Employee Engagement on the Rise Despite the Recession

Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement
A recent survey finds that employees are more loyal and customer focused than they were prior to the down economy.

Some may think that employees today are staying in their current jobs because current economic conditions have reduced the opportunity to find something new. According to PeopleMetrics' 2011 Employee Engagement Trend Report, however, employee retention may actually be due to an increase in engagement.

The survey polled 2,500 workers to measure four elements of employee engagement: retention, effort, advocacy, and passion. The resulting report reveals that more employees agree or strongly agree with all four elements of employee engagement today than in 2007, when PeopleMetrics last conducted the survey. In other words, more employees intend to stay with their employer, feel motivated to put forth extra effort, recommend their companies as a great place to work, and say they love their current organization. Other findings include:

  • Engagement has increased since 2007, with 41 percent of respondents claiming they are engaged or fully engaged, as opposed to only 34 percent in 2007. Retention levels have climbed from 56 percent to 61 percent, effort is up from 55 percent to 60 percent, advocacy has increased from 56 percent to 62 percent, and passion rose from 46 percent to 53 percent.
  • Those employees claiming to be actively disengaged have remained the same, representing only 13 percent of respondents in both 2007 and 2011. Those "on-the-fence" have fallen from 52 percent in 2007 to 46 percent in 2011.
  • Employee engagement can be broken down into eight dimensions. Rewards and resources are considered functional, while recognition, customer focus, fun, growth, trust, and purpose comprise the emotional sector. Customer focus represents the highest contributing factor to engagement, with a jump from 70 percent in 2007 to 86 percent in 2011.
  • Sectors that promote meaningful, purposeful work often have an advantage, with 51 percent of those working in the healthcare field displaying engagement, followed by banking and financial services (44 percent), leisure and hospitality services (43 percent), manufacturing (42 percent), business and professional services (34 percent), and retail (33 percent).
  • Two thirds of employees working for customer-centric companies are engaged, with 25 percent fully engaged.
  • Forty-three percent of respondents agree that employee engagement still shows great room for improvement. Forty-five percent of respondents say that leaders do not take the necessary actions to drive business forward, with 60 percent saying that leaders do not consider how their decisions impact employees. Forty-six percent also say their corporate culture lacks team spirit, collaboration, and a fair and fun environment.

Based on the survey findings, PeopleMetrics attributes the increase in employee engagement to three possible theories. Its theory of relativity claims that today's employees value what they have, especially since outside comparisons may not be quite as appealing as before the recession. Or it may be that employees have developed coping mechanisms, self-motivating themselves to find emotional fulfillment instead of depending on physical rewards. Finally, it's possible that the recession may have weeded out the weaker organizations, providing a more positive survey sampling than in 2007.