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Employees Grow Restless as Engagement Drops

We’re in the eye of a turnover hurricane that has lulled many companies into complacency . / Credit: Quitting job image via Shutterstock

Take a look around your office. Look at your colleagues on either side and then look in the mirror. The chances are good that in five years, one of you will have left on your own accord, a new study shows.

Employee restlessness is rising, according to new data from Hay Group, a global consulting firm. Last year, nearly two in five (38 percent) employees planned to leave their organization within the next five years, compared with 30 percent in 2009. In large measure, that restlessness stems from a direct result of lack of engagement, the study found.

The employee engagement picture remains mixed at many organizations, according to the study, which pulled data from the opinions of more than 1.6 million U.S. workers in 152 organizations. While commitment to the company has flagged, employees’ willingness to invest discretionary effort held fairly stable from 2009 to 2011, along with their feelings about their job security and career advancement opportunities.

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"U.S. companies have experienced lower turnover rates over the past few years, largely because of the weak labor market associated with the economic downturn," said Mark Royal, senior principal at Hay Group Insight. "We’re in the eye of a turnover hurricane that has lulled many companies into complacency. In the meantime, employee frustration is rising. Organizations that fail to identify and act on issues affecting employee commitment during this break in the storm are going to find employees exiting in increasing numbers as other opportunities become more plentiful."

Businesses clearly have their work cut out for them, the study found. Issues related to employee enablement — providing employees with the necessary support and resources to do their jobs successfully, for example — took a downward turn. The percentage of employees who think their employers organize work effectively and operate efficiently has been steadily declining, the study showed.

"The key to retention is enablement," Royal said. "Over time, engaged employees who are struggling to get things done may either stop trying — or vote with their feet and leave. Unfortunately for organizational leaders, high-performing and high-potential employees who can find alternative opportunities even in tough labor markets are particularly likely to be turnover risks in the face of workplace frustration."

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.We're also on Facebook & Google+.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.