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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What is the Current State of Employee Engagement?

By Rick DeMarco, Managing Director, West Coast

More and more companies today understand the power of engaged and inspired employees in delivering on their brand promise and business strategy.  And yet, a March 2013 study by Modern Survey indicates that the percentage of fully engaged employees fell by 10% this spring, down 3  points from last fall. Employee disengagement among U.S. workers rose this spring to 32%, up 4 points from last fall and represents the highest level in the six years that Modern Survey has conducted its National Employee Engagement Study.   The percentage of employees who are moderately engaged or under-engaged remained relatively flat during this period.

Not surprisingly, with the increase in disengaged employees, 4 of the 5 identified indicators of the research Employee Engagement Index fell:
  •   Number of employees willing to refer their company to others
  •   Number of employees who are proud of their company
  •   Number who said they feel they have a future with the company
  •   Number who are inspired by their company

The research has identified six primary drivers of engagement and has stated that organizations that are trying to improve engagement need to fully understand these drivers and train leaders to leverage them.
  •   Confidence in senior management
  •   Belief in an opportunity for personal growth and development
  •   Sense of personal accomplishment from their work
  •   Confidence in the future of the organization
  •   Belief that the company’s values guide its behavior
  •   Getting helpful feedback from managers

At Inward, we believe that in order to achieve high levels of employee engagement, two things must happen:  People must be educated about engagement and there must be a clear understanding of accountability and ownership for an engaged workforce.  The research shows that only 49% of all U.S. workers are familiar with the concept of employee engagement and only 63% of managers know what it means.  With a lack of knowledge of the meaning of engagement, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which managers are driving it with the people they lead and employees understand their role in creating a highly engaged and inspired workforce.

The second driver, an understanding of the ownership for employee engagement, presents yet another barrier to a highly engaged and inspired workforce.  We believe that even with an understanding of what engagement means, if there is no clear understanding that it is owned by everyone in the organization, employees are always looking for someone else to be responsible for driving a highly engaged workforce.   When asked in the survey, 8% of respondents indicated that senior leaders are responsible for employee engagement, 36% said direct managers and supervisors were responsible, and 17% said employees were responsible.  Only 39% said that direct managers and supervisors, senior leaders, and employees were equally responsible.

Although employee engagement is a top challenge for organizations today in delivering on their brand promise and business strategy, there is much to be done to move all people in an organization through a cycle of education, inspiration, commitment to changed behavior, and reinforcement through reward and recognition.  Inward Strategic has employed a codified, proven process for the past 15 years to create an environment in which everyone understands engagement, embraces it, and understands their role in creating an inspired and engaged workforce that drives exceptional customer experiences.

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