Economy down, engagement up

Recent research from Cambridge University has shown that employee engagement goes up during tough economic conditions.   There are two main reasons for this.   First, when times are hard, people reign in their own personal ambitions.   Even if they’re not mad keen on their job, they tend to take the view that they’re lucky to have one at all, and so they make a conscious decision to engage more with the organisation.    They don’t have such a long ‘wish list’ they want their company to fulfil.   They put their frustrations and personal desires to one side and instead concentrate a little bit more on not only doing their job, but doing it well.   They start to show more interest in what the organisation is doing and they cling on a little harder to the ‘comfort blanket’ of their current employment.     Secondly, when times are tough for organisations, the workers often feel a collective loyalty to keep it afloat and successful.     This speaks to our need as human beings to be part of something, to have purpose.   It’s not just that people work harder to keep their job, it’s deeper than that.   If employees see their company in trouble, they want to help turn it round.   They see a sense of purpose in pulling together to ‘get through this’.    For communicators and leaders, there are learnings and opportunities from this research.   Organisations need to be open about the challenges they face and they need to do more to take advantage of the spirit of collaboration and goodwill that naturally arises from difficult times.    Recession is not a time for cutting back on communications and engagement activities.   It’s time to be open, inclusive, innovative and bold.   The workers will respond.