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Utilities Skills Crisis: Is Employee Disengagement Partly to Blame?

December 7th 2018

Findings from our latest employee engagement survey reveal that some of the UK’s most disengaged employees work in the Energy and Utilities Sector. Here are three things your staff want you to improve today…

Covering the ten months leading to the end of October 2018, the survey findings uncovered a growing trend of disengagement mong Utilities workers. Employees in the Energy and Utilities sector were shown to be the least engaged out of all of the UK sectors surveyed.

Not far behind them were Public Sector and Restaurant industry workers. In contrast, Automotive sector employees were revealed to be the most engaged.

Following the implementation of our sector-wide Employee Benchmarking study, workers in the Utilities sector have consistently shown lower-than-average engagement levels. This trend mirrors findings from our 12-Month Customer Satisfaction and Employee Benchmark Report.

Empty Vacancies – Utilities Skills Shortage

In fact, the Energy & Utility Skills Partnership estimates that there are currently 221,000 vacancies needing to be filled in the next ten years. So, it’s no wonder that UK energy and water companies are facing a growing skills shortage.

This distinct deficit in skills is the result of having a large number of the current workforce set to retire, as well as high employee turnover and little interest from young people in pursuing careers in the Utilities sector. This leaves energy companies fishing from a pool of talent that is rapidly drying up.

In addition to difficulties in recruiting and retaining employees, a depleting workforce puts increased pressure on existing employees to perform, particularly when it comes to target-driven sales, call handling and infrastructure maintenance and repair roles. When internal pressure begins to mount, employee engagement and morale are the first things likely to suffer, and lead to staff being lured away by alternative employment.

Dedicating time and resources towards Employee Engagement Research helps energy and water companies reveal the key attributes employees values the most, and want to see more of in the workplace. Addressing these is the key to raising staff engagement and encouraging job longevity.

What’s more, when employees are actively engaged and are passionate about their work – and the company they work for – they are far more likely to deliver better customer service, which accelerates customer satisfaction and fosters a competitive edge in a crowded market. In short, engaged employees and satisfied customers go hand in hand. Everybody wins.

What do Energy & Utilities Employees Really Want?

It’s not what you think! It’s a mistake to assume that offering bigger salaries and juicier incentives is the key to unlocking employee engagement and satisfaction. Our latest employee engagement survey shows that the number one attribute UK employees prize is, in fact, ‘understanding what is required of you’.

Even more interesting still, it was employees in the Utilities and Public Sectors that placed the highest value on this particular engagement attribute. This tells us that providing employees with clear instructions about the tasks and responsibilities they are required to carry out in order to meet their employer’s expectations is a crucial component for sparking engagement.

Over a third of the UK workers surveyed rated understanding what they are required to do to fulfil their job role as their top engagement factor, followed by ‘working closely with your immediate team’ and ‘support from your line manager’.

Knowing your role, duties and your employer’s expectations is usually highlighted initially when starting a job, and is then revisited during regular performance reviews, but our findings suggest that regular and clear communication employees about what their role entails and their individual and team goals is far more effective at fostering motivation and promoting engagement. In a nutshell; regular affirmation of what direction employees need to take prevents them from going off-track and makes them less likely to make wrong decisions.

This kind of communication culture also provides a golden opportunity to underline how an individual’s own role contributes and enhances your organisation’s overall vision, and where it is heading. This promoted ownership and purpose. Plus – and this may sound obvious – ensuring employees understand and carry out what is expected of them relates directly to their salary, bonuses, and benefits. Such clear and defined parameters lets your staff know that they are on the right track.

Engagement by Sector – What is most important to your employees?

These employee benchmark results highlight the engagement attributes staff value most within different sectors of industry. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • 'Understanding what is required of you' - this was the most important engagement factor for employees in UtilitiesPublic SectorEngineering and Construction. This is indicative of the importance of clear direction to prevent role overlap/ambiguity and to ensure project specifications are completed correctly.
  • ‘Working closely with your team’ was the top engagement factor for employees in Retail and Restaurant settings, demonstrating the value and appreciation of close team working. 
  • Being empowered to make decisions’ is the most important engagement factor for Media employees.
  • Training to do your job well’ is rated the top priority for Airline sector employees.

Top 3 Causes of Engagement Revealed by Sentiment Analysis

Our staff engagement survey provides unique insight into employee experience in the UK via the application of sentiment analysis. This process enables us to identify and categorise common themes from staff responses, and allows us to pinpoint key areas for attention, as well as those that indicate the processes and actions a company needs to prioritise in order to bring about effective and positive change in company behaviour.

TTi’s rigorous data analysis techniques allow us to zone in on the degree to which employee responses are positive or negative. This is then presented on a simple scale of 0.0 to 1.0 – the higher the score, the more positive the tone of responses. This kind of data is easy for companies to understand and is invaluable to conducting effective employee research that pinpoints the precise area – process, policy, or personnel-related – where employee engagement begins to fall away.

According to the data from our latest survey, staff responses relating to their ‘team’ and ‘flexibility’ were the most positive, with scores of 0.7 and above. On the other hand, the aspects surveyed which related to ‘organisation’ and ‘management’ were rated 0.4 and below, indicating that shortcomings are likely to exist in those areas.

In short, employees value a good team and flexibility, but are frustrated with poor management and organisational factors.

In detail, over the course of the ten-month period to October 2018, the top three reasons for disengagement cited by UK employees were:

  • Organisation: 0.37
  • Management: 0.44
  • Training: 0.53

Where more employees felt engaged with their role and the company they worked for, the scores went up. In contrast, as the scores started to dip, the engagement levels were also found to be at their lowest.

This data was then further reinforced by qualitative commentary collected from respondents. Comments relating to the lowest engagement scores included:

  • Organisation: “Poor organisation and lack of support by management.”
  • Management: “My line manager is brilliant but there are still issues with some senior management engaging with staff productively.”
  • Training: “No support, no time to do training – just a constant battle.”

“If I could only change one thing today…”

Our survey also asked employees which single aspect about their employer they could change, backed up with a real comment as an example.

During the survey period, the following three aspects were the most cited by respondents:

  • Support: “Provide more support when asked and not feel forced to do it.”
  • Working Hours: “Reduce working hours, I currently work in excess of 42 hours per week.”
  • Pay: “My pay is much lower than similar roles in the private sector, so more pay.”

So what do your employees crave the most?

TTi Global Research is a leading provider of employee engagement and satisfaction research to companies worldwide, including top brands Jaguar Land Rover, Haymarket and Northern Gas Networks.

We conduct all types and scale of employee research and surveys, from Employee Pulse Surveys to complete Employee Engagement Quality Analysis Research programs, improving staff engagement and customer-delighting behaviours. To find out more about our employee research or employee engagement benchmarking data, contact us today.

Click here to download the full Employee Engagement Benchmark Report for Free