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Engaging staff tops business agenda

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Bosses are committed to engaging with their staff and having successful relationships with employees; according to latest research.

The findings by IRS Employment Review show that more than eight in ten employers or 88% of respondents said they were dedicated to forming good relations with their staff.

Most employers (63%) recognize that an effective manager-staff relationship is the most significant means of effecting employee satisfaction and commitment levels.

Seventy-eight per cent had already made changes to internal communications to improve staff relations.

Bottom of the list of key issues for bosses included consultations and pay.

Third party discussions with unions were seen as crucial by less than one in 20 or just 4% of respondents. While equally surprisingly, salary and earnings were only viewed as important by four in ten respondents.


Other key findings:

  • More than half (52%) said employees are generally happy and loyal to the organisation and more than one in 10 (13%) report that management has an exceptionally good relationship with staff.
  • Overall, more than four in 10 (43%) say that their employment relationship has improved over the past 12 months, while less than a fifth (17%) say it has worsened and just over a third (36%) say it has stayed the same.
  • One in five of the panel have had problems with staff dissatisfaction but have taken action to improve the situation, while less than one in five (14%) admit they are concerned about the state of the employment relationship.
  • Almost half of respondents (42%) have undergone some major change during the past year, mainly related to restructuring, a change in ownership and/or a redundancy programme.
  • Of those undergoing change, more than half (58%) report that relations have improved over the past year, while just under a quarter reveal that the employment relationship has worsened overall.
  • Almost nine in 10 employers measure staff engagement by monitoring absenteeism (89%), followed by exit interviews (84%). Other common techniques are retention rate monitoring, employee appraisals, team briefings and employee attitude surveys. Interactive communication methods such as focus groups, union consultation, joint consultative committees and confidential feedback systems are used less often.
  • Employee attitude surveys are used regularly (annually and even monthly) by almost half (42) of the organisations surveyed.
  • Almost two-thirds (63%) of organisations believe ‘relationships with managers’ affect employees ‘a lot’.
  • ‘Relationships with colleagues’ was cited by 60% of respondents, followed by ‘quality of line management’ (57%) and ‘recognition of contribution’ (56%). Other key issues are ‘working culture’, ‘job security’, ‘internal communications’ and ‘workload’. Further down the list is ‘pay’. Organisational issues such as ‘business success’, ‘quality of services or products’ and ‘values and ethics’ are also important.
  • Over half the organisations revealed different influencers for older workers, for whom pensions, job security, working environment and work-life balance are key priorities.

IRS Employment Review managing editor, Mark Crail commented:

“Good staff relationships are more than about having a happy workforce. Engaged employees are the ones who always do that little bit more, go that little bit further, to make their organisation a success – and employers will only get people to do that by genuinely involving people in decisions.

“A point made clear from the research is that employers are not relying on improved working conditions to enhance employee commitment. The initiatives used for keeping staff onside tend to focus on keeping staff informed, improving training and development and – to some extent – listening to staff opinion. When employers adopt these practices, they find their staff are responsive and flexible – ideal circumstances to keep an organisation competitive.”

Eighty one organisations from the public and private sectors were surveyed.

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Annie Hayes

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