A few days ago, I saw an article on a new global employee engagement study which had just been released by ORC International.

The study which surveyed more than 7,000 employees across 20 countries produced some interesting but also worrying results. Worrying, in particular, if you are running a business in the UK, which ranked 18th out of 20 countries in the global study. India and China ranked first and second, the USA ranked 6th and only Japan and Hong Kong ranked lower than the UK.

The survey went on to say that on every measure UK employee engagement had fallen over the last year. In particular, the survey reported that the relationship between managers and their staff is not, generally, considered to be positive. Going into more detail the ORC International reported that almost a third of employees in the UK reported that they did not have a positive relationship with their managers and around half of them said that they did not feel valued at work.

Now, employee engagement is a global issue and UK businesses are not alone in facing these challenges. However, the UK results did make me think about engagement as a whole and what firms and survey firms include when considering this issue.

The results also reminded me of a post by fellow Forbes contributor and blogger, Jessica Hagy, on her own blog (Indexed) – How to enjoy work more – that, I believe, illustrates an often overlooked area.

How to enjoy work more
Jessica’s diagram (above) made me think how employee engagement is not just about how employees engage with their work, their company and their bosses. It’s not simply an up and down thing, between staff and managers. There’s more to it than that. It’s also about the work environment and how employees engage with each other.

If this is true then employees themselves have to take responsibility for their own engagement. Not just in their relations with their managers or how they conduct their work but also how they treat each other.

That’s where culture comes into it and Jessica’s diagram goes to the heart of it.

Too often have I seen companies where their cultures are inconsistent (i.e. they say one thing and do another) and then they subsequently struggle with engaging each other and their customers.

Often this manifests itself as a toxic work environment. One that is riven with politics, cliques, gossip, in-fighting, jealousy and people talking about each other rather than to each other.

Some might say this is natural human behaviour. I agree. It’s natural, that it exists. But, is it acceptable? No. Not if you want to build a high-performing and sustainable business and one that has engaged employees and engaged customers at it’s heart.

Therefore, it’s important to remember that engagement is not just about what you do to or how you treat your employees, it’s also about how they treat each other.

So, if you are fretting about how to build a more engaged workforce, how about asking yourself if you see evidence of politics, cliques, gossip, in-fighting, jealousy and people talking about each other rather than to each other in your work place. If you do, then perhaps ridding your company of these behaviours is a good place to start. No amount of good works in other areas is going to make up for a toxic culture.

Time for a culture reboot?



This post was originally published on my Forbes.com column.

Photo Credit: miss pupik via Compfight cc

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