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Career development more popular than saving whales

May 28, 2014, Sharon Handy - New survey highlights employee engagement challenges and successful strategies
Career development more popular than saving whales

A new State of Employee Engagement survey from Smith & Henderson and HRZone, in association with Saba, has just been published. It is a mine of information with plenty of positive news for the champions of the process. The headline is that four out of five organisations are now committed to improving employee engagement. It tells us that engagement programmes work best when business leaders have high levels of buy in and have a robust strategy. When engagement programmes fail, the usual suspects are budget and lack of buy in

Also high on the list of culprits are ineffective infrastructure and processes. These include poor or lack of systems for performance management and recognition, career development and training. 23% of organisations cited this as a challenge. This is becoming more critical as the workforce demographics change and collaboration becomes more commonplace.

Easily the most common activity associated with engagement programmes is the employee survey. More than 80% of organisations surveyed have run one. Perhaps more interesting is what those organisations focus on as a result of the survey results. Way out in front comes improved communication. That’s followed by employee development and performance management. Interesting, but not entirely unpredictable perhaps. The survey cites 18, perfectly reasonable, follow on development activities. Strangely though, 18th and dead last of the points analysed, comes ‘corporate Social responsibility’ (CSR). 

Strangely because CSR practitioners inevitably claim that better employee engagement is one of the most important by-products. There are any number of scholarly articles in respectable magazines (such as this one in Forbes) which explain and demonstrate this. Instead, this survey suggests that most employees are really not bothered if their organisation helps to save the world. Or anything else come to that. They are way more interested in discovering what is going off and getting opportunities to improve themselves. It seems employee development, performance management and career development opportunities score every time over saving the whale.

The report also notes that if, after the employee survey, an organisation attempts to tackle more than six areas, its action plan will be diluted and less effective. But there should be no excuse for getting it wrong now – the report devotes a full chapter to advice on developing an effective engagement programme.  Now that has to be useful.

Download the State of Employee Engagement survey now

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