on engagement, and not just on satisfaction. They take action in areas where employees see immediate impact.
Successful businesses ensure employees and managers work together to identify and agree those actions that will be most effective in addressing the issues raised. They use their data to understand what impacts engagement for critical groups such as high potential employees.
They also focus on understanding employee needs and wants sooner, rather than later. They canvass the perspectives of potential employees and new hires. They seek to understand the employee experience and to take action to address aspects of that experience that are not aligned with the employee promise.
Finally, successful respondents to the survey demonstrate links between engagement, leadership behaviours and business performance to increase commitment for action.
Jenny Merry, UK engagement practice leader at Hewitt Associates, said: "Harnessing the power of employees is not easy. Yet, now more than ever, engagement matters. In the economic climate of the past three years, when organisations have been looking to cut or reduce expenditure, they have had to recognise the need to keep their best people engaged. Even so, many are clearly struggling to make progress in driving employee engagement and in improving organisational performance.
"At a time when organisations are looking to employees to help them reduce costs, identify areas for growth, streamline processes and innovate faster than their competitors, our research shows that employee loyalty and engagement is waning. Employees in many organisations are showing fatigue in response to the lengthy period of stress, uncertainty and confusion of the economic downturn.
"The difference with leading organisations is that they don’t just regard these as exercises in collecting employee data. Instead, leaders take accountability for responding to the employee feedback. In these organisations, HR plays a supporting role and leaders take accountability for action as they understand the positive impact this will have on their financial performance."