Employee engagement low in SMEs

Just over a third of British staff are highly engaged at work, while 48 per cent claim to be only moderately engaged with the remainder having no or low engagement, research finds.

Line managers are the key to determine how engaged staff are at work, according to the 2015 engagement: how British business measures up survey.

Almost all highly engaged staff have a manager who cares about them (98 per cent), have someone who encourages their development (97 per cent), and have opportunities to learn and grow (98 per cent).

The study, commissioned by incentive and reward experts Red Letter Days for Business, explores employee engagement levels and how these correlate to key workplace practices.

Bill Alexander, CEO of Red Letter Days for Business says, ‘UK productivity is static and stands at nearly 20 per cent below the average for G7 countries. I believe the government is missing a low-cost trick to solve the issue – employee engagement.

‘It’s clear a small level of investment into correct training for managers to develop and encourage their staff will have a positive impact not just on engagement, but on productivity too.’

The research shows that managers who elicit highest engagement from staff encourage their development, let staff get on with their job, give staff opportunities to grow, and listen to opinions.

Praising staff and recognising good performance, as well as giving staff regular training, are also valued highly.

The research also reveals a high correlation between high engagement and believing your job is an important contributor to the purpose of your company (63 per cent), having someone who encourages your development (97 per cent), having colleagues who are committed to quality work (57 per cent), and being able to do your best every day (56 per cent).

Alexander continues, “Too many businesses aren’t succeeding on engagement because they’re following a textbook approach. Companies getting it right are doing elements outside of the textbook; they’re adding colour to their employee campaigns and enriching their lives – in fact, they’re making their employees’ lives better.

‘These companies support staff to master skills inside and outside of work, implement staff ideas and reward staff with prizes they wouldn’t get to do every day.’

While 80 per cent of highly engaged staff received some form of reward or recognition for work well done, just 35 per cent of those who have no engagement at work receive such treats.

Just 18 per cent of all British employees received a verbal thank you from their manager in the last 12 months.

‘Small businesses should not shy away from reward and recognition programmes due to budget. A reward can be as simple as a verbal thank you and certificate to say well done. It’s surprising how impactful a face-to-face thank you can be,’ says Alexander.

Further reading on employee engagement

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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Employee engagement