Driving Engagement through Career Opportunities.

Building employee engagement has been a challenge for organisations on a global scale. Forbes has termed employee engagement to have taken the centre stage in Human Resource (HR), acknowledging the pivotal role it plays in motivating employees to achieve higher standards of productivity and the influence it has in building loyalty and commitment of an employee to an organisation.

Global trends have seen an adverse effect on employee engagement levels.

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According to an Aon Hewitt report on Trends in Global Employee Engagement, a significant majority of regions are experiencing a decline in employee engagement levels. The recent spate of human capital challenges rising over the past decade, coupled with the economic downturn beginning in 2008 have not only impacted employee engagement levels and perceptions globally, but has had resultant changes with regard to the drivers of employee engagement.

Given the significant role employee engagement plays in the workplace, an understanding of its key drivers would enhance the ability of the management to execute relevant and necessary decisions to strengthen the overall engagement of employees. The report further conducts employee engagement surveys to measure the level of employment experience across differing aspects of the work environment. An “impact analysis” is then conducted to determine key drivers and subsequently prioritises these factors in influencing engagement. The table below showcases the drivers identified in 2010, both globally and regionally.

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 The segmentation of these key drivers thus serve as a framework for management when deciding the route to take in increasing employee engagement, through focusing on increasing the level of engagement within the specific drivers that rank higher on the totem pole, thereby improving overall employee engagement in the process.

Career opportunities, in this instance, is undisputedly the highest ranked driving factor of employee engagement. As such, employers can tailor their HR practices in accordance to that through providing employees with avenues for career advancement. Whilst career advancements and progressions are more apparent in certain organisations or in specific industries, every organisation should work toward establishing a career development path for all employees, with the knowledge that this serves as a key driver to engagement. As improved levels of engagement greatly influence the retention rate for an organisation, it will benefit the organisation to building career opportunities as part of increasing employee engagement. This can occur in 2 phases:

1. Recruitment/Orientation

Upon recruitment or during the orientation stage where a new hire is assimilating into the company, it would be beneficial to discuss with the employee their expectations in terms of career progression and develop ways in which the company and the manager can put in place to aid the employee to achieving their expectations. With a development path that charts an employee’s progress, the employee can thus rest in the assurance that their employers are dedicated to developing their careers and will subsequently boost their engagement levels toward the organisation.

Such a system recognises the inclinations and aspirations of an individual. Every individual harbours a different set of ideals with regard to their path toward career progression. For instance, the Aon Hewitt report sheds light on the geographical differences in their prioritising of employee engagement drivers, as reflected below.

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Whilst career opportunities shows itself to be a common denominator globally, the employer can take into account such statistics and employ them to build employee engagement through understanding what drives the engagement of an individual, who could be of a different country, culture and background.

Furthermore, establishing such expectations right at the start would greatly align the expectation of both the employer and the employee to a common understanding, eradicating any miscommunication and misinterpretation of expectations once the full workload comes into play.

2. Quarterly Review

Upon establishing the framework of how career opportunities can build employee engagement and leveraging other relevant key drivers of engagement, employers can conduct quarterly reviews to measure and re-evaluate the engagement of an employee. At present, performance reviews are conducted regularly to review the performance of an employee and gauge where the employee is at in comparison to where they could be. Occasional employee engagement surveys are conducted to get a sense of the overall employee engagement. However, armed with the most current statistics on the trending key drivers of engagement, employers can reinvent their process of conducting employee engagement reviews or surveys. A greater focus can be placed on career opportunities and providing employees with the platforms to develop their career. For instance, employers can extend a greater ownership and control of certain tasks to an employee and expand their perspective through allowing selected employees to attend company functions or networking sessions to build their social connections that could boost an employee’s ability to develop social capital and potentially open an employee to new ideas and concepts of pursuing career opportunities within their workplace. Whilst this could mean an increase in the chance of poaching across companies or industries, the idea is that employee engagement is built through career opportunities and thus an employee would feel a sense of commitment and loyalty to the organisation and pursue opportunities within the organisation itself.

At the end of it all, driving engagement – commitment toward an organisation – is journey and not a destination in and of itself. Global trends can and will continue to have its impact on the key drivers of engagement. Evaluation of such drivers should thus be conducted on a consistent basis to generate the most updated data and aid management practices.

Reference to Study:

Aon Hewitt Report – Consulting (Talent and Organisation): Trends in Global Employee Engagement (2010)

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