According to the CIPD’s Employee Engagement Index1, more than half (55%) of employees in the voluntary sector feel engaged at work, compared with 41% last quarter, despite a backdrop of increasing redundancies (25% reporting planned redundancies ahead, a jump of 15 percentage points since last quarter). That’s compared with engagement levels of 37% in the private sector, where 8% of workers expect redundancies ahead, and 33% engagement levels in the public sector, where 28% of workers report plans for redundancies in their organisations.
The quarterly Employee Outlook, which surveyed employees across all sectors about their attitudes to working life, found that engagement in the voluntary sector is driven not only by an affinity to the organisation’s core purpose, but more importantly by open and honest management teams and cultures of mutual trust and respect.
The survey found that voluntary sector workers:
- Enjoy the highest rating of job satisfaction (a net score2 of +52, compared with +25 in public sector and +45 in private sector)
- Are aware3 of what is happening in their organisations (68% compared with 51% in public sector and 53% in private sector)
- Are most likely to agree that their directors and senior managers treat them with respect (+31 net agreement, compared with +19 in private sector and -7 in public sector) and are most likely to have trust and confidence in their leaders (+19 and +23 compared with -25 and -22 in the public sector and +12 and +14 in the private sector).
- Are the most attuned to their organisations’ core values and purpose (+40 compared with +1 in public sector and +32 in private sector)
- Have the most confidence4 in their ability to feed their views upwards (50% compared with 36% in public sector and 45% in private sector).
- Are most likely to achieve the right work-life balance (61% compared with 55% in public sector and 57% in the private sector).
Claire McCartney, research adviser at the CIPD, comments: “It would be easy to attribute strong engagement scores in the voluntary sector to employees’ affinity to their organisation’s charitable purpose, but our survey suggests that quality of management is a principal driving factor behind high levels of job satisfaction and employee engagement despite prolonged job insecurity.
“The data from the voluntary sector gives us some hints on how to engage staff through leadership – at all levels of the organisation – and provides some good practice that both the private and public sectors can learn from. More employees in the voluntary sector agree that they know clearly what the purpose of the organisation is, but also that they can feed their views upwards. Positive communication practices could explain why more employees in the voluntary sector understand the organisation’s core purpose, are motivated by it and are less likely to be looking for a different job.
“It is highly likely that the economic downturn will continue to shape organisational change at least for another year, so organisations will need to draw on their leadership capability to maintain employee engagement and job satisfaction. This highlights how important it is for private and public sector organisations to clearly articulate their purpose in terms other than shareholder value and cost-cutting.”
- The overall Engagement Index score (across sectors) has grown slightly to reach 37%, compared with 35% in the previous quarter (voluntary sector: 55%, public sector: 33%, private sector: 37%).
- Employees feeling trust and confidence in their line managers are more likely to recommend their organisation as an employer (voluntary sector: 59%, public sector: 49% and private sector: 51%)
- Employees who agreed or strongly agreed that their senior team has a clear vision of where the organisation is going were less likely to experience excessive pressure at work every day or once or twice a week (38%) compared with those respondents disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with the presence of clear vision among directors/senior managers (54%).
1 Factors measured by Employee Engagement Index include: going the extra mile, alignment to organisation purpose, work-life balance, and relationship with colleagues, satisfaction with role, attitude to senior managers and satisfaction with line managers.
2 Net scores refer to the proportion of people agreeing with a statement minus those disagreeing. Scores can range from -100 to +100
3 Proportion of employees in voluntary sector reporting that they feel fully / fairly well informed about organisational issues
4 Proportion of employees in the voluntary sector reporting that they satisfied / very satisfied with the opportunities that exist to feed their views / issues / ideas upwards