Employee Engagement Levels Have Plateaued

08.21.2015
HR & Safety

Average employee’s perception of the work experience is deteriorating

New research from Aon Hewitt finds that while employee engagement levels have plateaued, employees’ overall work experience is deteriorating”particularly their perceptions about the resources and programs that enable them to grow and perform.

Aon Hewitt’s 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% in 2014, up just 1 percentage point from 2013. Employee engagement across the countries with the world’s 20 largest economies and labor pools remained flat at 61%. 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-reputation, pay, employee value proposition, and innovation: also show opportunity for improvement, with about half of the global population dissatisfied with these key engagement priorities.

Change in Employees’ Perception of Work Experience

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

  • Enabling tools, resources and people programs (-7 percentage points)
  • Employees feeling valued (-6 percentage points)
  • Customer focus and responsiveness to customer needs (-5 percentage points)

“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,” said Oehler.

“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

Aon Hewitt’s report shows engagement levels vary by region:

  • Latin America continues to be the region with the highest engagement levels, with approximately seven out of 10 employees engaged.
  • The Africa and the Middle East region is seeing the greatest positive trajectory, with engagement rising 14 percentage points since 2012 to 67%.
  • In North America, engagement reached near pre-recession levels at 66%.
  • 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% with many markets continuing 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. Executives’ and senior leaders’ engagement levels are 76%, an increase of 10 percentage points since 2012. Middle managers had a slight jump in engagement level, rising two percentage points to 67%. Frontline and professional employees stayed flat at 61% and 54%, respectively.

“While managers have traditionally been responsible for engaging their people, that paradigm is shifting,” said Oehler. “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.”

Read Aon Hewitt’s 2015 Trends in Global Employee Engagement report.

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