Com­pa­nies score bet­ter with bot­tom-up em­ployee en­gage­ment

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE - By Daniela Vin­centi,

De­spite the slow eco­nomic re­cov­ery, a high num­ber of man­agers and em­ployee rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the EU re­port a good work cli­mate, and say that the grow­ing in­volve­ment of em­ploy­ees in com­pa­nies’ daily de­ci­sion-mak­ing is good for per­for­mance and eco­nomic growth.

Busi­nesses with di­rect em­ployee par­tic­i­pa­tion score bet­ter in terms of per­for­mance and well-be­ing ac­cord­ing to the third Euro­pean Com­pany Sur­vey by Euro­found, the Euro­pean Foun­da­tion for the Im­prove­ment of Living and Work­ing Con­di­tions, a tri­par­tite EU agency.

About 84% of man­agers and 67% of em­ployee rep­re­sen­ta­tives sur­veyed re­ported a “good” or “very good” work cli­mate, de­spite con­tract­ing mar­kets and a re­sult­ing labour sur­plus, said the re­port, launched at a joint EU Pres­i­dency con­fer­ence in Riga on Mon­day.

Much of the pos­i­tives lie in train­ing, work time flex­i­bil­ity, and vari­able pay schemes op­por­tu­ni­ties, the sur­vey found.

“The find­ings are very pos­i­tive,” said Maxime Cerutti, So­cial Af­fairs Direc­tor at Busi­nessEurope. “It means that there is a lot of so­cial dia­logue go­ing on, but also that em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees are adapt­ing in the post-cri­sis.” In the con­text of the Europe 2020 strat­egy, which seeks to cre­ate the con­di­tions for smart, sus­tain­able and in­clu­sive growth, the sur­vey’s find­ings point to an en­cour­ag­ing trend.

But all that glit­ters is not gold and the find­ings need to be taken with a grain of salt. Man­agers are more pos­i­tive than em­ployee rep­re­sen­ta­tives about the changes in the work cli­mate. 31% said it had im­proved, while only 13% felt it had de­te­ri­o­rated, against 24% and 26% on the em­ployee side.

Some an­a­lysts also point out the dif­fer­ences in the statis­tics. In­deed, the sur­vey in­volves 24,251 man­agers and only 6,860 em­ploy­ees.

More­over, the ques­tions asked to man­agers are not the same ones posed to em­ploy­ees rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Euro­pean Trade Union Con­fed­er­a­tion Deputy Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Pa­trick Itschert put the fig­ures in per­spec­tive, ex­plain­ing that cor­po­rate re­struc­tur­ing has cre­ated ev­ery­thing ex­cept a pos­i­tive cli­mate. Ac­cord­ing to Itschert, 23 mln peo­ple still suf­fer from work-re­lated ill­nesses in Europe.

Pre­vi­ous re­search by Euro­found has shown ev­i­dence that the al­ready com­par­a­tively high lev­els of psy­choso­cial risk in­crease with re­struc­tur­ing, es­pe­cially in the public sec­tor. This said, Itschert con­cedes that the com­pa­nies that are able to fight the cri­sis are those that have good so­cial dia­logue in place, such as in the Nordic coun­tries. “That works where work­ers are con­fi­dent to talk to man­agers, be­cause they have the back­ing from their union,” in­sisted Itschert. What­ever the col­lab­o­ra­tive method used, dia­logue in­creases find­ing so­lu­tions to ease re­lated dif­fi­cul­ties, like tech­nolo­gies, ris­ing chang­ing mar­kets. the prospects of stress and workadapt­ing to new com­pe­ti­tion and

Ac­cord­ing to the Euro­found sur­vey, the ma­jor­ity of com­pa­nies pro­vide paid time off for train­ing (71%) or on-the-job train­ing (73%) for at least some of their em­ploy­ees.

“As peo­ple will re­tire, we want to keep that knowl­edge in the com­pany,” said Ger­wig Krus­pel, Vice Pres­i­dent of HR Trends and Strat­egy, at BASF. He ex­plained that BASF had adopted a Em­ployee Devel­op­ment Ini­tia­tive, ac­cord­ing to which 7 out 10 peo­ple get on-the-job train­ing, while the re­main­ing three get ei­ther coach­ing ses­sions or class­room train­ing.

“13% of es­tab­lish­ments do not pro­vide any train­ing at all. In this con­text, bar­ri­ers to pro­vi­sions of train­ing by com­pa­nies need to be ad­dressed, pay­ing at­ten­tion to the ways in which work­ers learn and de­velop,” said re­searchers at Euro­found.

Where com­pa­nies do not pro­vide any train­ing, the state has a role to play, ar­gued Aline Hoff­mann, from the Euro­pean Trade Union In­sti­tute, point­ing to SME strug­gles to train their em­ploy­ees, so that they can adapt to chang­ing work­ing meth­ods and avoid stress.

When it comes to work­place in­no­va­tion, the com­pa­nies that seem to boost growth are those that adopt in­ter­ac­tive and joint de­ci­sion-mak­ing prac­tices on daily tasks, di­rectly or in­di­rectly in­volv­ing em­ploy­ees.

Stavroula Deme­tri­ades, Se­nior Pro­gramme Manager at Euro­found, men­tioned the case of the Dan­ish tex­tile com­pany Kvadrat. “They asked their em­ploy­ees to come up with utopian ideas,” she said. When you need to com­pete in the tex­tile world, you need to be in­no­va­tive, she added. Com­pany man­agers en­cour­age em­ploy­ees to think out of the box. Kvadrat now pro­duces high-tech tex­tiles for the high­end of the de­sign and fur­ni­ture mar­ket.

“You don’t need to bring down wages to com­pete with China, but rather pro­duce high-tech tex­tiles,” Itschert added to the ar­gu­ment.

Com­ment­ing on the Euro­found re­port, Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota Work and Or­ga­ni­za­tion Pro­fes­sor John Budd stressed the dif­fi­culty of rec­on­cil­ing dif­fer­ent mind­sets, but ar­gued in favour of in­for­mal prac­tices of work­ers and em­ploy­ers dia­logue at com­pany level. “Some prac­tices out­lined in the re­port are worth con­sid­er­ing, but it is im­por­tant also to give space to new ideas in ev­ery com­pany,” he said, adding one size does not fit all.

Achiev­ing ‘win-win’ out­comes is not guar­an­teed even when favourable prac­tices are in place,’ says Juan Menén­dez-Valdés, Euro­found’s Direc­tor.

“Pol­i­cy­mak­ers and the so­cial part­ners have a role to play in fos­ter­ing best prac­tice, rais­ing aware­ness and im­ple­ment­ing ini­tia­tives at sec­toral level.”

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