By Pichaya Changsorn
Published on November 27, 2009
Only 12 per cent of local workers committed to company goals: Dale Carnegie
Lower productivity resulting from "non-engaged" employees is costing the Thai economy Bt98.8 billion a year, according to David Fagiano, the chief operating officer of US-based global training company Dale Carnegie & Associates.
Speaking at a conference held by the Thai unit of his company in Bangkok recently, Fagiano said employee engagement was a major driver to profit and growth in every business organisation. Unfortunately, studies have found that most employees are not engaged with their firms' business, and the only thing they engage with is their paycheque, he said.
Fagiano said engagement meant winning the hearts as well as the minds of employees. The difference between "I understand" and "I believe" has a huge impact on a company's achievements, he said. A study by global consultancy Watson Wyatt has found that companies with engaged employees outperform others by 47 to 202 per cent.
He said a study conducted prior to the global recession found that only 29 per cent of workers in the US were engaged, while 54 per cent were not engaged and 17 per cent were "actively disengaged".
The findings in Thailand were even more dramatic, with only 12 per cent of Thai workers categorised as engaged, 82 per cent not engaged and 6 per cent actively disengaged.
Engaged employees are usually busy because they like to work, Fagiano said. They are more productive, make more money for the company, stay with the organisation longer, are committed to quality and are ethical and accountable.
Employers that are "not engaged" are those who concentrate on tasks and not outcomes, want to be told what to do, and "do it - get paid - go home". "Actively disengaged" workers, on the other hand, "sow seeds of negativity", undermine the work of others and express mistrust and animosity.
Within Asia, Fagiano said Thailand and China had the lowest levels of active engagement among talented staff - the type of people every organisation wants to retain because they are the people who can really drive the organisation forward.
"Thirty per cent of talented employees in Thailand will leave as soon as they get an acceptable job offer," he said.
A more recent study commissioned in February has found that the number of disengaged employees in the US has risen to 21 per cent of the workforce, Fagiano said. The recession has brought fear and distrust, and as well as being afraid of losing their jobs, employees wonder whether the management is telling the truth. As a result, employees have "turned inward" and have applied "the turtle mentality": do nothing wrong, don't take risks and don't get noticed, he said.
"In this economy, you need people who will stand up, but the recession creates the opposite," Fagiano said.
To find ways of reversing the engagement trend, Dale Carnegie & Associates joined the American Society of Training Development in a study that identified three solutions: growth, contributions and connections.
In the current economy, employees can still "grow as individuals", through opportunities to learn, by becoming mentors, working on projects and through recognition.
Fagiano said he was surprised to find that career development and training together were the top drivers of talent retention in Asia.
Contributions - in second place - refers to employees who want to create an impact for the businesses and who say "I want to matter".
Fagiano said it was the responsibility of management to deliver a clear and explicit vision for an organisation and to create a linkage between individual goals and corporate objectives. However, the study found that nearly 60 per cent of employees did not know what their companies' objectives were.
"It's amazing," Fagiano said. "Then, when we ask them: 'Do you have any goals?' 80 per cent will say, no - they have no goals."
The survey also found that employees were spending more than 15 per cent of their time on "company politics" and 30 per cent on irrelevant activities such as surfing the Web, leaving only 45 per cent of their time for activities linked to their companies' affairs.
Fagiano said the typical "top-down" model for Thai companies would present challenges in creating employee engagement because this required management to actively encourage contributions from workers.
On the issue of connections, Fagiano said half of Thai workers claimed to have a best friend at work. However, while most workers believe the most important ingredient in engagement is the relationship they have with their supervisors, only one-fifth of Thai workers say their managers actually care about them. In the government sector, only one in 10 workers think their supervisors care about them, he said.