Despite all the hype about the value companies place on employee engagement, apparently their employees didn’t receive the memo.
The Quantum 2015 Employee Engagement Trends Report disclosed that employee engagement is at its lowest point in eight years, despite the positive economic climate.
Only 65.9% of employees in Best Places to Work companies reported being engaged in 2014. This comprehensive study, in which 440,000 employees in 5,500 companies responded, provides a reliable barometer of employee engagement across all industries and company sizes.
Quantum Workplace says engaged employees exhibit these traits:
Those new to the workforce report the highest level of engagement. They are usually the employees who are enrolled in professional development courses at the beginning of their careers. Yet, the study found that after a few years employee engagement declined significantly.
Middle-tenured employees from three to nine years were the most uncertain they were valued, compared to the least and most tenured employees. The study doesn’t delve into why.
But based on my years of experience in the corporate world a good guess is that they realized that the leadership places more value on short-term profits and reducing headcount to make their numbers. This sounds harsh, but when is it right to deny everyone in the company a raise when earnings are soft?
Should the employees who brought in the business, or worked behind the scenes to retain customers, be penalized for the shortcomings of the employees who didn’t pull their weight? Should the best-performing employees have their income capped by arbitrary grade levels?
High Engagement Levels
Not surprisingly, more than 90% of executive-level employees reported they were engaged compared to 59% of hourly employees. Why not? They earn more and enjoy the perks of leadership: company cars, large bonuses, and a pleasant working environment.
They also enjoyed their jobs more, which improved their level of engagement. However, job satisfaction didn’t even make into the top 10 for hourly employees, those who work on the factory floor or in low-level administrative positions.
The study disclosed that Human Resources, Sales, and Marketing employees were the most engaged. Human Resources was the only department that saw an increase in satisfaction, by less than a percentage point.
Note that HR and Marketing are staff positions that incur what’s called “below the line” costs that directly impact a company’s profits. They spend money. They don’t bring it in.
This was one of the more illuminating findings for me. It may be that after all these years HR and marketing people are finally being accepted and valued for their contributions. “I find my job interesting and challenging,” was the number one engagement driver for marketers. That made my heart sing!
When I worked for public companies, HR and marketing were the first departments to have their budgets and headcounts slashed when the company needed to cut expenses. I know, speaking from experience.
Leadership Drives Engagement
When analyzing engagement drivers by department, according to the study, two items made each employee group’s top five drivers of engagement:
- The leaders of this organization are committed to making it a great place to work
- I trust the leaders of this organization to set the right course
Employees are more likely to be engaged when they trust their leaders to steer the organization to success and create an environment where employees have the opportunity to prosper.
The study didn’t mention communication as one of the top drivers of employee engagement. Maybe it wasn’t included as a question in the study. Or, maybe Quantum didn’t feel it was important enough to report in the study findings. That would be a real shame.
Leaders who aren’t in continuous communication with employees about the direction of the company are setting themselves up for failure. Employees who are the left in the dark are less likely to be engaged and productive employees. It’s a real morale killer to learn about a new product or a merger on the nightly news.
Employees aren’t afraid of bad news. They lose confidence in their companies and are less engaged when they don’t hear any news. Could it be that lack of communication is behind the nosedive in employee engagement?