AIM survey shows workers want out

Employee sentiment

By Julia Stirling

Demotivated, bored, sad, angry and apathetic. These were the words used by employees to describe how they feel about their organisation, according to a recent survey.

The Australian Institute of Management’s Victoria & Tasmania’s employee engagement survey of 3368 people found 40 per cent felt unappreciated and 33 per cent were considering leaving their employer.

A further 34 per cent of those surveyed said they could be putting more effort and input into their current role.

“Our survey reveals a high level of employee disengagement in the Australian workplace, which management needs to take urgent action to address,” says Susan Heron, chief executive of AIM Victoria & Tasmania.

Ms Heron says organisations should consider employee engagement as a key competitive weapon as companies recover from the global financial crisis and deal with skill shortages.

Establishing a good workplace culture is critical: “You’ve got to have employees feeling valued, that they are listened to and understood. That is very important.”

“I also think employees must develop strong working relationships with their colleagues so they feel part of a team. There have to be career advancement pathways. Certainly there needs to be a commitment to training and professional development.”

Ms Heron also advocates diversity.

“It’s got to be an organisational strength across the generations, across gender, across ethnicity,” she says.

“Embrace it and really be smart about your employee engagement strategy. It’s non-salary tools that companies can and should be using to attract and retain people.”

The survey shows pay is not the crucial employee engagement tool. Factors such as job satisfaction; good relationships with co-workers; good relationships with managers; new and interesting challenges; feeling valued by the organisation; work-life balance; flexible work arrangements; job security and professional development opportunities were all vital to employee retention.

Ms Heron says good organisational culture is dependent on good leadership-not only at a senior level, but right through the organisation. She calls this leadership equity.

“Leadership equity is about ensuring everyone in the organisation has an ability to express the leadership that’s required, and that they are considered relevant and of worth no matter what their position,” says Ms Heron.

“You actually need to make sure that employees know that what they do makes a difference, and what they do matters,” she says.

Ms Heron says leadership equity is fundamental to innovation and innovation is critical to long-term success for Australia as a country.

The survey found small organisations rated much better at employee engagement than large organisations. Ms Heron says small organisations are better placed to develop and maintain a positive workplace culture because leadership equity is more easily established and the lines of command and control are less complex.

She says the challenge for medium and large organisations is for them to replicate as far as is practical, the levels of leadership equity, and the sense of “ownership” and involvement that underpin the positive employee engagement factors at small organisations.

The Australian, January 29, 2011.


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