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Drive employee engagement to combat wage freezes – will it help?

March 20, 2011

The latest news blogs on employee engagement suggest that as many as 16 million workers face a pay freeze in 2011 and that employee engagement may be able to help soften the blow (You at Work). So, what does this really mean – where should organisations start?

Longitudinal research has shown that without engagement organisations will fail to deliver on their targets and will lose their competitive advantage. The economic benefit of employee engagement has not gone unnoticed by Government with Britain’s largest ever employee engagement survey being commissioned in 2009. Over 500,000 civil servants took part in the survey and currently solutions, as suggested by the Employee Engagement Specialist Forum, are still being actioned.

The Engaging for Success report suggested that disengagement costs the economy around £64 billion and companies investing into employee engagement surveys and subsequent actions as part of a long term engagement programme will see a significant return on investment. Obtaining competitive advantage is never more crucial than when recession hits and it becomes a matter of survival not just profit.

It is clear from the report and Employee Feedback’s own data from employee engagement surveys that crucial to getting engagement right is enabling the ‘employee voice’ and for individuals to be involved in the organisation as a whole.

Common barriers to engagement have been seen to include lack of awareness of the wider organisation and also manager’s reluctance to take on or encourage feedback from their staff. The report, which our data also substantiates, suggests that there are four key enablers: line management, leadership, employee voice and integrity. So, if pay freezes are likely then the best way to encourage or sustain production and strive for continued competitive advantage is via the route to employee engagement.

The first stage would be to encourage communication – between employees and management, listening to the employee voice. This may be via a forum, regular meetings or running an employee survey. It is crucial when uncertainty hits an organisation and motivation is in question, then employees are heard and that responses are timely and honest. There is no doubt, that some will leave when a pay cut or pay freeze hits, assuming there are better alternatives to go to, however if you can galvanize those left behind then encouraging a boost in employee engagement levels may be the only way to guard against a drop in factors such as motivation, satisfaction and commitment which ultimately affect the bottom line. By focusing on management / leadership, listening to employees and providing honest responses, the foundation for the progression towards improved employee engagement within the workforce can be built.

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