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Why Don't Governments Measure Employee Engagement?

Today's post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member Neil Reichenberg, who is the executive director at IPMA-HR. Here he discusses the benefits when governments measure employee engagement, but also the finding that most don't.

The International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR) recently conducted a study focused on employee engagement and retention that found that government employers are seeing positive results from efforts to improve employee engagement, although less than half conduct employee engagement studies. Improved workplace collaboration, increased communication and higher retention were the most common positive results cited by survey respondents to their employee engagement efforts. The report is based on responses from 417 IPMA-HR members and the survey results are available here.

Almost 70% of the respondents indicated that employee engagement is valued or highly valued at their organization. Efforts are being undertaken to engage their employees in the goals of the organization that include involving employees in decision making, particularly in the strategic planning process. Enhanced communication, recognition programs, career development opportunities, and developing employee committees and focus groups were among the other efforts that were cited. As to the sustainability of these efforts, 57% said they would be sustainable in the long-term, 38% in the short-term, and 5% said they were not sustainable. Interestingly, only 36% of respondents from larger organizations said their efforts were sustainable in the long-term.

Overall, 42% of the survey respondents indicated that their organizations had conducted employee engagement studies. Larger governmental organizations defined as those with at least 10,000 employees conduct engagement studies at a higher rate (63%) as compared to medium size governments with between 500 - 10,000 employees (53% rate) and small organizations, with fewer than 500 employees (33% rate). Almost half of the respondents rated the level of employee engagement between 7 - 10 on a 0 - 10 scale with 0 being not at all engaged to 10 being highly engaged. The biggest barriers across the public sector to measuring employee engagement ranged from lack of leadership support, budgetary restrictions, and organizational culture that does not support conducting such studies. Lack of leadership support (33%) was the most common challenge cited when organizations try to improve employee engagement followed by staff cooperation (17%) and budget (17%).

The most popular measures included in employee engagement studies include employee satisfaction, workplace culture, manager-staff relations, professional development opportunities, work-life balance, and compensation. Over 90% of those who conduct employee engagement studies communicate the results to the employees in a variety of ways and take steps such as developing action plans and appointing employee engagement focus groups.

Public sector organizations are increasingly focused on retaining their employees with the most successful retention factors being increasing salaries and compensation, offering career development opportunities, providing alternative work schedules, improving hiring practices, gathering information through exit interviews and focus groups, providing orientation programs for newly hired employees, and hosting team-building activities.

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