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Nik Penhale Smith

Effectory International

Online and Content Marketing specialist , HR Author & LinkedIn publisher

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Why engagement in multinationals needs CEOs


Boards of Directors (including C-level and CEOs) can account for a ninefold difference in employee engagement and commitment. Insights gained from our recent multinational study reveal that when employees have confidence in the board, they are nine times more likely to be engaged in their work and committed to the organisation.

As a follow up to the article Examining engagement and commitment in multinationals, the second part of our three blog series on employee engagement in multinationals looks at the role of C-level and senior management.

Engaging employees in multinationals

From the beginning of this year, Effectory International have been studying employee engagement and commitment in European multinationals. The aim of our study was to comprehend the key factors and drivers of the two, and gain a deeper understanding of the current challenges and successes that multinationals are facing.

Our research is based on the employee engagement surveys that we conducted with the multinationals in the last 18 months. The conclusions of the study can be found in our report Engaging employees in multinationals, which contains all of the insights, as well as best practices and case studies. 

The current state of engagement in multinationals

Our study revealed that whilst many multinationals are taking engagement seriously and investing in initiatives, there’s still a long way to go before multinationals reach the full potential of their employees’.

At present 31% of employees in multinationals are engaged and committed, with much variation between industries. For example 37% of employees in the maritime industry are engaged and committed, whereas in the production and service industries the levels of engagement and commitment are nearly ten percent less.

Alarmingly, the percentage of employees that are neither engaged nor committed is far too high. On average 18% of employee are neither engaged in their work nor committed to their organisation, and in some industries this figure rises to 21%. There are too many employees hindering good work, and the current ratio between employees driving organisations forward and obstructing progress is holding multinationals back.

C-level, the board and employee engagement

High levels of engagement and commitment lies at the top of just about every CEO’s wish list. Expenditure on employee engagement related activities is set to continue, with organisations continuing to invest in initiatives with the goal of stimulating higher levels. Whilst some initiatives are successful, a great deal are not.

In many organisations CEOs and the board are currently removed from being involved with employees’ engagement and commitment. C-level and boards often don’t realise the direct impact they have on employee engagement and commitment. Our research managed to quantify the impact; board of Directors (including C level) account for a ninefold difference in employee engagement and commitment.

Unfortunately, CEOs are too focused on the financials and high level strategy, and in the process overlook contact with employees at the ground level. The consequence of this is that too few employees trust and have confidence in senior management. Just 15% of employees in the UK & Ireland currently have complete confidence in the board of their organisation.

What outstanding senior managers have in common

Despite painting a somewhat glum picture above, there are CEOs and senior managers that are inspiring trust and confidence in employees. Our study uncovered that the senior managers at the forefront of excellence share three traits:

  • Listening to employees
  • Clearly communicate the organisational vision and goals
  • Connect with employees

By focusing on the three above, senior managers can help inspire the necessary confidence and trust needed for high levels of employee engagement. The positive is that when they do so, not only will the two increase, but employees also trust that they will be treated fairly and with respect. The consequence of such trust is that employees are able to put their energy into their work, instead of into mistrusting the organisation.

An inspirational multinational engagement case study

One of the most inspiring stories (and a personal favourite) of senior management listening to employees and communicating the organisation’s goals comes from an energy company we partnered with.

The organisation originally aimed to provide a service for home comfort, and to provide general maintenance. Whilst the service was necessary, employees weren’t compelled by it. One day, inspiration struck from the Al Gore film, An Inconvenient Truth. After watching the film with all of their technicians, senior management were persuaded to reset the organisational goal. Compelled by Al Gore, the organisation’s goal was changed from offering basic maintenance and repair to helping their customers reduce their environmental impact.

All of the service maintenance for boilers and heating systems were altered to provide affordable, energy-efficient and sustainable solutions. The technicians adapted their services to provide a small scale, neighbourhood approach and educated clients on energy use and potential savings.

The impact of resetting the goals together was staggering. Employees’ engagement and commitment soared to 94%, and the organisation’s profits tripled.

Author Profile Picture
Nik Penhale Smith

Online and Content Marketing specialist , HR Author & LinkedIn publisher

Read more from Nik Penhale Smith

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