- May 23 2016
Engagement is one of the buzziest of buzzwords in the workplace today. Companies know that their ability to compete in the ever more competitive global landscape requires an engaged workforce. A workforce that is productive, creative and innovative. But what are the keys to raising employee engagement? The joint study conducted by Steelcase and IPSOS focuses on one crucial element of employee engagement: the workplace.
The correlation is clear and simple – the more employees are satisfied with their workplace, the more engaged they tend to be. This learning is somewhat troubling however, seeing as only 13 percent of the global workforce is highly satisfied and thus also highly engaged. Meanwhile a similar 11 percent falls at the other end of the spectrum, being highly dissatisfied and highly disengaged.
When we consider that disengagement is contagious, the pressure is on for companies to tip the scales and raise employee satisfaction. Based on the survey results, many commonalities exist among the most satisfied employees. For starters, nearly all (97 percent) reported thinking positively about where they work and being happy to go to work. Engaged employees also described their work environment as one that allows them to socialize, concentrate easily, move around freely and accommodates remote work. In regards to the work atmosphere, these employees also noted that their companies take an interest in their well-being, health and safety and regularly recognize employees’ work.
The ability to have some level of control over their workspace was also another key factor in employee satisfaction and engagement. The study revealed that empowering employees and giving them a say in where and how they work is key. In fact, the most highly engaged employees are given the flexibility to move around the office easily depending on the type of work or project. For example, employees can work at their assigned desks, seek out a quiet area when they need to concentrate, move to a collaborative space for group work and of course, socialize in a common area during break time. Eighty-eight percent of highly engaged employees are able to choose where they work, versus just, 14 percent of highly disengaged employees. Likewise, 98 percent of highly engaged workers say they are able to concentrate easily, compared to 14 percent of those on the other end of the spectrum.
Given that mobility is seen as important, it is no surprise that the most satisfied employees were also more likely to have portable devices – including company sponsored mobile phones, laptops and tablets. Companies, however have some catching up to do. Across the globe, 86 percent of employees have a landline and 80 percent use desktop computers – only 39 percent have laptops and mobile phones and even fewer, 14 percent, have tablets. Considering that the type of technology provided to employees can either give them the choice to work in different areas within or even outside of the office or can limit their options, this element contributes greatly to their satisfaction and ultimately their engagement.
While the study produced key global learnings that can serve as guidelines for companies around the world, it is important to recognize that habits, engagement levels and preferences can differ greatly between countries, cultures and economies. For example, the most common office layout today mixes both open and private spaces (46 percent); however this tends to vary quite a bit across countries. In the UK, the open-plan office dominates (49 percent) compared to individual offices (14 percent). Meanwhile offices in Germany show the exact opposite with individual offices (54 percent) being far more popular than open space layouts (19 percent).
Another interesting point highlighted by the study is that employees in emerging markets – where opportunities are abundant – tend to be much more energetic, optimistic and engaged than their counterparts in more established economies.
In short, companies looking to make changes need to be aware of their own cultural specificities, understand the global differences and consider what will work well in their particular environment.
Steelcase and IPSOS take an unprecedented look into the role that the workplace plays in employee engagement. Engagement and the Global Workplace, which surveyed 12,480 employees across 17 countries, unveils global learnings backed by hard numbers.
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