Employee retention is now front and center for managers. Across Europe, and indeed the world, organizations have been forced to become more focused on employee engagement and retention. With a global pandemic currently causing massive upheaval throughout the job market, employers are naturally looking for ways to effectively retain their employees and keep them engaged.

Key findings on employee engagement and retention

Achievers recently conducted surveys of employees in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, and Netherlands to better understand engagement levels across these countries, learn how much appetite there is for new job opportunities in each region, and assess the main factors impacting employee engagement and retention. The findings in our Achievers Employee Engagement and Retention Report reveal appreciation, work-life balance, and career opportunities are key to increasing engagement and preventing high attrition. The biggest surprise in all four countries was that employees were typically less driven by salary considerations than might be expected. Our research provides recommendations on how to create a workplace culture that aligns employees with organizational objectives and improves both retention and productivity, including:

  • Institute more regular and formalized employee appreciation to reduce attrition and improve engagement
  • Deliver an agile organization that presents opportunities for people to take on new responsibilities and grow in their careers
  • Maintain focus on work-life balance and focus on productivity to combat pointless presenteeism

In particular, British workers felt the leading reasons for considering a job move would be improving their work-life balance and advancing their career. A similar finding was displayed in the Irish and Belgian surveys, with one in four stating they would explore new opportunities for the same reasons. In contrast, Dutch employees cited inadequate compensation as the chief barrier to engagement at work, with 24 percent choosing this option. However, this was closely followed by feeling underappreciated for contributions made in the workplace (21 percent) and a lack of career opportunities (22 percent).

Current employee engagement levels

Employee engagement levels can help determine whether your workers are likely to remain with your organization for the long term. One-third (33 percent) of Irish respondents described themselves as “very engaged” and committed to their company for the long term. This was in step with Dutch (33 percent) and British (35 percent) counterparts, but considerably more with Belgian workers (39 percent) who ranked themselves at the highest engagement level.

employee engagement and retention

Prevent the mass exodus

Business and HR leaders might be somewhat relieved by the findings that suggest employees, (even before the pandemic lockdown) were not considering switching companies and the majority described themselves as engaged. However, they cannot be complacent with the significant minority that is actively disengaged or verging on apathetic.

More attention should be paid to the significant proportion of employees who have described their engagement as average or worse. In the Netherlands, for example, 1 in 5 workers described themselves as disengaged, with 1 in 10 saying they are completely disengaged and already looking elsewhere. Similar results were seen in the UK.

Our Employee Engagement and Retention report further revealed worrying levels of apathy, beyond the more strident disengagement:

  • 17 percent of Belgian employees who described their engagement as “average” still demonstrated an obvious lack of enthusiasm for their current roles.
  • A quarter of Dutch employees described their engagement as average, with a similar percentage (24 percent) of British and Irish (22 percent) workers also recording tepid feedback about their level of engagement.

In order to address the barriers to employee engagement and retention, your organization needs to be strategic and think about initiatives that will keep your workplace and bottom line successful in the long run.

Timely acknowledgement from leaders of what can be done to improve engagement, with clear actions to shift to a collaborative culture where people support each other in both peer-to-peer and managerial relationships, should be high on all leaders’ agendas.

employee engagement ideas and activities surveys

Employees are better on your side

As we identified, a high proportion of European workers surveyed believe their company could in fact do more to make them feel engaged with their work, and at the top of the list in most countries was enhanced recognition:

  • The single biggest factor pinpointed by British workers as hindering their engagement with their job was feeling underappreciated for their contributions, with more than a quarter selecting this option (27 percent).
  • This compared with 24 percent in Ireland, 20 percent in Netherlands and 15 percent in Belgium selecting this as the primary barrier to engagement.
  • Just 1 in 5 recognition-starved British employees consider themselves valued.

Employee recognition programs can be a good starting point for aligning an entire workforce with company goals and retaining top talent. It is a crucial first step in addressing the barriers to employee engagement and retention and can motivate employees all-year round.

In summary, our Employee Engagement and Retention report covering these four European countries reinforce the need for companies to prioritize everyday appreciation in order to effectively boost employee engagement and retention across the workplace.

To learn more and access all key findings and stats, download our free Employee Engagement and Retention report (available for the UK, Ireland, Belgium, and Netherlands).