Understanding the relationship an organisation has with its employees is a hugely important metric to measure. After all, what sort of company doesn’t want to keep a hold of their very best employees, all while keeping them happy and boosting their productivity? That’s why we’re taking a look at employee engagement in this blog post.

Peakon’s study of employee engagement looks specifically at how employees feel about their work, and how this relationship between themselves and their employer progressed through the months of January to July last year.

What is employee engagement and how has it changed?

According to Forbes, employee engagement is the ‘emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.’

William Kahn coined the term in 1990 and it’s increasingly been a key business metric ever since. The term describes when employees are feeling they’re able to bring their ‘full selves’ to work, according to Kahn.

From an analysis of 10 million survey responses, between January and July 2020, Peakon looked at how employees felt about work – and how it changed as the pandemic progressed.

All of us felt the worry that the pandemic brought with it, and many turned to their employers for support and encouragement last year when we all started to hit uncharted territory. With many not knowing what was going to happen next as the global situation worsened, people wanted reassurance that their jobs would be safe.

During the first six months of 2020, employee engagement increased by 2% globally, showing a positive response from businesses to their employees’ needs. The biggest increase in engagement was seen in the Financial Services, and the Energy & Utilities sectors, which saw a jump up of twice the global average – 4%.

 

But what was it that caused the percentage of employee engagement to increase?

One of the biggest motivators when it came to improving employee engagement was the level of autonomy granted to staff members by their organisations. Flexibility when it comes to when, how, where and when employees work increased the sense of trust felt and, in turn, helped boost both motivation and productivity and, therefore, engagement.

What else has changed?

When conducting their research, Peakon asked their participants to answer questions and score their answers on a scale of 1 to 10 based on how much they related to each statement.

One survey statement stood out in particular as it experienced the highest global increase out of all the questions on the survey.

“I have the option to work remotely when I’d like to”

It shouldn’t surprise you that this statement garnered employee scores 10% higher between January and July of 2020.

This rise was most prominent in Asia, where it increased by a sharp 18%. Financial Services – traditionally an office-based sector which has historically ranked among the worst industries for autonomy and work-life balance – saw employee scores to this question jump by 17%.

But it’s not just COVID-19 that’s caused the increase in the demand for more flexible working schedules, it’s a trend that’s been on the rise in previous data sets too.

In 2019, figures show employees mentioned flexible working 18% more than they did the previous year.

Looking after employees mental health

Workplaces that foster good mental health among their employees see reduced absenteeism, and higher productivity. In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion each year in lost productivity.2 And in May 2020, WHO advocated substantial investment to avert a global mental health crisis caused by the pandemic.

With the risk of loneliness, stress, burnout, isolation and general frustration on the rise last year, the pressure was really on businesses to quickly adapt to taking care of their staff and their mental wellbeing. It’s an amazing feat to see from the figures that employees globally did feel that shift to being more supported by their employer.

Between January and July of last year, there was a 5% increase in the feeling that employees globally had their mental wellbeing better looked after by their employers during the pandemic, according to Peakon.

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