IES has carried out extensive research on defining and measuring engagement and identifying engagement drivers. The following page outlines some of the key findings and gives some practical information and advice on the subject of employee engagement.
IES research into employee engagement
Research has been carried out in two phases and at the end of each phase a report has been produced:
- Phase 1: 2003-2004 report produced ‘Drivers of Employee Engagement’.
- Phase 2: 2005-2007 report produced ‘Engagement: The Continuing Story’
Phase 1 research
What is engagement?
In 2003 IES carried out an extensive consultation of its member companies (sample of 46) to ask ‘what is engagement?.' Following this IES defined and developed an engagement indicator and an engagement diagnostic tool. These were both tested in the NHS, with a sample of over 10,000 employees. In 2004 IES produced a report ‘Drivers of Employee Engagement’.
Consultation: an engaged employee …
- believes in the organisation
- works to make it better
- understands business context and the ‘bigger picture’
- respects colleagues and helps others
- is willing to ‘go the extra mile’
… and so brings business benefits
IES define engagement as ‘Engagement is a positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of business context, and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to nurture, maintain and grow engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employer and employee.’
Phase 2 research
From 2005 to 2007 IES tested the indicator and the diagnostic tool in different settings, including a mobile telephone company (retail arm), software business consultancy, government agency, utility regulatory body, secondary school, local government IT function, medical research charity and in the police force.
In 2007 IES put together a report ― ‘Engagement: The Continuing Story’
The main finding from the research was that feeling valued and involved, while important, was not the key driver for all organisations. The most important drivers are:
- job satisfaction
- feeling valued and involved
- perceptions of equality of opportunity
- satisfaction with health and safety
- Also important, but less so: length of service, ethnicity, satisfaction with communication, views about co-operation within the organisation
The evidence: the link between performance and engagement
IES did a review of evidence over the past five years looking into the link between performance of an organisation and staff engagement:
- Towers Perrin 2003: engagement linked to revenue growth
- Harter et al. 2002: engagement linked to customer satisfaction/loyalty, profitability, productivity, labour turnover
- ISR 2003: high engagement companies showed an increase in profit, low engagement companies a fall
- Oakley 2005: high employee engagement linked to increased customer engagement
- Heintzman and Martin 2006: link between employee engagement and trust and confidence in public institutions
- Corporate Leadership Council: engaged employees 87 per cent less likely to leave
- Graen 2008: an engaged employee base facilitates change when required
The research delivers some clear messages, but also shows that there are no easy answers. What engages employees may be different from the norm.
- some are harder to engage: craftspeople, professionals, medium/long servers, backroom support
- public sector may find it harder – resource constraints, accountability, low turnover, no clear ‘bottom line’, political pressures
- engagement to what? The trust, patients, the profession, the NHS?
- tackling engagement needs commitment from top managers who will have to lead by example
- it also needs confident, well supported line managers.
Helping line managers to manage well
A good clinician doesn’t necessarily make a good people manager. Line managers need:
- good quality training, delivered when they first start supervising people and reinforced at intervals
- examples of good practice – perhaps a ‘buddy’ system for new line managers?
- clear, accessible, easily interpreted policies and procedures
- a supportive HR function for difficult situations and for trying out anything new
- access to staff development opportunities
- support from their own line managers, especially when times and tough
- commitment from senior management to people issues
Moving forward with engagement
New IES research: The Engaging Manager
- Do managers whose teams have high engagement scores share characteristics and/or behaviours?
- Are these portable or context dependent?
- Can they be taught?
- What gets in the way of being engaging – time pressures, targets?
- How do engaging managers react when things go badly?
- We may face hard times ahead – what will happen to engagement levels when companies feel the pinch? Is investing in engagement more or less important during a recession?
- Darzi’s Next Stage Review stresses the importance of the contribution of staff – is this an opportunity?
- Can we use the staff survey better to measure engagement?
We will keep you updated with IES's work and research through our website, for more information on IES visit their website .