Staff Engagement and Improved Business Performance?

Best HR practice recognises that the quality of employee engagement determine business outcomes.

The Facts.

Recent studies on staff engagement have delivered some startling information about the attitudes of the staff we employ in our businesses. An Australian Gallop poll found that only 18% of staff were "engaged" in the business they worked for. Sadly 61% were "disengaged" and 21% were "actively disengaged". Give or take a few % points these statistics were remarkably consistent across the organisational hierarchy. Further, a Korn Ferry study found that 76% of the 20,000 executives surveyed wanted more job satisfaction than money. These two studies together imply that not only is the average worker unhappy but that in the main the average executive is very dissatisfied with their job as well. This is serious stuff.

So what do we mean by engagement?

Engaged employees are far more productive, more profitable, have a higher level of customer focus, lower levels of workplace injury (including psychological) and tend to stay longer.  Staff that are not engaged are said to be either disengaged (sometimes referred to presentism) where they turn up perform the task but that’s all. They come to work but make little effort to extend themselves. The third category are staff that are said to be “actively disengaged”. They are “virtually against everything”, don’t like the company, don’t like management, feel hard done by and may even be passive saboteurs undermining the business success. Worst still, those that tend to be actively disengaged also tend to stay the longest and for every one requires 6 engaged employees to compensate for the damage they do.

Why is engagement important?

Andrew Carnegie who in the early 20th Century was the world’s richest self man making his fortune in the steel industry once said “take everything I have away but give me these three men and I will build it all again”. What he highlighted was that his business success is directly related not only to the quality of your employees but also to their level of engagement in your business. A largely disengaged workforce is a formula for failure or at best reduced profit and productivity.


Studies found that management played a direct role in determining how engaged an employee was. Skills included the:

  • Manager's ability focuses on the employees strengths or positive capabilities
  • Manager's ability to create a work environment that is open and trusting
  • Manager's ability to actively support the change the affects the employee
  • Manager's ability to inspiration their employees causing them to exceed their own expectations.

Unfortunately Australian management falls short on expectation and “are not inspiring confidence and enthusiasm”. Disengaged employees are costing the Australian economy an estimated $27 Billion per year and on average take 6 days more off a year when compared to their engaged counterpart. Not surprisingly, high levels of disengagement also translate into poorer health presenting with higher blood pressure, high cholesterol, higher levels of depression and asthma.

So if you want to have a positive effect on your business productivity we highly recommend bringing in an external Talent Manager to help to assist you in developing an engagement plan that better meets your business needs,

Where does Talent Management fit in?

Investment in talent management is really an investment in developing highly engaged staff. Every business needs to have an appreciation of the current engagement level of your staff. There are simple methods for measuring this and might surprise you. This is especially true of SME where high disengagement levels can spell the difference between success and failure. Talent Management does not have to be an expensive process and can help you implement simple processes that will have a profound effect on staff attitudes and therefore their engagement levels.

One example, is to introduction of a positive acknowledgement program. We tend to be very quick to comment when a staff member has done something wrong but research shows we’re very slow to acknowledge positive behaviour. Yet the quality of engagement appears to be directly related to positive personal acknowledgement. The program should be a daily activity where for every negative comment, four positive comments must be made. So a simple switch to acknowledging positive behaviour can have very significant return on the success of your business. To down load a summary of the Gallup research click"}">here.