ContributorsMulti-process HRSourcing

Attitude Adjustment

Towers Perrin’s study finds low levels of employee engagement; Indian workers are highly dissatisfied, while Latin Americans report strong engagement.

by Denise Doig

Only one in five workers in the U.S. feels they are highly engaged in their jobs, a new employee survey reveals. Moreover, the feeling of engagement across the globe is even lower, with little more than one in eight workers having those same feelings.

According to a recent Towers Perrin study, “How Employee Attitudes Affect Companies in Today’s Competitive, Global Business Environment,” employee engagement is “the willingness and ability to help the company succeed:  to freely and consistently give discretionary effort on the job.” To assess the level of engagement among employees around the globe, Towers Perrin contacted 86,000 employees in 16 countries working for mid-size and large organizations.

According to the study, 84 percent of highly engaged employees say they influence work quality, while 31 percent of disengaged employees said they felt the same way. The study specifies 10 drivers of employee engagement: opportunities to learn and develop new skills; improve skills and capabilities; company reputation; input; focus on customer satisfaction; pay determination; collaboration with coworkers; decision-making authority; management ensuring long-term success; and interest in employee well-being.

Although high engagement occurs to only one in five U.S. workers, that ratio drops significantly elsewhere in the world. In India, only 2 percent are highly engaged. Those in Latin America had the highest engagement, with Brazil at 40 percent and Mexcio at 31 percent. These responses are significant especially because more and more companies are invested in offshoring to Asia. This practice raises “people risks;”  an organization’s success will greatly depend on how well it understands local customs and traditions in the workplace and how to positively engage workers.  

In the past few years, North American and European studies have shown little change in engagement levels. Employers need to recognize the importance that engagement has on their success.

When asked to rate how well their companies drive engagement, workers gave high marks to areas related to skills but gave unfavorable reviews of senior management. Globally, employees recognize the importance of improving current professional skills has on job security, and the study found that companies that support employee training and development will likely report better engagement levels.

However, the disconnect between senior employees and the rank and file is serious and needs to be addressed. Forty-six percent of employees said they feel inspired by the organization to do their best work; 41 percent indicated that senior management supports new concepts and strategies; 37 percent believe senior management is visible and accessible; and only 33 percent believe that senior management communicates openly and honestly. Towers Perrin said the numbers show that employers need to improve leadership, communication, and vision to convey that senior management is genuinely concerned and interested in their employees.

The study also projected that disengaged employees were more likely to leave their employer. Three percent of highly engaged workers were actively looking for new jobs, while 21 percent of disengaged employees were searching. The study insisted that higher engagement improves employee retention, and evidence of this is beginning to surface in all sectors.

So how can organizations improve employee engagement? Once the reason for low employee engagement is identified, the next step is to figure out which needs are not being met and how to build that engagement. For example, if employees specify that they are interested in more group projects, figure out ways to make this a reality. Companies need to understand which drivers improve employee engagement.

According to the study, for developed economies such as the U.S. and the U.K., the top driver is a senior management team that employees believe has their interests at heart. In India and Mexico the top driver is skill enhancement; employees responded favorably when they were able to improve their skills and capabilities in the past year. Global competitiveness, talent gaps, and employee retention are major concerns worldwide. By focusing on employee engagement, companies can address not only these challenges but also their overall productivity and success.

Tags: Contributors, Multi-process HR, Sourcing

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