Employee engagement - Tough times for business calls for smart thinking from employers
Paul Godwin
Sales Director

Employee engagement - Tough times for business calls for smart thinking from employers

6th September 2016

When commercial realities are pressing and incremental shifts in productivity and employee engagement are needed, Active think businesses should be thinking smarter, rather than tougher, when it comes to dealing with the workforce.


In tough economic times lots of companies try and drive success by putting pressure on what they see as the obvious people - their workforce. This is something we at Active decided to look into. From our desk research, and our own experience, we've come to believe that the reality is a positive working environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and profitability. The problem is that not enough businesses invest in driving such an environment or in measuring its success.


Sure, there's some truth in the argument that stress and pressure push employees to perform better and faster, but what many fail to acknowledge is the hidden costs incurred.


Health costs

According to Stanford University research published in Harvard Business Review, healthcare spending at high-pressure companies is nearly 50% greater than at other organisations; what's more, over $500 billion is siphoned off from the U.S. economy because of workplace stress and 550 million workdays are lost each year due to stress on the job. Up to 80% of workplace accidents are attributed to stress, and more than 80% of doctor visits are due to stress. Workplace stress has been linked to health problems ranging from metabolic syndrome to cardiovascular disease and mortality.


Lack of engagement

While cut-throat environments and cultures of fear can deliver some engagement, at least in the short term, published research suggests that the inevitable stress which follows leads to disengagement in the long run. Engagement, and recognition for that engagement, is associated with feeling valued, secure, supported, and respected. On the other hand, disengagement is costly. In studies by the Queens School of Business and by the Gallup Organisation, disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism and 60% more errors in their work; they also experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time.



The same studies show workplace stress leading to an increase of almost 50% in voluntary staff turnover. People look for new jobs, turn down promotions, or resign. The costs associated with recruiting, training, lowered productivity, lost expertise and so forth, are significant. For these reasons many forward thinking companies have established a wide variety of perks, from working from home to office gyms. However, these companies still fail to take into account the research - even when workplaces offered benefits such as flexi-time and work-from-home opportunities, employees still prefer workplace wellbeing to material benefits, and that only comes from a positive culture.


Creating a positive and healthy culture for your team rests on a few major principles. At Active we have seen seven basic characteristics in a positive workplace.


  1. Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues and the company as a whole.
  2. Providing support for colleagues when others are struggling.
  3. Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes.
  4. Inspiring one another at work.
  5. Emphasising the meaningfulness of the work.
  6. Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust, and integrity.
  7. Implementing an effective and professional reward & recognition programme.


We see a positive workplace as being more successful over time because it increases positive emotions and wellbeing across the business. When this is publicly acknowledged through an effective workplace reward and recognition programme this, in turn, improves people's relationships with each other and amplifies their abilities and creativity.


A positive workplace, and publicly acknowledged recognition within that workplace, helps support the business against inevitable negative experiences, such as stress, and improves employees' ability to bounce back from challenges and difficulties while supporting their wellbeing. And it attracts employees, making them more loyal to the business as well as bringing out and acknowledging their strengths and successes.


Active's online recognition platform allows employers to support this ambition of a positive workplace. To deliver praise and rewards while reinforcing the ideal of a positive workplace, as well as corporate goals and values, has been seen to improve employee engagement in many of our clients' businesses. For more information please contact us.

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