Full Engagement Lacking Around World

News Updates

Less than a third of employees (31 percent) are “fully engaged”—meaning that they have achieved maximum job satisfaction and are contributing to the fullest extent—and one out of six (17 percent) are disengaged, according to BlessingWhite’s Employee Engagement Report 2011, released Dec. 15, 2010.

The consultancy surveyed 10,914 employees—at all levels—from Southeast Asia, North America, India, Australia, New Zealand, China and Europe from July through October 2010 and found that:

  • China had the smallest percentage of engaged employees (17 percent) of the regions studied.
  • The largest percentage of engaged employees (37 percent) was in India.
  • China had the greatest percentage of disengaged workers as well, at 29 percent, while India had the fewest, at 12 percent.
  • Australia and New Zealand together had nearly as high a level of engaged workers as India, at 36 percent, bur more who were disengaged, at 17 percent.
  • After China, Europe had the highest percentage of disengaged workers, at 19 percent, followed by North America at 18 percent.

Blame the Recession?

Although respondents from each region said their companies took some sort of action during the recession of 2008-09, such as postponing projects, reducing salaries and downsizing, European and North American companies were most likely to have done so. Fifty-eight percent of respondents from Europe said their organizations were reorganized, compared to a global average of 39 percent; 51 percent of North American respondents said their organizations had layoffs, compared to a global average of 30 percent.

Less than one in five respondents in India reported that their company had implemented such strategies, far below the percentages reported by respondents in other regions.

Even so, the report noted that the news was better in 2010 than it was in the spring of 2008 when BlessingWhite’s last report was released: Engagement levels increased in every region “despite the rough and tumble of the economic recession,” the report authors noted.

Will They Stay?

Yet the report says that in most regions (Southeast Asia being the exception), more employees said in 2010 than in 2008 that there was “no way” they would stay with their employer for the 12 months following completion of the survey.

Employers in China have the greatest cause for worry because the number of employees there who said they won’t stay with their employer more than tripled from 2008 to 2010, up to 16 percent from 5 percent.

And less than half of employees in Europe (48 percent) said they definitely plan to stay with their employer, the lowest affirmative response of all the regions.

When asked to select from a list of actions that would improve job satisfaction, employees from around the world agreed that what they want most is:

  • Career development opportunities and training. Nearly a third (32 percent) of Chinese respondents selected this as the thing they would value most. Employees from India and Southeast Asia ranked this action first as well.
  • More opportunities to do what I do best. North American employees overwhelmingly selected this option as the one most likely to improve their job satisfaction, at 27 percent of respondents. European respondents were split at 25 percent each between this option and career development.

  • More-flexible job conditions. Next to career development and training, Southeast Asian respondents said they were most interested in flexibility. Employees in North America, Europe and the Australia/New Zealand region placed flexibility in their top three list of contributors to job satisfaction.

Job security, benefits and compensation—items mentioned regularly by respondents to the annual job satisfaction report published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)—were not referenced in the job satisfaction portion of the BlessingWhite study.

What Do They Need?

Although common themes emerged on the subject of job satisfaction, there was far less consensus about what factors most contribute to employee performance around the world. For example, employees from Europe, North America and the Australia/New Zealand region said they need “more resources” in order to improve performance, according to the report.

However, one in four Chinese respondents said regular, specific feedback about their performance would be most likely to impact their performance, while a quarter of respondents from Southeast Asia and India said they wanted greater clarity about what the organization needs them to do, and why.

The report noted that there are many factors that can impact employee engagement, such as organizational changes and external events—only some of which are under the control of the employer. Thus, engagement is the responsibility of the entire workforce. According to the report:

  • Individuals must own their own engagement, be clear on their core values and goals, and take action to build skills and seek opportunities.
  • Managers must engage in the same practices as individual employees when it comes to their level of engagement. But to meet the needs of their workers, they should coach, build relationships and appreciate the impact that employee engagement has on team dynamics, the report said.
  • Executives, meanwhile, must take the kinds of actions recommended for employees and managers in addition to setting a clear organizational direction, building a culture that fuels engagement, inspiring commitment and trust, and talking about engagement with passion.

“As soon as engagement becomes a goal in addition to daily priorities, it drops off the bottom of the to-do list for even the most well-intentioned leaders,” according to Christopher Rice, CEO of BlessingWhite. “You need the entire workforce to be accountable for increasing engagement levels year-round.”

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.