* Keeping employees, keeping them engaged – are we doing better?

During 2006 the Australian Institute of Management conducted a survey (Managing the Future Survey Series Survey 2) to ascertain how well Australian companies were doing at attracting and retaining staff.  The main conclusions taken from the survey:

  • Contrary to many global studies on employee satisfaction, this survey shows that a majority of Australian employees believe they work for a great company and generally have a positive view of their organisation.
  • Older and more senior employees are generally more committed to their organisation than younger employees.
  • Disengaged employees generally feel undervalued, have negative opinions of their managers, perform less than others, have higher absenteeism rates and are less committed and satisfied with their jobs.
  • Australian managers rated highly in factors that are essential in building and sustaining employee relationships, however they did not rate as highly in providing inspiration and motivation. Australian managers also need to improve the way they manage employee performance.
  • The survey reveals that meaning, purpose and relationships are the key motivational influences in retaining employees. Interestingly, these factors strongly outweigh pay and benefits as retention factors. Senior managers are more likely to stay with an organisation where they have meaning and purpose and new and interesting challenges. Less senior employees see relationships with their co-workers as most important in staying with an organisation.
  • Nearly one in three employees at the general staff level are not working to their full potential.
  • While this study demonstrates that Australian companies seem to be doing well in building positive workplace cultures, the workforce, particularly generations X and Y, is still very mobile, with nearly a quarter of this sample indicating that they intend to change jobs within 12 months. No career advancement prospect was cited as the main reason for their intention to leave.

Overall, the findings suggest that keeping employees engaged in such a mobile workforce, in an employment market that is experiencing record low unemployment, will require innovative and creative strategies. No longer will simply paying employees more or being nice to them guarantee long term commitment.

Meaning, challenges, diversity, relationships, and advancement opportunities seem to be the key engagement triggers in the current employment environment.

During August 2006 the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) published the unemployment rates at 4.8%  with participation at 65%.   For August 2013 the ABS figures show the unemployment rate at 5.8% with a similar participation level.
Although there is higher unemployment, one of the factors affecting most industries in Australia is the “Labour shortage” or “recruitment difficulties”, these industries include resources, manufacturing, rail, logistics, agriculture to name a few (I notice these are genuine value adding industries!) .   The labour shortage can also be termed Skills Shortage as potential employees do not have the skill set required by employers.  Recruitment is basically the inability of the employer to attract suitable employees.

Research shows that skills are not being taken up by the work force at the same rate and in line with industry requirements, it also shows that industry is either not able to attract, or retain the limited supply of those skilled as needed nor is it able to encourage or attract those entering the market into acquiring the skills needed.

After talking to some HR professionals, one of the concerns they have is the focus of some companies when hiring, on educational achievement alone, rather than a balance between educational achievement and experience.  However, this practise, usually at a company level rather than industry, will introduce factors that will impact the industry as a whole.

Some industries are taking affirmative action but it would seem the lessons that should have been learnt since 2006 have still to be taken on board by many Australian companies.

  • Don’t loose your older employees, they are a better ROI
  • Engage your employees, inspire, empower and encourage them
  • Do a skills analysis, allow and ensure staff are working to their potential
  • Appropriately manage their performance, and train them
  • Build teamship and ownership, provide meaning and purpose

Do you have a story of success you could share? How your company is doing some or all of these things. Even better, are they doing something else that has worked?
Maybe you have an example of a lesson learnt the hard way.
Would love to see your comments.