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Why UK workers aren’t going the extra mile

Employee willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, such as helping others with their workloads and volunteering for extra tasks has dropped significantly in the UK. According to CEB’s quarterly Global Talent Monitor report, only two-in-10 UK workers indicated high levels of ‘discretionary effort’ this quarter. Article by Brian Kropp, HR practice leader CEB.

Employee willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, such as helping others with their workloads and volunteering for extra tasks has dropped significantly in the UK. According to CEB’s quarterly Global Talent Monitor report, only two-in-10 UK workers indicated high levels of ‘discretionary effort’ this quarter. Article by Brian Kropp, HR practice leader CEB.

This means that fewer employees are putting themselves forward for additional work, actively helping out peers or looking for ways to do improve how they do their jobs.

With just 17.4 percent of the UK workforce putting in extra effort at work, we are lagging behind our global counterparts. The US is beating the UK by nearly 10 percentage points, whilst Germany comes in at same figure of 17.4 percent of workers going above and beyond. The falling levels of effort in the UK are clearly linked to the faltering productivity levels as a growing number of disengaged employees are achieving less output during the working day. Latest figures show that UK workers already produce 30 percent less per hour than workers in Germany, the US and France, with the situation only set to get worse if it is not addressed.

This is a challenging situation for employers, as the realities of the new work environment mean leaders are asking for more from their current teams. On average, global executives believe they need a 20 percent uplift in performance over and above what is already being done if they are to achieve their goals.  To deliver on this, leaders must focus on retaining those who do go above and beyond, as well as boosting engagement and motivation more widely across the business. Whilst current findings show that UK workers are staying with their employers and not actively looking for work, the high levels of disengagement we’re seeing will soon start to show. Employers hoping to stem the brain drain need to address areas such as the lack of future career opportunities and progression which is cited as one of the most important reasons for people when they choose to leave a job.  Interestingly this is in stark contrast to other markets such as the US and China, where compensation consistently ranks as one of the top drivers of attrition. Yet workers in the UK are increasingly motivated by different experiences, and will jump at opportunities to work across different roles and teams.

Managers need to be clearer in communicating what opportunities are available and take an active interest in their employees’ aspirations and future prospects. Many companies may already be engaging in these conversations, but employers and employees need to start thinking about careers in terms of continuous growth, and work together to ensure development opportunities are designed to build skills that allow for personal growth and achieve organisational outcomes. This will in turn increase job satisfaction and engagement and reduce regrettable turnover. Given that the cost for every lost employee is around £16,000 per year, providing a more transparent and systematic approach which outlines a concrete timeline, objectives and a step-by-step outline of how to get there for each and every employee must be a priority.

In order to really boost discretionary effort, companies need to focus on the following:

  • Design careers around experiences that allow employees to grow with the organisation;
  • Motivate employees with employability – the capabilities, skills, knowledge, experiences, achievements and personal attributes that make him/her more valuable to an employer – rather than title progression;
  • Deliver targeted internal job opportunities to employees before they actively look for a job. Only 29 percent of employees currently see career opportunity at their organisation; and
  • Overcome talent hoarding bycreating a talent brokerage that allows managers to both import and export talent, increasing their willingness to share by 50 percent.

As economic growth continues and more jobs become available, the best organisations will learn from the past and reframe the way they approach workforce progression. Not only will this keep employees happy, it will also save significant investment by reducing staff turnover. 

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