Study: Supervisors Impact Engagement Most

By Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR Jun 28, 2011

An immediate supervisor can influence an employee’s engagement level positively and negatively, according to the
third annual Employee Engagement Survey from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Research Foundation and Buck Consultants. Forty-four percent of the nearly 1,000 mostly U.S.-based communication professionals who responded to the survey released June 15, 2011,said their supervisor strongly increased employee engagement, while 41 percent said supervisors strongly decreased employee engagement.

The other factors that more than half of respondents said increased employee engagement strongly or moderately include:

  • The amount of employee communication.
  • A change in leadership.
  • Employee rewards and recognition.

Yet, changes in leadership and communication can decrease employee engagement as well, respondents noted. However, poor morale topped the list of factors with the strongest negative influence on engagement, followed by poor management and leadership and individual supervisors.

In 2010, the survey revealed that companies were most concerned with increasing productivity in the workplace. Yet, the 2011 survey found that creating a new culture or work environment (33 percent) was the most important goal identified by survey respondents, followed by increasing productivity (28 percent) and retaining top talent (26 percent).

“Organizations are committing themselves more deeply to effectively engaging their employees, knowing that this is the key to meeting their productivity, retention and overarching business goals,” said Bob Carr, principal at Buck Consultants.

Keeping in Touch

E-mail, which celebrates 40 years in existence in 2011, and intranets are the communication methods used by most respondents. Eighty-one percent said they used e-mail frequently and seventy-two percent said they used the intranet.

Within the past five years, respondents had added a variety of features to their organization’s intranet, including content-sharing tools and employee profiles (cited by 52 percent each), collaboration tools (48 percent), news feeds (46 percent) and traditional blogs (44 percent). Less common additions to company intranets include wikis (29 percent), podcasts (20 percent), video blogs (19 percent) and ideation features (9 percent).

Other communication methods used frequently to engage employees and foster productivity include:

  • Face-to-face meetings (used frequently by 46 percent of respondents).
  • Website (41 percent).
  • Posters/flyers (29 percent).
  • Print publications (26 percent).
  • Town hall meetings (24 percent).
  • Virtual meetings (18 percent).
  • Videos (18 percent).
  • Social media (16 percent).
  • Business television (8 percent).
  • Podcasts (4 percent).
  • Home mailings (3 percent).

In order to keep two-way communication flowing, organizations perform ongoing “listening” activities with employees using surveys, focus groups and other means. Such activities are most likely to be conducted annually, as noted by 35 percent of respondents, though some do so semi-annually (11 percent), quarterly (16 percent), monthly (6 percent) and weekly (3 percent).

However, nearly a quarter (23 percent) of respondents said they rarely engage in employee listening and 6 percent said they never do.

Social media are being used more frequently for employee engagement purposes. A quarter of respondents said that all employees in their organization have access to social media and are encouraged to participate to share information and express opinions.

The most common social media tools organizations are using include blogs (used by 69 percent), Twitter (58 percent), Facebook (57 percent), instant messaging (57 percent) and YouTube (53 percent).

Employee feedback, formal and informal, is the most common way organizations measure the effectiveness of employee engagement strategies, according to the IABC report.

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


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