How does the economy affect the practice of employee engagement?
In times of low unemployment when there is strong competition for qualified people to fill positions, organizations scramble to find and keep good employees. Strategic recruitment and retention take center stage in a tight labor market. In this situation, the case for employee engagement is a no-brainer.
In times of high unemployment when there are fewer positions available, it’s employees who scramble to find and keep jobs. Instead of being viewed as marketable talent (“What will it take to get you to work for us?”), employees are viewed as expendable commodities (“You’re lucky to have a job, so we don’t care about keeping you happy.”). This is when engagement is viewed as an unnecessary expense.
Investment in workplace engagement, unfortunately, varies based on the economy.
“In boom cycles, leaders tend to have a healthy focus on what needs to be done to continue to drive profitable growth. But as soon as the bubble bursts, they turn to an unhealthy focus on results, which decreases employee commitment [and] discretionary effort, and negatively impacts productivity, and overall market performance.” Dr. Clark Perry
We don’t need no stinkin’ engagement … or do we?
Market fluctuations should not be an excuse to abandon employee engagement efforts. For example, consider the impact that high unemployment has on consumer spending — when fewer people are working, they spend less. As a result, companies need to work harder to compete for customers. Employees who find themselves treated as expendable are unlikely to go out of their way to best serve current and prospective customers. It’s the reason I remind executives and business owners that the way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers!
It’s also why employee engagement is a smart strategy regardless of the market situation.