Should Employee Engagement Become Worker Engagement? 

Engage for Success has been championing the cause of employee engagement for 10 years. As our employment landscape continues to change, our Contingency Worker Thought and Action Group (TAG) is now challenging the view that engagement is relevant to only those who are on organisation’s payroll. We feel that engagement needs to include the UK’s contingent workforce. Think ‘worker engagement’ rather than ‘employee engagement’.

Background and context

The TAG has discovered that, on average, that contingency workers make up 10% of the labour market. However, we know that in some sectors this is much, much higher. And often it is the contingent workers who are customer facing and/or provide key support when organisations are stretched during peak periods of demand.

Although many organisations enjoy the flexibility of deploying a contingent workforce, not many, if any at all, have strategies and tactics to engage with them. And for good reason too, as the legal constraints in place actively discourage organisations from doing so.

Our TAG has been busy to finding out how contingency workers feel about their place of work. We partnered with a highly regarded umbrella company and surveyed 649 contingency workers across a range of sectors. These were mostly technology, education, social care & health care and financial services.

The results of our survey can be downloaded here.

A summary of our survey results

Here is a summary of what we’ve found in the population we surveyed:

  • Engagement levels of this group of contingency workers are on par with the current levels of employee engagement i.e., 60%. Although this may seem positive at first sight, it still means that 4 out of 10 contingency workers are not engaged which, as we know, damages service levels and productivity.
  • Only 50% of the respondents consider themselves to be financially better off by being a contingency worker. 22% of those surveyed considered themselves to be financially worse off.
  • The survey found that there is a link between financial impact and levels of engagement, prompting the question of how much productivity and customer services level suffer because of low pay.
  • Our survey also found that financial impact and levels of engagement are linked with loyalty (i.e., remaining to be a contingency worker). For example, loyalty dramatically worsens for those contingency workers who have low engagement and are worse off financially.

Next Steps

As a TAG we feel strongly that engagement levels of contingency workers cannot and must not be ignored. Levels of engagement should not be determined by the contractual relationship that people have with the organisation that pays them. Paying attention to worker engagement is the ethical thing to do, not just the right economical path to take.  

Our next course of action is to undertake a second survey this autumn. This second study is to include more contingency workers from (what commentators use to call but our survey has confirmed as being an outdated term) blue collar workers. We feel that this will give a wider view of the state of engagement amongst contingency workers and help further raise the cause of worker engagement. These results will also be shared with you.

Paul Beesley

Chair, Contingency Workers TAG

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