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Multinationals Must Manage Engagement Around the World

By Melissa J. Anderson

Today’s corporation employs a workforce that spans the globe – and multi-geographic teams can be difficult to manage when it comes to clashing cultural norms and expectations. The issue of employee engagement can also be problematic when it comes to working with teams around the world.

While technology enables teams across geographic regions to work together, individuals may not be fully aware of the workplace culture they are dealing with on the other side of the computer screen. This can lead to communication snags, confusion, and hampered innovation.

Additionally, since employee engagement is tied to productivity, individuals in more engaged regions may become frustrated when they perceive that individuals in less engaged regions are not pulling their weight on a project.

By ensuring that multinational teams are aware of what is going on with their counterparts in another global region, companies can ease these complications.

Differences Between National Engagement Levels

For example, many companies have offices within the US and the UK and individuals between the offices will likely communicate with one another and collaborate on projects. But according to new research by ORC International, employee engagement levels are significantly lower in the UK than they are in the US.

According to Jamie Lawrence at inspireme.co.uk, only 43 percent of UK respondents said they felt there is a positive relationship between management and staff, but in the US, 56 percent reported a positive relationship. Similarly, 54 percent of UK respondents said they enjoyed their day-to-day tasks, while 63 percent of US respondents said the same.

He quotes Rory MacNeill, MD of ORC International’s employee research division, who said:

“This year’s results show that good management continues to play a key role in driving employee engagement up. Effective leadership has led to positive scores in US organisations, but employers in the UK must look at their approaches and put measures in place to improve perceptions of management. If they don’t, they risk a continuing downward engagement trend.”

But this “downward engagement trend” is not isolated – companies within the UK deal with teams around the world, and that disengagement can hurt productivity around the word.

ORC identified the financial crisis and uncertainty around the jobs market in the UK, as well as tough budget cuts as potential reasons for the low engagement numbers.

In fact, while engagement levels in most of the developed nations were middling or low, employee engagement in hot markets like China and India are high. Lawrence writes:

“The most dramatic change in employee engagement levels was seen in China, with a seven-place jump to second place overall in the 2011 rankings. India has the most engaged employees, with an overall ranking of 74 percent, up from 66 percent in 2010.”

Mapping Disengagement

A new tool by Gallup sets out to compare how employee engagement across geographic regions, taking into account life evaluations and wellbeing indicators. The levels are displayed vividly on a global map. For example, the data show that in the US and Canada, about 25% of those polled were engaged at work, about 65% were disengaged, and about 15% were actively disengaged.

But the story is slightly different in Western Europe, where about 15% were engaged, about 65% were disengaged, and about 20% were actively disengaged.

The map shows visibly that significantly more people in the US and Canada are happy with their work than they are in Western Europe, corroborating the ORC International findings.

These differences can account for difficulties that may arise in communication, teamwork, and travel across different localities. By keeping track of multinational engagement levels, and ensuring that employees are sensitive disengagement levels among their counterparts abroad, organizations could better meet the expectations and navigate communication challenges that occur across boarders.

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