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Global Trends on Employee Engagement

Monday, September 22, 2014

To better understand how workers think—and how employers might respond—Kelly Services® developed the Kelly Global Workforce Index™ (KGWI), an annual global survey with nearly 230,000 respondents across 31 countries, three generations, and a multitude of industries and occupations.

The results of the survey provide valuable insight into key areas of the talent equation, including employee engagement.

Less than a one-third (31 percent) of KGWI respondents say they are “totally committed” to their current employers. While this percentage has remained consistent since 2012, it represents a sharp decline from 2010, when 43 percent were totally committed.

Workers in the Americas (Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United States) were most likely to report feeling “totally committed” at 34 percent, compared to those in APAC  (Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand) at 29 percent and EMEA  (Europe, the Middle East, Africa): Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) at 26 percent.

The KGWI study uncovered that aspects contributing to a worker’s “sense of meaning” can have a powerful impact on the way workers engage and contribute in a productive manner. During the economic turmoil, that sense of meaning took on added value. While workers were more likely to accept that their employers could not afford to increase their financial compensation, that didn’t mean they weren’t looking for more. They simply sought alternative ways to improve their work life, and a “sense of meaning” was on that list.


Yet, in the last two years, KGWI results show a sharp drop in the number of workers who say their employers contribute to their sense of meaning. In 2012, almost half (47 percent) found a sense of meaning in their work. In 2014, that number fell nine percentage points to 38 percent. Employers who fail to recognize the value of fostering a “sense of meaning” among their workers could find themselves unable to keep the talent they have and unable to attract the top talent they want.

Indeed, the KGWI reports that workers’ perceptions that their work is meaningful declined across all regions, with the Americas dropping the most (12 percentage points), followed by EMEA (9 percentage points) and APAC (8 percentage points.) No longer are workers content to just have a job. In each region, workers are thinking about quitting their job or leaving their employer (32 percent in the Americas, 52 percent in EMEA, 43 percent in APAC, and 39 percent globally.)

AON Hewitt’s “2014 Trends in Global Employee Engagement” concurs that engagement levels are slow to rebound since the lows of 2010, increasing only 1 percentage point from 2012 to 2013 to a global average of 61 percent. Employee engagement and workforce perceptions data from Aon Hewitt are based on five-year rolling employee research database and represent the views of over 7 million employees across more than 6,000 companies in 68 industries and 155 countries.

It appears as though various regions around the globe are converging around this global average more so than in previous years. North America increased 2 percentage points to 65 percent. European levels stayed the same at 57 percent. Asia Pacific increased 3 percentage points to 61 percent. Latin America fell 4 percentage points to 70 percent. Africa/Middle East improved 8 percentage points, from 53 percent to 61 percent.

And AON reports that three of the top engagement drivers—managing performance, organizational reputation, and pay—improved; communication fell 2 percentage points; and the top engagement driver, career opportunities, remained the same.

Indeed, it seems that there are signs that the employee value proposition is breaking down. Perceptions of internal brand alignment have decreased 4 percentage points in the last two years. And although engagement overall has increased, the global element signifying intent to “Stay” with their companies has shown no change. Employees are engaging more, but only a little over half see a long-term path with their current company and fewer see a compelling value proposition to keep their talents with the current company. 

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at rellis@td.org. 

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