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Employee engagement plateaus

Wednesday June 17, 2015 Written by  Aon Hewitt
Global employee engagement levels have plateaued as the average employee’s perception of the work experience has deteriorated.

New research from Aon Hewitt, the global talent, retirement and health solutions business of Aon plc, reveals that while employee engagement levels have plateaued, employees' overall work experience is deteriorating – particularly employee perceptions about the resources and programs that enable them to grow and perform.

The Trends in Global Employee Engagement study represents the perspectives of more than 9 million employees at over 1,000 companies in 164 countries. According to the report, global employee engagement levels reached 62 per cent in 2014, up just one percentage point from the previous year. Employee engagement across the world's 20 largest economies and labour pools remained flat at 61 per cent.

Despite modest increases in engagement, Aon Hewitt's study shows that employees' net satisfaction with their work experience plummeted 28 percentage points in 2014.

"As GDP growth continues, we expect to see organizations make greater investments in people, which could result in an increase in employee engagement," said Dr. Ken Oehler, Aon Hewitt's global engagement practice leader. "However, any improvements in engagement could be offset by increasing employee dissatisfaction with many of the work-related resources and programs that enable them to effectively do their jobs. Employees who are engaged but not empowered are more likely to be frustrated, burned out and become disengaged, which puts organizations at risk of having suboptimal productivity and higher-than-average employee turnover."

Global engagement drivers

Aon Hewitt's study found that career opportunities – the top driver of engagement – dipped three percentage points. Other top engagement drivers, such as reputation, pay, employee value proposition and innovation, also show opportunity for improvement, as about half of the global population is dissatisfied with these key engagement priorities.

Work experience indicators that saw the most significant decline in employee perception worldwide include:

  • Enabling tools, resources and people programs (down seven per cent)
  • Employees feeling valued (down six per cent)
  • Customer focus and responsiveness to customer needs (down five per cent)

"There has been significant emphasis on increasing engagement over the last several years, but many organizations are overly focused on diagnostics and not on the holistic solutions that address the specific challenges they are facing," Oehler said. "The best way to rapidly address low engagement levels is to 'fix the basics' in areas like safety or the systems, processes and resources needed to get work done. Beyond these areas, top organizations will create a culture of engagement by focusing on performance, growth and engaging leadership."

Engagement levels by region

The report shows employee engagement levels vary by region:

  • In North America, engagement reached near pre-recession levels at 66 per cent.
  • Latin America continues to be the region with the highest engagement levels, with approximately seven out of 10 employees engaged.
  • The Africa and Middle East region is seeing the greatest positive trajectory, with engagement rising 14 per cent since 2012 to 67 per cent.
  • The Asia Pacific region has seen a nine percentage point increase in average engagement over the last five years, due in large part to high economic opportunities across many markets in the region.
  • Europe remains flat at 57 per cent engagement as many markets continue to struggle with stalled economic growth.

Engagement varies by job function

Not surprisingly, Aon Hewitt's research shows varying level of engagement by job function. Engagement levels among executives and senior leaders sit at 76 per cent, an increase of 10 percentage points since 2012.

Middle managers had a slight jump in engagement level, rising two percentage points to 67 per cent.

Front-line and professional employees stayed flat at 61 and 54 per cent, respectively.

"While managers have traditionally been responsible for engaging their people, that paradigm is shifting," Oehler said. "Senior leaders are now responsible for setting a compelling vision that connects people to purpose. Individual employees are increasingly expected to be responsible for their own engagement, including understanding what impacts their personal engagement and what they need to be optimally engaged. In our experience, leaders that create cultures of engagement create environments that empower individual employees to develop themselves and others."

The full report can be downloaded here.

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