Employee engagement – the timing issue

Improved Employee Engagement is likely to result in more productive employees, but how – and when – should employers seek to engage their workers?

Recently the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published their review of Pensions Automatic Enrolment, and we looked at the recommendations of that document in this article last year. 

One of the principal reasons for the review was a genuine concern that - despite 9 million workers being enrolled into pension plans over the last few years - only a small percentage of savers appear to have actively logged-on to their pension accounts so far.  This lack of engagement is worrying, given that many enrolled individuals will have to save much more than the legal minimums to generate any meaningful pension income in their retirement years.

But engagement goes much further than pension savings alone. It has long been recognised that employers that are able to effectively “engage” with their workforces are likely to benefit from both reduced absence and higher productivity figures. These are both big wins for any organisation, and are also important for the wider UK economy given the nation’s Productivity Deficit at present.  

Clearly there is no silver bullet to this issue, but the DWP’s “Maintaining the Momentum” report does highlight a very simple - yet very important - method to better engage savers, which could perhaps be harnessed and extended to other employee communications.  The key to this approach is all about relevance and good timing.

To quote from the report:

“For a moment to be teachable, it must be at a time when the intervention is relevant to a person’s current circumstances, relates specifically to their goals and allows people to follow on with simple, practical actions.

Teachable moments will vary by age and circumstances but generally occur during key transitions e.g. moving house, getting a job, starting a family or during times when people are making financial decisions”

Or, more simply, people will engage more when circumstances dictate that they really must do so. 

Now this is certainly true for pension savings, and there is no reason why the same logic should not extend to other areas of employee engagement also.  So how can this little nugget of information be utilised by employers to improve employee engagement as well as pension savings?

It is likely that many employers would find it rather challenging to isolate the “teachable moments” mentioned above, given that the criteria are often personal and unique to an individual employee.  Yet engaging groups of workers based on less specific demographics such as age profiles or grades would be a relatively straight-forward step. Once such a grouping is established, the employer can instigate workshops and/or communications that are specifically tailored to that particular grouping’s profile. Whilst not as precise as the “teachable moments”, there remains the strong possibility that those with similar profiles will be facing many similar challenges and aspirations. These can be addressed within the group, and this should enable employer messages to be both better delivered and received. 

Another bonus of this approach is that workers remain social animals. It is easier for many people to make a positive choice or take an action if an individual feels that others are also doing the same thing, or would approve of their decision. So a more closely aligned grouping may well result in more employees taking constructive steps which will benefit employer and employee alike.

So we would encourage employers to perhaps think more deeply about communications and engagement exercises to see if a better result can be achieved by improving the relevance and timing of the messages involved. 

For more information on our Employee Benefits, Financial Education, and LaterLife workshop services please speak to your usual Jelf consultant, or find one of our local experts near you here.

Steve Herbert is Head of Benefits Strategy at Jelf Employee Benefits

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