The role of the partner in employee engagement

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Tuesday, 4 December 2012 - Adi Gaskell

Adi Gaskell looks at why it might be a good idea to offer benefits and incentives to your employee's partner

Office Party

Employee engagement is a topic that’s in the mind of most managers today, with flexible working trumpeted as one of the main weapons in the managers armoury when looking to improve it.

Most employee engagement initiatives however are aimed squarely at the employee themselves. New research suggests that a more appropriate target is the employees spouse.

The research found that the opinion of an employees spouse is crucial in determining their happiness at work. If the spouse believes that work is getting in the way of family life then it has a profound impact on employee engagement.

The researchers studied 102 couples (an employee and their spouse) to investigate how big an influence the spouse was on engagement. Each partner was asked to rate the amount of disruption caused to family life by their partners job.

The second phase one month later asked the employee how they perceived their own levels of work-family conflict, and additionally the degree to which they were looking for another job.

The research found that employees were significantly more likely to be looking for a new job when their partner’s perception of their job was negative. This was found to be true even accounting for the employee’s own perceptions of their work.

So even if I think my work is fine and dandy, if my partner doesn’t, then the chances are high that I’ll be looking for a new job pretty soon.

As Christmas party season is fast approaching, perhaps now is the time for managers to start schmoozing the partners of their key employees, for this research suggests that a happy partner equals a happy employee.

Adi Gaskell is a management writer.

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