Employee engagement grew through recession, says IPA

19 June 2014 -


Research carried out for ACAS finds that employees have more positive views on four key “enablers” of involvement than they did in 2004

While the UK economic landscape has challenged many companies in recent years, employers have actually increased their engagement with staff, according to a new report from specialist body IPA (formerly the Involvement and Participation Association).

In research conducted for ACAS, IPA head of policy and research Joe Dromey explored management approaches in the light of 2009’s landmark study Engaging for Success: enhancing performance through employee engagement – written for the government by experts David MacLeod and Nita Clarke. One significant part of their work was to identify four “enablers” for employee engagement that boost staff involvement in the workplace and keep them onboard. According to Dromey, employee perception around all four enablers – strategic narrative, engaging managers, employee voice and integrity – had markedly improved since 2004.

Findings showed a particularly strong increase in the “strategic narrative” enabler, with 10% more employees agreeing that, in recent years, they have shared their organisations’ values. But while “employee voice” also had an upswing, many staff members still feel that their opinions and ideas are not considered – with just one third (34%) saying that their managers are good at allowing them to influence decision making.

There is also a seeming gender and age disparity between how engaged particular groups of workers are, with the findings hinting that men were less engaged than women, while middle-aged employees were less engaged than those older and younger than them. Furthermore, disabled staffers are far less engaged than average employees.

ACAS chair Sir Brendan Barber said: “This research shows that employee engagement can reap benefits to both organisations and employees. Some people may believe that engagement is just about employees ‘going the extra mile’, but it is much more.

“It is also about involving workers in the operation of their organisation, hearing their views and giving them a true voice. Allowing employees to have their say and taking account of their views not only makes good business sense, but is crucial to developing an engaged and involved workforce. I firmly believe that it has to happen if Britain is to secure its economic future.”

Evidence supporting the theory that employee engagement is linked to organisational success is mounting, as organisations with higher levels of engagement tend to consist of managers with a more positive attitude towards labour productivity and financial performance.

Dromey’s report advises managers to implement robust procedures for measuring levels of staff engagement, with continuing evaluation of any gaps that emerge. Additionally, it recommends, strengthening the relationship between senior managers and frontline employees can be a vital tool for guaranteeing healthy communication, giving employees a sense of voice with their firms. Indeed, employees proved to be far more engaged in organisations where they regularly had meetings with senior managers – particularly when they were given the opportunity to raise questions or offer their views.

The study concludes that employers should always aim to ensure that communication with staff is a two-way process, wherein both parties can speak to each other with complete honesty.

Reflecting on Dromey’s findings, Clarke – now IPA director – said: “It’s increasingly clear that employee engagement is vital for organisational success. Employers need to see engaging with their staff as a top priority.”

Find Joe Dromey’s report at this location.

Learn more about engagement from this CMI research on the risks that emerge when employees stop caring.

Powered by Professional Manager