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Organizations must work harder to engage employees
January 25, 2005
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Toronto, Canada. -- Canadian organizations are missing a significant opportunity to gain a competitive advantage through building productive engagement in the workforce, according to a new survey of employee attitudes by Canadian human capital consultancy Watson Wyatt Canada. The Watson Wyatt WorkCanada 2004/2005 survey shows employers must work harder to engage and enable employees to drive productivity and business results.

"In an increasingly competitive environment, it is vitally important that organizations take full advantage of the considerable potential inherent in their people," says Graham Dodd, Canadian Practice Leader, Human Capital Group, Watson Wyatt Canada. "Utilizing a productive engagement model that ensures employees are both engaged in and enabled to do their jobs, can provide organizations a significant competitive advantage, helping to enhance performance, drive productivity and create maximum value."

One of the largest and most current statistically representative surveys on employee attitudes in Canada, the WorkCanada 2004/2005 study assesses the strengths and weaknesses of Canadian employers in the four areas of productive engagement - alignment, capability, resources and motivation. The results, are compared to the previous WorkCanada study conducted in 2002 where applicable, to provide insights into the strategies and practices that can increase productive engagement.

Alignment improving, but work still remains

Alignment - the extent to which employees know what they need to do to make their organization successful - improved by 14 percentage points between 2002 and 2004, according to the Watson Wyatt survey. Over three-quarters (76 per cent) of employees said they understand their organizations' business goals, compared to 62 per cent in 2002. However, four out of 10 employees (39 per cent) said they do not understand the steps they must take to achieve these goals.

"While many Canadian organizations have done a good job communicating big picture messages to employees, they tend not to follow through at the manager-to-employee level," says Dodd. "Managers and supervisors are vital to the employer-employee relationship, and they must be better equipped to communicate on a one-to-one basis with staff in order to clarify and discuss day-to-day roles and actions."

Motivation: Accountability and performance management continue to be trouble spots

According to the 2004 WorkCanada data, employees are satisfied with some of their organizations' motivation efforts, but accountability and performance management continue to be major concerns. Motivation is defined as the extent to which employees want to perform well on the job.

"Creating a high performance culture - in which top performers are rewarded and developed - is an important element of motivation," says Dodd. "Participants cited rewarding performance, managing poor performance, receiving feedback and encouraging high performance as significant challenges. This should be a cause for some concern.”

Employees also gave their organizations low marks for linking pay and performance. Only 27 per cent of all employees said there is a clear link between their job performance and pay. Further hurting motivation is the fact that only two out of five (40 per cent) employees said they have opportunities for growth, development and advancement, and receive managerial support for career and skills development.

“While not every organization has room to move people up, providing growth and learning opportunities is crucial for employee engagement, retention and succession planning," says Dodd. "When baby boomers start retiring and labour shortages become more apparent, organizations will be hard pressed to find employees to fill these positions. By combining effective development programs and strong talent management systems today, organizations can help ensure a smooth transition and be in position to continue to attract the best and the brightest employees."

Capability: Employees fear they are under-skilled

Capability, for the purposes of the survey, is defined as having adequate skills, knowledge and abilities to perform one's job. Surprisingly, employees seem to lack confidence in both their own abilities and those of their co-workers.

Less than half (49 per cent) of employees said their companies hire workers with the right skills and knowledge, while only 52 per cent feel they have or are supplied the training and learning materials they need to do their jobs or to develop their knowledge and skills.

Adequate resources, but workload could be problematic

According to the survey results, companies are doing a good job providing employees with adequate resources to perform their jobs.

Almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of employees said they have the resources needed to do their jobs. Specifically, that means adequate tools, equipment and supplies, efficient electronic systems, strong support services and safe working environments, among other things.

 However, the survey did indicate potentially problematic issues for employers regarding workload and stress. Twenty-two per cent of employees in 2004 said the amount of work they are expected to do is unreasonable, compared to only 16 per cent in 2002.

Conducted in mid-2004, the sixth Watson Wyatt WorkCanada survey asked more than 3,000 Canadian employees across all job levels about their attitudes toward their workplace and their employers. Results are considered accurate to within +/- 3 per cent.

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