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EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT SITUATION IN PAKISTAN
We may not have as many detailed statistics available for Pakistan, but based on long experience in various organizations, interactions with many other people and corporates, we understand that employee engagement is not a priority agenda in Pakistan. The problem is seen on both sides: the employers do not want to invest money and paid time on such activities; and the employees are not highly motivated either. There are generational differences also, where older generations find employee engagement unnecessary, and younger generations promote it. Since the older generation wields more power, their view usually prevails.
Engagement in Public Sector Workforce
A June 2020 paper by Nadeem Ahmed Khan quotes the results of a Gallup Q12 survey of 581, 334 federal employees.
- Engaged employees 28% 162,747
- Not engaged employees 54% 313,870
- Actively disengaged employees 17% 98,811
It means that almost 72% employees are not engaged. The situation in provincial departments is expected to be no different, in fact it may be higher due to less perks and benefits compared to federal employees. The survey from corporation to corporation will also yield highly variable results.
Engagement in Corporate Sector Workforce
Another research by Javed Iqbal, Salman Shabbir, Hashim Zameer, Imtiaz Khan, and Moeed Sandhu explores the engagement among corporate sector employees, and correlations between the factors leading to engagement. The overall engagement is not mentioned due to the scope of research. The research points out that job characteristics such as task identity, task significance and skill variety affect the total engagement index.
My commentary is that because of availability of cheap labor, the jobs are designed poorly even in the corporate sector. Assistants are hired in bulk in every department who carry out small parts of a job which the manager(s) of the department are required to do. They neither learn any particular skill, nor get understanding of the job even after working for several years. There is another line of office boys who serve tea and carry files from one table to other. They form the bulk of disengaged employees.
Engagement in Service Sector Workforce
Service sectors; telecom, banking, hospitality, travel, logistics, financial services, brokerage houses etc. have grown exponentially in the last twenty or so years.
A study by Rizwan Danish, Farid Ahmad, Sidra Zaman, and Mohsin Khan investigates the determinants of employee engagement in service sector of Pakistan. Their study included various experience brackets; from one year to over ten years. All respondents, 68% male, 32% female, were non-managers. The study concluded that when the service sector employees believed that management had strong commitment regarding the customer service quality, and provided good support to employees, they would be more engaged.
Service sector employees have more demanding work and tight schedules along with higher expectations from customers. A hotel guest wants an A-class treatment no matter how it happens. The employees may be dead tired but must put up a smiling face. Very recently, PIA has increased number of hours of airhostesses from twelve to sixteen per day. Customer service representatives on helplines have a miserable schedule which is constantly made more miserable by the ill-mannered customers.
Another research by F. Awan, S. Aslam, and M. Mubeen studied the employees of telecom sector specifically. They found that perceived opportunities for growth and behavior of line manager were key factors for employees’ commitment towards job.
Differences between Multinational and National Corporations
Generally, MNCs are more cognizant of the value of employee engagement. They run employee engagement surveys to assess the level of engagement, and they keep taking various measures to enhance/ maintain engagement. National corporates working for MNCs abroad are also required to ensure positive work environment and engaged workforce.
National corporates working nationally or regionally are a different story altogether. They follow their own thinking. Some are really progressive, but majority believes in keeping the poor practices alive. Another issue is the twisted sensitivity about cost where unit price is more important than the value it delivers.
We come from a feudal background and feudal mentality prevails at all levels, disregarding what the actual status may be. Officers mistreat assistants, managers mistreat officers, senior management mistreats everyone below them, and the owner/CEO mistreats the whole corporate. Similarly, men mistreat women, and women in power mistreat other women. This is a vicious cycle created out of the centuries of absolute powers exercised by the kings, nawabs, rajahs, and colonial masters, and abject servility expressed by the subjects. We have a long history of being abused physically, financially, psychologically, and emotionally. The abused become abusers in their turn and the wheel continues moving. Even the newer generation is following the same old trends which means that we cannot expect improvement in the near future.
Rising population, illiteracy, and lack of skill training are feeding unemployment every day. For one small government job like lower division clerk, one thousand candidates may apply, including those who are clearly overqualified. Government hiring is mostly frozen or done without actual due process. Unemployment leads to desperation where the employee will accept any treatment to preserve his/her meagre job. It is a sad commentary, but it is a big reason why employers do not bother about employee engagement. They know, if one goes out, twenty others will be in queue to get in.
Employee engagement in the context of Pakistan is a heartbreaking topic. Barring a minority of corporates, the highly literate and illiterate employers both, consider the workforce as slaves, not the human capital. Slaves are expendable; they can be bought cheaply, misused to the hilt, and discarded at the drop of a dime. So far, efforts in this direction are patchy at best, and ineffective generally.
To be Continued……
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