(From The Korea Herald) -- A recent OECD survey found that Koreans work the longest hours per year (2,193 hours) among OECD countries. The OECD average stands at mere 1,749 hours. However, working long hours is not necessarily linked to higher productivity.
In fact, SAS, a software company well-known for its great working environment, recommends its engineers to work strictly eight hours as it is more costly to find and correct errors made by disengaged or overworked engineers.
Similarly, Towers Watson’s recent employee survey “2012 Global Workforce Study” revealed some alarming issues with Korean employees today, including low sustainable engagement.
Sustainable engagement, which refers to employees maintaining a positive connection to their companies that yields consistent productivity, has three elements.
The first element is traditional engagement, defined as employees’ willingness to give extra effort to their employer; the second, enablement, defined as having the tools, resources, and support to get work done efficiently; and the third, energy, defined as a work environment that actively supports physical, emotional and interpersonal well-being. When these three elements are well-balanced, employees are considered highly engaged in a way that is sustainable over a longer period of time.
Companies have known for years that performance is tightly linked to engagement. In a study of 50 global companies, we found that the average operating margin of companies whose employees are sustainably engaged were three times higher than that of those suffering from a low level of employee engagement.
Unfortunately, our study found that only 16 percent of the Korean employee respondents were “highly engaged.” This is significantly lower than the global average (35 percent) or the average of fast-growing emerging markets, such as China and India (around 50 perccent). Moreover, the tough business climate of the past half-decade has shown that engagement is fragile and is unsustainable over time without paying careful attention to very specific elements in the work environment.
Therefore, it is important to diagnose the cause of Korean employees’ low engagement to enhance corporate sustainability and performance. The study revealed that the top drivers of sustainable engagement in Korea include senior leadership, goals and objectives, stress and workload balance. Not many Koreans feel satisfied with these factors.
From the survey, leadership was identified as the most important driver for sustainable engagement in Korea. However, only 37 percent of the subjects rated their senior leaders’ performance good to very good. The level was similar to those found in countries stricken by the economic crisis, such as Spain, Italy, and Ireland.