SOURCE: The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group

July 13, 2010 00:01 ET

One-Third of Companies Are Troubled by Low Employee Engagement in Six Key Areas, Global Survey Finds

Middle Managers Are Key to Restoring Employee Engagement That Was Damaged by the Great Recession, According to a Report by The Boston Consulting Group and the World Federation of People Management Associations

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwire - July 13, 2010) -  Employee engagement -- the willingness of workers to go the extra mile at work -- took a big hit during the recession and has not bounced back, according to research conducted by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA).

A joint BCG-WFPMA publication, "Creating a New Deal for Middle Managers: Empowering a Neglected but Critical Group," reveals a global engagement problem that, as the title suggests, is most severe among middle managers, who oversee the majority of employees at most companies. The publication is based on a survey of executives from more than 100 countries and an analysis of BCG's Engaging for Results database, which represents more than 1 million responses from employees about their level of engagement.

About one-third of the executives who responded to the survey reported that each of the following six areas was especially weak at their companies:

  • Structured career management that rewards appropriate behaviors
  • Clear consequences for individuals not living the company values
  • Compensation linked to performance
  • Managers acting as "resources," or coaches
  • Training and development of employees in people-management practices
  • Recognition beyond compensation

"Most senior executives recognize the importance of employee engagement to corporate performance, but they do not necessarily know how to take concrete steps to improve it," says Rainer Strack, a senior partner and managing director in the Düsseldorf office of BCG and coauthor. "This survey gives companies a clear idea of where they should focus their attention."

In order to understand the root causes of this global engagement problem, BCG and WFPMA also analyzed BCG's Engaging for Results database. Two conclusions jumped out of this deeper analysis. First, employees were particularly dissatisfied with the performance of their companies in three broad areas closely related to the six problem spots flagged in the survey.

  • Performance management, which includes the processes and systems that set targets, collect feedback, and link actions to results
  • Recognition, which includes formalized ways of acknowledging and rewarding strong performance
  • People manager capabilities, which include people skills and leadership behaviors throughout the organization

Second, the decline in satisfaction was most dramatic among middle managers. Between 2007 and 2009, their scores for performance management and recognition dropped by 14 percent, and their scores for people manager capabilities fell by 10 percent.

"Many companies had to take drastic action during the recession in order to survive. Now that the worst of the downturn appears to be over, they should start reconnecting with their employees," says Jean-Michel Caye, a partner and managing director in the Paris office of BCG and coauthor. "The best place to start is with the middle managers, who historically have not received adequate support or authority and yet play critical roles in the company."

BCG has created a four-pillar program to address the engagement trouble spots identified in the BCG-WFMPA survey and to energize middle managers.

  • Delayer the organization and create larger, exciting roles for middle managers, in order to remove the barriers that frustrate them, and encourage initiative
  • Empower managers to act by giving them the levers and authority to succeed, but first make sure they understand what is required of them
  • Accelerate leadership skills so that middle managers have the training and tools to manage effectively
  • Leverage the power of middle managers so that they can convey the corporate mission and vision, and help transform the organization 

"These programs will help unleash middle managers from the ties that bind them at many companies," says Pieter Haen, the president of the European Association for People Management.

To receive a copy of the White Paper or arrange an interview with one of the authors, please contact Eric Gregoire at +1 617 850 3783 or gregoire.eric@bcg.com.

To receive a copy of the full report based on the survey and more than 150 interviews, please e-mail creatingpeopleadvantage@bcg.com. The full report will be available in September 2010.

About the Methodology of the Study
BCG and WFPMA conducted the Web survey between December 2009 and March 2010, receiving 5,561 responses from executives in more than 100 countries. Of those who responded, 1,304 answered questions about engagement. This survey was supplemented by interviews with more than 150 senior executives.

About The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy. We partner with clients in all sectors and regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their businesses. Our customized approach combines deep insight into the dynamics of companies and markets with close collaboration at all levels of the client organization. This ensures that our clients achieve sustainable competitive advantage, build more capable organizations, and secure lasting results. Founded in 1963, BCG is a private company with 69 offices in 40 countries. For more information, please visit www.bcg.com.

About the World Federation of People Management Associations

The World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA) is a global network of professionals in people management. It was founded in 1976 to aid the development and improve the effectiveness of professional people management all over the world. Its members are predominantly the continental federations, which are made up of more than 70 national personnel associations representing more than 400,000 people management professionals. For more information, please visit www.wfpma.com.