Engaging Employees More Could Save UK £30bn a Year

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A report has revealed disengaged employees cost UK businesses £30 billion a year, equivalent to 2% of GDP. It’s an impact on the economy which can’t be ignored, and may be the missing piece to Britain’s productivity puzzle. The report from Leeman’s, a company who have questioned over 100,000 people about their workplace experience, identified that 49% of employees are disengaged, revealing lack of engagement is endemic within UK work culture. For individual businesses, the dividends paid by an engaged workforce are huge. High levels of employee engagement add an average 19% income to a business, whilst low levels of engagement cost an average 33% of income.

It’s an area that is increasingly being explored as the solution to Britain’s lack of economic momentum, which has remained low since 2007. Last month the IPA released a detailed analysis of the impact employee involvement has on productivity. Its findings encouraged them to conclude that greater involvement of employees in business performance, encouraging staff communication and engaging them more in the in the daily experience of work was “essential to boosting productivity in the UK.”

UK productivity in relation to other leading economies has caused particular concern in Westminster, with the average worker in Europe producing the equivalent amount of work in four days as Brits do in five. Improvement of employee engagement would make a significant step towards closing the gap, and rewriting the cultural norms of what employment in the UK looks like is the only way that can be achieved. It’s a huge task, one that will take time to evolve, however there are things that businesses can be doing today to promote the change.

When exploring the barriers employers struggle with in developing their teams, a World Economic Forum report identified insufficient understanding of change as the biggest thing holding businesses back from fulfilling their potential. Workplace culture changes over time, and keeping employees engaged includes responding to the changes in their daily lives and expectations for employment. One example of this is the cultural shift towards more flexible work routines, which has altered the workforce landscape in recent years, and continues to make an impact. Managers who are engaged with their employees and the workplace environment are three times more likely to have engaged employees, so leading change is a powerful a tool for engagement, significantly more effective than a responsive approach.

Environment is a key tool which is often overlooked in the UK. Director at Leesman, Chris Moriarty, states, “Workplaces should be viewed as a competitive advantage rather than something to house employees.” Staff are most frequently a business’s largest expense, yet the traditional view is to consider cost over the value it adds to staff assets. With 45% of workers voicing their office did not allow them to work productively, it is a surprise how rare it is for businesses to measure the contribution of environment to organisational performance or to use spaces as tools for engaging staff.

“More voice at work leads to more economic freedom, less inequality and more productivity.” The IPA are Britain’s leading commentator on employee engagement in the workplace, and their report on Involvement and Productivity: The Missing Piece of the Puzzle? reveals a barrier to employee engagement from another angle, cultivating a work culture where engaged employees are heard and encouraged. The fact that managers who are engaged with their teams and work environment are three times more likely to have engaged employees illustrates that to achieve improvements engagement needs to happen and be promoted at the highest levels of organisations, coming from the top down. The more the decision makers of British business engage with their organisations at every level, the closer we will come to engaging its workforce and challenging the problem of productivity in the UK.