That means boosting workplace productivity – which is no mean feat given that the absolute number of people available for employment has fallen since the pandemic. But are the UK’s employers and workforces willing and able to up their game in this way and, if so, what help do they need?
This article is the first in a series of People & Growth Insights by Mercer. Each will chart one aspect of how UK plc can create a stronger path towards growth: one that is people-centred and technology-enabled. We will draw upon Mercer’s global experience, research data and best practices to offer ideas for what it takes to build sustainable, successful and relatable businesses.
The best starting point for growth? Employee engagement.
Research studies have shown that employee engagement has a direct impact on business performance in terms of growth factors such as productivity, profitability and innovation.
Mercer’s Insights 2022 study of employee engagement provides an overview of the current strengths and weaknesses in UK employee attitudes to the workplace experience, and how they compare to other regions. The research compares responses from 250,000 UK employees with those of 1.5 million European employees and almost eight million employees worldwide, and it throws up four significant differentials.
1. UK engagement scores are below global norms
Overview of UK’s Engagement Level - UK’s engagement scores perform below Global norms; however, engagement is closely aligned with the European norms.
Chart compares UK's scores to Europe and Global scores. Motivated: UK = 79, Europe = 78, Global = 82. Pride: UK = 76, Europe = 77, Global = 83. Recommend: UK = 68, Europe = 71, Global = 76. Satisfaction: UK = 67, Europe = 70, Global = 75. Look forward to coming into work: UK = 64, Europe = 67, Global = 72. Stay: UK = 61, Europe = 62, Global = 69.
But engagement is less robust in other respects. Only around two thirds of British respondents feel satisfied with their employer or would recommend their organisation as a place to work – views that trail European and Global peers. Additionally, almost 40% would leave the company if they were offered comparable pay and benefits elsewhere, pointing to the likelihood of increasing turnover in the UK (as well as Europe) – especially as inflation bites and workers chase higher wages.
The research suggests, however, that a few key considerations can make all the difference to workers’ attitudes and commitment. Solid paths for career progress, a feeling of personal accomplishment and opportunities to learn and grow all feature among the top drivers identified for employee engagement.
2. Gaps between UK and Global attitudes towards career development
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion - Employees believe that the work environment supports fairness when it comes to diversity and inclusion.
Chart compares UK's scores to Europe and Global scores. I work in an environment that is free from harassment and discrimination: UK = 84, Europe = 83, Global = 82. My employer has created an environment where people of diverse background can succeed: UK = 77, Europe = 76, Global = 78. My employer treats employees fairly regardless of their age, family / marital status, gender, disability, race / colour, religion or sexual orientation: UK = 80, Europe = 80, Global = 80.
3. UK employees feel positively about DEI
Change Management and Communication - Compared to Global norms, learning from mistakes as well as creating an environment in which innovation is supported could be improved. Responding quickly in order to continuously meet customer needs is a clear opportunity area according to UK employees.
Chart compares UK's scores to Europe and Global scores. We learn from our mistakes: UK = 68, Europe = 71, Global = 79. I am encouraged to be innovative in my job: UK = 73, Europe = 69, Global = 75. The work environment at my employer supports development of new and innovative ideas: UK = 59, Europe = 60, Global = 68. Employees can express their ideas / views without fear of negative consequences: UK = 68, Europe = 68, Global = 65. My employer responds quickly to meet changing customer needs and wants: UK = 51, Europe = 57, Global = 68.
4. UK companies need to respond more quickly to changing customer needs
Career Development - Significant gaps appear when it comes to visibility and attainability of career paths and growth.
Chart compares UK's scores to Europe and Global scores. I feel I can reach my full potential with my current employer: UK = 48, Europe = 50, Global = 64. I feel that my career goals can be met by my current employer: UK = 54, Europe = 56, Global = 64. I have a good understanding of the possible career paths with my current employer: UK = 50, Europe = 52, Global = 65. I have the opportunity for advancement with my current employer: UK = 45, Europe = 50, Global = 59.
What can be done?
Admittedly, creating organisational growth is a complex issue, and there are rarely quick fixes for a secure path to sustainable improvements in productivity. Yet organisations can take action and make changes. Crucially, there is an important alignment between employees eager to learn and grow at work and employers seeking an innovative, effective and increasingly productive workforce.
For HR leaders, that alignment highlights a number of steps to facilitate growth. These include assessing employee skills to better understand the company’s capabilities and target any reskilling activity; effectiely matching skills to tasks through ‘talent marketplace’ systems, and paying accordingly; identifying inefficient processes that need to change; and embedding a culture of learning within the business.
These are big challenges, but experience shows they are by no means insurmountable.
In future blogs, we’ll be looking in more detail at the various ways HR functions can enhance both employees’ experience and corporate productivity.
Look out for:
- Growth through skills: from skills inventories and assessment, to work and pay - what’s involved?
- Growth through change: what are the steps to changing corporate culture, redesigning processes and reshaping delivery?
- Growth and compensation: realigning rewards; pay for skills and task performance versus pay for job roles.
- Growth through diversity: rethinking diversity in tight labour markets.