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A Quiet Revolution in Employee Engagement

Ronnie Toerien, HCM Sales Development & Strategy Leader, Africa @RonnieToerien


A quiet revolution is taking place within businesses, and HR must react

There has been a revolution in the workplace, one which has seen workers rise up and take power from bosses. Yet it has been a singularly subtle revolution, and one which most businesses have not yet come to terms with.

Everyday employees today enjoy an unprecedented level of power over their employers that they’ve amassed not only through strikes or work-to-rule, but by virtue of the fact that talent and skills have become so rare in the modern job market. High value employees are in the driving seat and can exercise their advantage whenever they like; leaving one employer that falls short of their expectations safe in the knowledge that they will be snapped up by another.

Clearly, it’s never been more important to hold on to valued employees, and most businesses will talk about the efforts they make to keep staff happy, productive and engaged. That’s certainly a laudable goal, but recent Oracle research into the state of employee engagement across Western Europe reveals a worrying disconnect between businesses’ ambition to engage workers and their ability to do so.

 Clearly, it’s never been more important to hold on to valued employees  


First, however, let’s look at the good news. Employers clearly understand the benefits of having an engaged workforce, with at least 60 percent of respondents citing improved collaboration, operational efficiency, better business performance, and improved customer service as direct benefits of strong employee engagement. This aligns with employees’ own views on engagement, which Oracle examined in the first phase of its Simply Talent: A Western European Perspective research. The majority of respondents said they are more productive and less likely to look for work elsewhere when they feel engaged.

So far, so much common sense. But as most business owners will recognize, if you cannot measure employee engagement effectively it’s incredibly difficult to know how happy and productive your workforce actually is, and whether your engagement initiatives are paying off.

But how do you know if your employees are engaged?

Oracle’s latest research reveals that many businesses simply don’t have the ability to measure engagement with anything approaching sophistication. More than two thirds (68 percent) still rely on simplistic annual staff surveys to determine whether staff are engaged or not. On the one hand, it’s great to see these businesses care enough about their employees to explore whether they’re happy at work, but self-reporting is at best a blunt instrument when it comes to measuring engagement in a meaningful way. Experience in South Africa indicates that Employees are reluctant to complete these surveys anyway and so even less meaningful information is obtained when trying to analyse engagement.

 The majority of respondents said they are more productive and less likely to look for work elsewhere when they feel engaged.  


Barely a third of employers use advanced data analytics or augment the traditional staff survey with data from other sources, such as anecdotal feedback, to measure engagement. It should not be surprising, then, that employers cite challenges when it comes to demonstrating the value of engagement to the wider business. One third of employers find it difficult to measure and quantify the return on investment of their engagement strategies, and a similar proportion admit the C-suite struggles to understand its value as a result.

It’s therefore likely many organizations don’t have a full picture of engagement, and believe their workers are happier, more productive and more engaged than they are in reality.

In an age of instant feedback and empowered employees, companies need a more accurate way to monitor the state of their workforce and a more proactive approach to communicating with their employees. This begins in the boardroom, where HR must not just make employee engagement a priority but also create a clear link for how it affects the organization’s performance to other business leaders.

Being able to demonstrate the ROI of engagement initiatives to the C-suite will in turn drive employee engagement even further up the company’s agenda. By using technologies at their disposal, from data analytics to dynamic employee feedback mechanisms, and linking this information with sales figures, productivity rates and customer feedback, HR departments will be in an ideal position to achieve this and help the company retain its most valuable assets – its people.


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