Driving Employee Engagement Post-Recession: Best Practices for Australian Companies

by Saba Software | Posted | Engagement

Employee engagement is at an all time low for Australian companies, with research showing it is actually lower than during the global financial crisis.

Recent research from ORC International shows that Australian organisations lag behind other industrialized countries, ranking #10 in a global study on employee engagement.

The study involved a survey of 9,000 employees across 19 countries, and amongst the Australian employees surveyed, the results were closely aligned with overall global findings.

Results indicate that an employee’s enjoyment day-to-day tasks directly correlates to how well managed the organisation is.

However, the study found that Australian employees are more apt to leave their employer than those in other countries.

A May 2012 survey from Kelly Services found that 33 per cent of Australian employees are frequently thinking about leaving their job, and about twice as many intend to leave within the next 12 months.

The question is…why?

Both of these studies serve to illustrate a higher than average level of retention risk for Australian organisations. To stay competitive and drive results, employee engagement is a critical business strategy.

Research from Towers Perrin found that companies with high engagement levels had 2% to 4% improvement in operating margin and net profit margin, whereas those with low engagement showed a decline of about 1.5% to 2%.

What helps motivate engagement?

While talent management has many facets, performance management is truly at the heart of it. An effective performance management process focuses on aligning your workforce, improving employee performance, supporting employee development and driving better business results — all year round.

Thus, getting managers and employees to fully participate in your performance management process is critical to its effectiveness, and to driving engagement. Performance management should be used by managers to:

Provide a framework for employees in terms of setting expectations, goals, skills and more. Every employee should clearly understand how the work they do ties back to the organization’s goals and how to allocate their time and other resources.

Focus on coaching employees and delivering feedback that targets the employee’s strengths. Constructive feedback and positive reinforcement is much more effective than continually pointing out faults. This ultimately makes it easier to identify and replicate the conditions that support high performance.

While negative feedback should be given, it needs to be balanced out with positive feedback on an ongoing basis.

Create strong relationships with employees based on regular, ongoing, two-way dialogue. By consistently checking in and discussing expectations and goals, issues can be addressed and areas for development identified in a timely fashion.

Training managers to think and act this way is key to ensuring employee engagement. As the saying goes, people don’t leave a position, they leave their manager.

If your organisation struggles with engagement and retention, start by assessing your employee performance management process and the role of your managers in supporting it.

Steps You Can Take to Improve Employee Engagement

The good news is that when it comes to employee engagement, the overwhelming majority of employees are “up for grabs” – meaning what your organisation does to motivate, reward and inspire employees makes all the difference in attracting and retaining the best talent. The proven business and financial impact is well worth the effort to put employee engagement at the top of the agenda.

With this in mind, what can you practically do to improve employee engagement? This HR Centre of Excellence on Employee Engagement offers some great resources on the topic.

A few quick suggestions:

  • Equip managers with the training and tools they need to motivate employees, have conversations about performance and improve overall engagement.
  • Ensure your organisation is committed to supporting employee development at all levels, including learning and mentoring opportunities. This helps to make conversations about an employee’s future with the organisations and their career path part of ongoing coaching efforts.
  • Put employee coaching at the top of the agenda, and ensure managers and executives understand that providing regular feedback to employees is critical to engagement and retention.
  • Implement a succession planning program for high performing, high potential employees to provide specific opportunities for development and career progression.
  • Ensure all employees have SMART goals that are aligned with overall organizational goals.


Australian organisations cannot afford to ignore employee engagement as a business driver. With the right talent management processes and programs in place organisations can make a significant impact on employee engagement and drive business results.

To learn more about how employee engagement can impact for Australian businesses, join us for a free educational webinar on June 26th.


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