People who have a passion for their work are happier and perform better, according to research released by Kingston University and commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).The report draws on the experiences of two public and two private sector organisations and suggests that where employers fail to inspire their workforces they under-perform as a result.
Employee Engagement in Context dissects employee attitudes and behaviour at the four organisations in an attempt to help employers pinpoint the factors that influence high levels of loyalty and commitment and look at how they lead to happier and more productive staff.
Director of Kingston University’s Centre for Research in Employment, Skills and Society, Professor Katie Truss, who headed the four-strong Kingston research team, said many organisations were too bogged down in strategy, policy and process to pay enough attention to staff morale. “There’s a saying that Martin Luther King had a dream, not a strategy, and when it comes to inspiring people we need to appeal to their emotional, not just their rational side,” she said. “I know it’s a cliché, but it really is a question of winning hearts as well as minds.”
During the current credit crunch, it was all too easy for employers to forget about motivating their staff in the scramble to cut costs, Professor Truss said. But that was a grave error of judgement. “The economy will bounce back eventually but there’s absolutely no point in coming through the other side with a workforce that feels undervalued and frustrated – organisations need to invest in their staff right now.”
The key was to help employees understand how their work had real value, Mike Emmott, employee engagement adviser at the CIPD explained. “People who are happy in their work perform better, they ‘talk up’ their organisation, are more loyal and tend to recommend the organisation to others,” he explained. This type of investment in people was not necessarily onerous or expensive, though.
“It really isn’t rocket science,” Professor Truss stressed. “We found that helping people connect with their roles is just about such common sense principles as providing a good work-life balance, listening to staff, providing people with the time and opportunity to share ideas and, most importantly, recognising and rewarding them for their contribution to your organisation.”
This latest report forms part of a long-term project exploring employee attitudes and motivation in a range of organisations. The project was sparked by a survey led by Professor Truss in 2006, also commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, which quizzed 2,000 workers from the public and private sector about aspects of their working life.
“This latest study gave us the chance to drill down past the initial employee perceptions we had gathered and see how they applied to employees within four particular work environments,” she said. “We wanted to look at what fired people’s enthusiasm for their work and try to pick out how employers could create those conditions to help increase the well-being of their staff and, in turn, help their business.”
More and more employers were recognising that employee engagement was an essential tool to driving improved levels of productivity at both individual and organisational level, Mike Emmott explained. “This research suggests that there is significant room for improvement. The unfortunate fact is that few employees feel a strong sense of loyalty in their jobs while most do not feel they are important within their organisation at all and, unless this issue is addressed head-on, organisations will continue to under-perform,” he said.
The project, based on a study funded jointly by the CIPD and members of the Kingston Business School Employee Engagement Consortium, is a collaboration between academics and human resource practitioners. Click here to download Employee Engagement in Context from the CIPD website http://www.cipd.co.uk/subjects/empreltns/general/_empengctxt.htm?IsSrchRes=1.
The case-study report was written by Professor Katie Truss and Dr Mark Gatenby (Kingston University), Dr Chris Rees (Royal Holloway, University of London) and Dr Emma Soane (London School of Economics).