Research results by Lykins International reveal that the vast majority of South African employees who were surveyed about engagement levels on the job say their co-workers go above and beyond the call of duty.
The survey findings are based on a representative cross-section of the retail, manufacturing, banking and other financial services sectors in South Africa and include responses from more than 47,000 employees who participated in their company-sponsored surveys.
80% of employees surveyed say their work team members frequently go above and beyond the requirements of the job. 86% say their teams produce outstanding quality work and continuously strive to improve performance. 82% believe their co-workers take personal ownership of their job responsibilities. Most notably, nearly nine of ten employees (89%) say their teams go to great lengths to please the customer.
South African employees clearly feel they are operating at full tilt. As organisations struggle to compete in an unforgiving global economy, performance expectations are becoming increasingly demanding. Those organisations whose employees rise to the challenge will emerge victorious. Understanding what most impacts employee engagement is the secret to success.
The leader at the organisation’s ‘coal face’ holds the key to unlocking the energy and potential of employees. We examined the impact of leadership on engagement and the findings are unequivocal. Team leaders who inspire their employees, encourage creative input, act on suggestions for change, recognise good performance and help employees understand how their work contributes to the organisation’s success achieve significantly higher levels of employee engagement than those who adopt an autocratic, command-and-control leadership style. The challenge is getting leaders comfortable with what they may feel is relinquishing some of their control. Simply put, leaders who engage their employees … will have employees who engage!
Organisations should be cautions not to confuse engagement, which is best defined as productive energy, with overall morale or commitment to the organisation. Although 80% say their co-workers go above and beyond the call of duty, only 68% of employees say they are personally “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their organisation as a place to work. When asked if they are seriously considering leaving at the present time, 23% of employees say “yes”, 27% are unsure and only half say “no”. “When half of its workforce is either seriously considering or unsure about leaving, the organisation is highly vulnerable to absenteeism, retention and other commitment-related problems.
The dynamics that cause employees to feel good about the organisation and want to stay with it are fundamentally different than those that inspire employees to go above and beyond in their work. While the team leader is a critical driver of engagement, views about pay, growth and development, the organisation’s culture and its senior leaders most impact morale and commitment. This shatters the myth that employees quit their boss, not the organisation. In large organisations where other positions are available, employees who are unhappy with their boss, but like the organisation, will search for another position before choosing to jump ship altogether.
Understanding the key drivers of commitment is as important as knowing what impacts engagement. South Africa has such a competitive job market that top organisations routinely get raided for their best and brightest. Given the expense of recruiting, hiring, training and developing the organisation’s human capital, every effort should be made to protect this valuable investment.
Ensuring that the important organisational fundamentals are in place will keep employees smiling and make them want to stay. Inspiring leadership, however, will unleash their full productive energy.
Keith Lykins is an Organisational Psychologist and President of Lykins International.