Report

35% of workers are highly engaged, 26% disengaged and 17% detached

Globally, just over a third (35%) of the more than 32,000 full-time workers participating in our study are highly engaged writes HR consultants Towers Watson in Global Workforce Study Engagement at Risk: Driving Strong Performance in a Volatile Global Environment. (Adapted chosen excerpts by JMM to follow)

On one level, this isn’t surprising. Five years of economic turmoil, nearly a decade of competing in a “flat” world and more than a decade of being connected 24/7 have taken their toll. Employees everywhere — in recessionary as well as growth economies — express some level of concern about their financial and professional security, their stress on the job, their trust in their company’s leadership, the support they receive from their managers and their ability to build their careers. Many have been doing more with less — and for less — for over half a decade, and that reality doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon, if ever.

“When engagement starts to decline, companies become
vulnerable not only to a measurable drop in productivity,
but also to poorer customer service and greater rates of
absenteeism and turnover.”

Among the key themes emerging from the study:

  • Stress and anxiety about the future are common. Almost four out of 10 respondents (38%) are bothered by excessive pressure on the job. Fifty-four percent often worry about their future financial state, and 56% agree retirement security is more important today than just a few years ago. Thirty-nine percent expect to retire somewhat or much later than planned — a figure that might ultimately prove optimistic in light of current savings rates and capital market performance in many parts of the world.
  • Security is taking precedence over almost everything. Roughly four out of 10 respondents would trade a smaller salary increase or bonus for a guaranteed retirement benefit that doesn’t rise or fall with the market (in other words, a defined benefit). More than half want to stay with their current employer until they retire, although 41% also noted they feel they would have to take a job elsewhere to advance in their career.
  • Attracting employees is now largely about security. Salary and job security top the list of what people want when considering a job, followed by opportunities to learn new skills and build a career, which are also routes to increased salary and long-term security.
  • Retaining employees has more to do with the quality of the work experience overall. While some elements — like pay — affect both attraction and retention, the latter depends far more on the quality of employees’ relationship with their managers, their trust in senior leadership and their ability to manage stress on the job.
  • There are doubts about the level of interest and support coming from above. Just under half of the respondents agree their organization’s senior leaders have a sincere interest in employee wellbeing. Equally disturbing, given the importance of managers in creating a positive work experience, is that fewer than half of the respondents believe their direct supervisors have enough time to handle the people aspects of their jobs.

Results on stress in the workplace present a very mixed picture, as Figure 5 shows. With the exception of the highly engaged segment, respondents’ views on stress and workload are more similar across unsupported and detached segments than
is the case with any other issue. This suggests interventions to relieve stress and workload could have a widespread positive impact.

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