Many organizations, including several of our clients, spend a lot of effort understanding how to increase the levels of employee engagement in their organizations. This is based on years of research that shows that engaged employees are willing to give more discretionary effort at work and are therefore more productive. In addition, not surprisingly, engaged employee are more likely to stay at your organization, as opposed to leaving for greener pastures at the drop of a hat…or a higher salary offer.
The research on engagement is invaluable in building a business case for focusing on engagement, and in deciding which levers tend to drive engagement. Unfortunately, to truly move the needle on engagement takes equal parts art and science. In the US, a lot of companies are just beginning to embark on the art of segmented employee engagement efforts that cater to the diverse workforces they employ. A lot of attention, for example, is being paid to engagement strategies that are segmented along generational lines to account for the four generations in the workplace today (e.g., increased flexibility, more opportunities to participate in philanthropic activities, and greater use of portable benefits for Generation Y’s).
For global organizations, creating customized engagement strategies to meet the needs of different workforce segments becomes significantly more complex. Thankfully, some new research provides a bit of additional science to inform the art behind segmented engagement strategy design.
The 2007 SHRM Research Quarterly, Leveraging Employee Engagement for Competitive Advantage, cites two studies that provide insight into how organizations might customize their engagement and recruiting approaches for maximum appeal in specific countries. For example, one study found that positive employer brand is particularly important in attracting talent in China. Another study identified different engagement and commitment initiatives in different countries (e.g., Japan – caliber of co-workers; India – reputation of the organization; United States – competitive health benefits; Germany – level of autonomy; Netherlands – collaborative environment; Canada – competitive base pay, work/life balance and career advancement).
Yet another study completed last year by the Cass Business School in London suggests that engagement varies around the globe and depends, in large part, on how happy the general population in that country is. That research, directed by Dr. Garry Gelade, studied differences in 49 countries, and looked at whether the economy, national personality, or cultural values had the most impact. Dr. Gelade found that Brazil, Israel and Cyprus were ranked as the countries with the most committed employees, and at the other end of the scale, Russia, Japan and Hong Kong had the lowest.
The implications are clear. Different people – whether segmented by job function, age, gender and/or nationally -- are motivated by different things on the job. Any employer seeking to attract and retain the most engaged workforce possible needs to start by asking what kinds of employees will make their business most successful. Once you have identified what sorts of people you need, you can then deliberately design engagement programs built around those profiles, taking into account the myriad differences among people in today’s workforce.
There are obviously critical differences in how people relate to their workplace. If you can unlock those differences, you may be unlocking potentially heretofore hidden value in your employees. And when creating segmented employee engagement programs, do not overlook the global component.