Respect tops engagement drivers

by 04 Feb 2008

RESPECT IN the workplace has the strongest impact on employee engagement, a global study has found.

Respect topped a list of 12 factors which most influence engagement at work in the UK, US and Asia, while the type of work performed and a healthy work-life balance were also considered important engagement drivers globally.

Analysis of global workplace research into employee attitudes and perceptions, conducted by Mercer in 22 countries, found that the factors contributing to employee engagement not only vary between countries but also between different employing organisations.

It also noted that general attitudes to workplace issues are more positive in some cultures than in others, while specific factors such as pay, benefits and work-life balance are considered more important in some countries than others.

Workers in France and India cited the type of work as the strongest driver of engagement. In Japan, employees rate base pay as most important, while in China, benefits came top of the list. German workers, meanwhile, cited the people they work with as strongest factor.

While most employees across the world consider a healthy work-life balance to be an important driver of engagement, workers in China and India place less importance on this factor.

Being able to provide good customer service is also a strong driver globally, especially in the UK. Meanwhile, workers in Japan said it is the least important of the 12 factors rated.

“In today’s demanding global business environment, employers want employees who are not just satisfied, but truly engaged in their work and the success of the organisation,” said Patrick Gilbert, a principal and employee research expert at Mercer.

“We characterise engaged employees as those who feel a vested interest in their employers’ success and who perform at levels that exceed their stated job requirements. These employees willingly contribute discretionary effort that helps to drive business performance and establish a source of competitive advantage.”

The drivers of engagement vary from country to country and from company to company, according to Gilbert. Even within companies, the drivers will vary across different businesses and functional areas.

And even when workplace characteristics are shared, such as English as a first language, Gilbert said differences in national culture, the state of economic development and market conditions can have a significant influence on employee expectations and perceptions of the workplace and, subsequently, on employee engagement.

Rajan Srikanth, head of human capital for Mercer Asia-Pacific, said engagement is important to companies in the Asian region for two reasons.

“On one front they are aggressively courting opportunities for globalising and looking at ways to successfully expand their operations across multiple markets in Asia and beyond,” he said.

“On the other front, they are struggling to cope with the war for talent that is raging across Asia. Learning how to win the hearts and minds of employees in different geographies and industry sectors is key to winning both these battles.”

Generally speaking, Srikanth said Asian employees want respect in the workplace. A close second across the region is employee concern over how they are compensated. “What this means for employers is that if they become better listeners, showing employees that they are valued and that their role in the success of the business is crucial, and recognising individual differences in how they tailor rewards, they could be offering the employee a value proposition that cannot be easily refused,” he said.

While Chinese employee appear most driven by how much cash they are getting paid (base pay) and what sort of benefits they receive, Srikanth said the Indian employee appears to be more interested in opportunities for personal growth influenced by the type of work, promotion opportunities and long-term career potential.

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